Home Fare Hikes Fare Hike Dispatches: Sunset dates, LIRR refunds

Fare Hike Dispatches: Sunset dates, LIRR refunds

by Benjamin Kabak

Last week, for the first time since the end of December, I had to buy a new 30-day MetroCard, and although I’ve long known that this card would set me back a triple-digit figure, I wasn’t prepared for the sticker shock. That $104 fee is a steep one. For those still using their stockpiled $89 cards, today is a big day for at 11:59 p.m. tonight, the sun will set on any remaining 30-day cards, and those cards will expire.

To remind customers of this sunset date, the MTA sent out a press release yesterday with information on refunds. The authority says that customers still holding 30-day cards can get a pro-rated refund by mailing cards along with a questionnaire back to New York City Transit. The forms are available at subway station booths — if you can find one with a station agent — and on buses throughout the city. They’re also available as a PDF right here. For those who want to take care of their return in person, head to the MetroCard Customer Service Center at 3 Stone Street in Manhattan. I wonder how many people will find their remaining fare cards inactive tomorrow morning.

In other fare hike-related news, Long Island State Senators are upset with the MTA over its new refund policy. When the fares went up, the MTA changed its refund policy. It now charges a $10 processing fee and offers refunds only within 30 days of purchase. Oftentimes, the fee is more than the price of the ticket.

So State Senator Jack Martins from Mineola has called upon the MTA to end this practice. In his press release, he slammed the MTA for the Senate-approved payroll package as well. Calling it an “injustice,” he said, “This processing fee is yet one more gimmick by the MTA to pass on costs to the customers who have already had to bear the burden of increased tickets prices and service cuts. If that wasn’t enough, local businesses, municipalities and school districts have also been hit with a payroll tax to support the MTA. The MTA has showed that it has no problem taking money but refuses to refund it when the service is not used.”

During a hearing today in front of the Senate Transportation Committee, Walder defended the refund fee. He said that it isn’t free for the MTA to process refunds, but that’s almost besides the point. Martins is yet another Senator who is content to take money from the MTA with one hand while bashing them with the other. He doesn’t explain why the MTA shouldn’t institute a processing fee or why they should even bother to accept returns in the first place. It might be a steep fee, but the state’s inability to find creative funding solutions for transit comes with political repercussions.

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10 comments

Bolwerk February 8, 2011 - 11:48 am

I was out of town for a few extra days and never got a final $89er. I bought my second $104 card yesterday. I can’t believe they were $63 only eight years ago.

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Bolwerk February 8, 2011 - 11:49 am

OTOH, still a bargain, I guess. But sad to see things going as they are.

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Berk32 February 8, 2011 - 12:35 pm

The LIRR refund policy is ridiculous.
First, the flat fee just isn’t fair. Most people who are returning unused tickets are returning single-ride tickets… which cost around $10-$15…
Secondly, the bigger issue – they’re only good for 2 weeks! For the last 10 years I’ve lived in Manhattan I make sure that whenever I happen to be in Penn Station and there’s no line at the machines I buy a small bunch of tickets at one time. Now I have to buy a ticket every single time I use LIRR (which is usually never more than once or twice a month – so not enough to warrant a 10-trip ticket – especially when some trips are peak and some off-peak). Having to risk getting stuck waiting on line to buy a ticket and missing my train… the 2 week usage period defeats the whole purpose of being able to buy a ticket in advance…. There was absolutely no good reason for this reduction.

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Benjamin Kabak February 8, 2011 - 12:37 pm

I’d say that the grace period for valid tickets is a far bigger issue than the refund fee. The LIRR should encourage bulk purchasing for fares and should extend that period.

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Phillip Roncoroni February 10, 2011 - 10:21 am

There was absolutely no good reason for this reduction.

Of course there was. Walder wants to eliminate LIRR conductors and turn the the system into a big subway system, which, it should be. The idea of people walking through trains collecting paper tickets is ridiculous and an unnecessary and obsolete fare collection system.

Most of the time when I ride the LIRR the conductors don’t even check for my ticket (between zone 1 and 3 or 3 and 3), so the whole idea here is to make the tickets usable for such a short period of time that it doesn’t even matter if they’re collected because the revenue is still realized.

There was one specific run a few years ago where I could always ride from Bayside to Flushing at night and never have my ticket checked, then I’d get off and hop on the 7 train. Not to mention the entire zone 1/3 or 3/3 fare structure is absolutely RIDICULOUS compared to MNRR’s short ride fare structure. The LIRR is garbage and needs to be torn down and reworked.

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Andrew February 10, 2011 - 7:29 pm

Bingo. Barring any fundamental change to the fare structure – such as requiring the passenger to validate the ticket before boarding, as in a typical POP system – this is a means to minimize the ability of an occasional rider to either reuse or obtain a refund for a ticket that was used but not collected.

I don’t have a problem with the refund policy. Many agencies, including NJT and even NYCT, don’t offer refunds at all on single tickets. I’m not thrilled with the short expiration period, but I can understand the rationale.

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Steve Kennedy February 8, 2011 - 1:48 pm

The refund policy is just another example of poor customer service and the worst kind of public relations. Ppl hate the MTA and mistrust it because it is an arrogant, bureaucratic institution. No wonder ppl would rather sit in their cars in traffic spewing fumes. The entire transit system works opposite the way a business should be run. If you suck and you treat ppl like crap you should go out of business. Clifford Winston, a distinguished transportation economist at the Brookings Institution, has argued for many years that the American transportation system could use a major overhaul. Read his book, “Last Exit: Privatization and Deregulation of the U.S. Transportation System,” on a flight to New York.

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Andrew February 10, 2011 - 7:30 pm

When was the last time you tried to obtain a ticket refund from a private airline?

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aestrivex February 9, 2011 - 2:17 am

Why doesn’t the refund fee scale with the price of the ticket? A $10 refund fee seems altogether an unreasonable measure for a $12 ticket. I agree with Ben’s point that LIRR should do more to encourage bulk pricing to alleviate this burden, but not all tickets and not all refunds are created equal.

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Andrew February 10, 2011 - 7:31 pm

Because the overhead involved in processing the refund is independent of the price of the ticket.

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