From Bayside, a complaint over a MetroCard surcharge


For parts of the last two years, as I mentioned last week, the MTA has discussed a $1 surcharge on new Metrocards purchased via the Metrocard Vending Machines. With the Metrocard technology nearing the end of its life, the MTA is looking to both realize revenue and cut down on waste and costs by encouraging straphangers to reuse their cards. They’ve even made unlimited cards refillable.

Yet, the surcharge has yet to materialize. Some technological problems led to a delay, but now, as part of the 2013 budget, the MTA is gearing up to introduce the surcharge. We don’t know when the surcharge will go into place; we just know that the MTA will cut costs by $2 million while generating $18 million in revenue. And someone is unhappy.

That someone is coming to us from Bayside, Queens, a neighborhood not served by the subway. The complaint comes to us from Edward Braunstein, the area’s Democratic Assembly representative. He said:

“Unlike MetroCard vending machines, LIRR vending machines are incapable of refilling previously purchased cards,” said Braunstein. “The MTA justifies this surcharge by arguing that recycling MetroCards is good for the environment. Therefore, the MTA plan to promote refilling by adding a $1 surcharge for new cards serves no purpose at these machines and is unfair to commuters in the outer boroughs.”

“Many of my constituents purchase their new MetroCards at the vending machines at LIRR stations because they are only available outlets. After I reached out to the MTA and informed them of this problem, the agency still refused to reconsider the proposed surcharge.”

For Braunstein this isn’t the first time he’s voiced such complaints. He expressed identical sentiments back in 2011 when the MTA announced a delay in implementing the fee. Now, he’s back on his soapbox. His concerns though ring more a bit false.

First, Braunstein’s overall point is moot. When the MTA announced the surcharge, the agency said it would be in place only at spots where customers could refill their cards. Since they cannot do so at the LIRR machines, the surcharge won’t apply. Problem solved.

On another level, though, Braunstein’s all-or-nothing approach isn’t the right one anyway. Just because some Bayside residents purchase their Metrocards at LIRR vending machines doesn’t mean they have no other option. If they’re taking the LIRR to Penn Station (or even to points in between), Metrocard Vending Machines are in abundance. Purchasing a Metrocard with an LIRR ticket saves time but no money. If residents are that concerned with the fee, they can just buy their cards at vending machines in the subway.

Furthermore, the MTA could waive the fee for Metrocards purchased at these LIRR machines or figure out a stop-gap solution. They don’t need to discard the fee just because some — but not nearly all — folks a neighborhood of a around 80,000 people in total may be inconvenienced. That’s a typical all-or-nothing response from an Assembly representative.

I’m not the biggest fan of the $1 surcharge. It strikes me as a money grab with some positive side effects, but seeing as how the Metrocard should be phased out within the next 2-3 years, I can’t get too worked up over it. Braunstein, though, an opponent of congestion pricing, is a position to do so. He offers no other solutions and just wants to say no, just like every other politician who could champion transit in New York City.

Categories : MetroCard

22 Responses to “From Bayside, a complaint over a MetroCard surcharge”

  1. George says:

    So what if you’re commuting to Port Washington from Bayside? Then you’re SOL because only 80,000 people have to deal with that problem?

  2. Andrew says:

    It was announced in 2010 that the surcharge would only be in effect for MetroCards purchased at subway stations (i.e., at locations where riders have the option of refilling cards). MetroCards bought outside the subway system are exempt.

    That would imply that LIRR vending machines won’t charge the fee.

    Crisis averted!

  3. Roxie says:

    I don’t see what would be so hard about just making the LIRR vending machines refill MetroCards as well. Or do they not have the MetroCard slot like the regular MVMs?

  4. Michael says:

    I’ve never understood why the LIRR and Metro North don’t had a city subway day pass option for people taking the train into the city. Maybe its just because the MTA doesn’t have a day pass option for travel, but whenever I see the massive lines at subway ticket machines at Grand Central or Penn Station, it makes me wonder why these travelers weren’t able to by their subway tickets with their commuter rail tickets before entering the city. I guess it would just make too much sense for the MTA to allow travelers the chance to buy a day’s worth of transit tickets at one machine. The LIRR and Metro North could definitely use a combined subway pass, day ticket between Manhattan and all the suburban stops.

