From Bayside, a complaint over a MetroCard surchargeBy
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.