I’ve touched briefly upon the new MetroCard math that will go into effect when the fares go up on December 30, but this chart does the job in an easy-to-understand form. Presented by Matt Jacobs at Capn Design, this chart shows how the change in pay-per-ride discount and the steep increase in the price of a 30-day card should change straphangers’ purchasing and riding patterns.
In essence, the change boils down as thus: Currently, pay-per-ride users enjoy a 15 percent bonus on purchases above $8. This led to a true cost per swipe of $1.96 instead of $2.25. In 2011, the bonus drops to seven percent on purchases above $10, and the cost per swipe rises to $2.10. Under these figures, the 30-day MetroCard currently pays for itself on the 46th swipe, but after the fare hike, riders will have to swipe in an additional four times before the card becomes a good value. On the 50th swipe, the cost-per-ride of a $104 MetroCard drops to $2.08.
Jacobs’ chart, available at this site, is a handy tool to help subway riders navigate this confusing math. The final line allows users to input any number to see the cost savings. For instance, I could easily see that those people who swipe 80 times a month now save $67.80 over a pay-per-ride plan and will still save $64 under the new fare scheme. As always, the 30-day card rewards frequent users even as the break-even point rises.
It’s also worth revisiting briefly a post from October that explores how many riders do not reach the break-even point on their unlimited MetroCards. Based on internal MTA numbers, it appeared as though 25 percent of monthly purchasers do not use their cards 46 times or more. The same chart showed that this figure jumps to 36 if we set the cut-off point at 50 swipes. Thus, as the fares go up, either fewer people will be buying cards or more will be wasting money on unlimited ride cards. I bet the truth will lie somewhere in the middle.