  5. Emilio says:

    This may come as a shock to some people, but just because you live in Bayside doesn’t mean you work in an area with subway in NYC. According to Census data, over 40% of Bayside residents don’t work in Manhattan Brooklyn or Western Queens. A good 20% of ZIP code 11361 residents work in areas of Queens not served by the subway.

    I know sometimes the animus in this blog is to mock them and ask them to ditch their cars, but whatever this politician’s intentions are, many of these people would see a surcharge if they were to take the bus to get to their local destinations.

    And this is precisely why many NYC residents have cars, since we need them to get to and from work. Small hindrances like a MetroCard surcharge only serve to highlight the divide between the different types of commuters in NYC.

    • Andrew says:

      As I said last night: “It was announced in 2010 that the surcharge would only be in effect for MetroCards purchased at subway stations (i.e., at locations where riders have the option of refilling cards). MetroCards bought outside the subway system are exempt.”

      I guess Braunstein is being the typical politician – he’s complaining about a problem that doesn’t exist. That way, when the MTA announces that there’s no problem, he gets to claim credit.

      • Vi says:

        I just went to the bayside LIRR station yesterday trying to purchase metro card, the only option is $25 with $1 fee charge. No refill.

  6. @ Roxie The LIRR machines do not have a slot to put a MetroCard into. So it would be hard to make them refill a card

  7. Larry Littlefield says:

    “Purchasing a Metrocard with an LIRR ticket saves time but no money. ”

    Are you sure of that? Among all the other fare cuts, there was a Metrocard discount with the purchase of a commuter rail discount in the late 1990s. Is that gone?

    • Andrew says:

      There’s a 2% discount on a monthly LIRR ticket bought through Mail&Ride if it’s packaged with a $104 monthly unlimited MetroCard. (Yes, monthly, not 30-day.) I don’t think there are any discounts for tickets bought at the machines.

  8. Eastern Queens Resident says:

    There are folks that use the LIRR vending machines to buy the Metrocards, and then ride the buses in the area (and not go to the subway)

  9. Al D says:

    How about they just do not charge the fee at LIRR stations where there is no subway in sight?

  10. SEAN says:

    If I have said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, EasyPay! No waisted cards time or money. Personally it’s been almost lifechanging for me & I hope you give it a look to see if it could work . If not, nothing lost.

  11. Nathan Stodola says:

    I contacted the office of Edward Braunstein about this, and they told me “the MTA informed us in writing that there would be a surcharge on metrocard purchases at LIRR stations.” Do you the original MTA proposal that says otherwise?

    • Nathan H. says:

      Write back and ask to see the “writing”. There is no reason for this discrepancy to persist, among people whose salaries we pay.

      • Nathan Stodola says:

        The document apparently said “customers purchasing a new MetroCard without the commuter railroad combination at a LIRR vending machine will be assessed a charge and will not be able to replenish the card at those machines or at a staffed LIRR ticket window.”

        I mean, I don’t have a scanned copy of it, but I doubt the assemblyman’s office is making that up.

    • Andrew says:

      Assuming you intended this for me –

      You may be right. I’ve been looking around and I can’t find any reference to my claim. Here’s an article stating that MetroCards sold at stores wouldn’t be subject to the fee, because there’s no way to refill a card at a store. I may have assumed that the same policy would be in place anywhere that a card couldn’t be refilled.

      So I take back what I said. It doesn’t make sense to charge the fee at LIRR machines, and Braunstein should continue to object if the MTA insists that the fee will still apply.

      And if the fee does go through, Bayside residents should get used to buying their MetroCards at stores.

  12. Anthony says:

    Just a question someone might be able to clear up for me; what happens when your metrocard expires? Do you have to pay for the new card?

    • Expires as in it’s a 30-day unlimited and its time is up? Those are now rechargeable. Or expires as in the text on the back that says for example “EXPIRES 08/31/13”. In the latter case, I believe there was some provision about being able to exchange those in at a booth (along with damaged ones) for $1 credit when you buy a new one.

  13. Nathanael says:

    I will be the first to predict that Metrocards will still be the main form of payment on the NYC Subway in 2016.

    NYCT is not nearly far enough along on design, testing, and procurement of any other system to have it deployed within 3 years.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>