Art from a MetroCard: Scenes from Single Fare 3


A fuzzier MetroCard designed and made by Lisa Scruggs. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Everyday, millions of New Yorkers carry with them an oft-overlooked piece of plastic. The MetroCard symbolizes so much about the city and its subway riders, but we usually just take it for granted. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t; sometimes, it expires.

One day in the unknown future, the MTA will replace the MetroCard with something else. What that something else will be is still up for debate. It will likely be a sturdier piece of plastic, and something we don’t discard by the millions every day, week or month. For now, though, the MetroCard endures, a stubborn reminder of the MTA’s tenuous relationship with modern technology.

For a group of artists, though, the MetroCard is a blank slate. It can be deconstructed and recomposed. It can serve as a small blank canvas for city scenes, abstract art or anything really, and for the next few days, thousands of these MetroCards are on display at a gallery in Tribeca. Called Single Fare 3, the exhibit at the RH Gallery includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography and even video. Some pieces are easily recognizable as a MetroCard while others transfer these 2×3 inch canvasses into something else entirely.

I’ve stopped by the exhibit twice over the last few days and have walked away with purchases of two of the cards. For everyone else with even just a little bit of time on their hands, check it out. The show runs through February 22 at the RH Gallery, 137 Duane St. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. through the end fo the exhibit. Some of my favorite MetroCards, captured in photos, are in the slideshow below. Others are available via my Instagram account.

Categories : MetroCard

18 Responses to “Art from a MetroCard: Scenes from Single Fare 3”

  1. Jerrold says:

    TO BEN (or anyone whose knows):

    This IS off-topic, but I wanted to put this where you will see it.
    Recently there was something on some website (I wish I remembered WHICH site) about turnstiles being put in there down in the underpass of the Cortlandt St. R station.
    It said that the MTA had released a publicity photo of it. (The actual photo was NOT there on that website.)

    Supposedly, this was an indication of progress, because those turnstiles will be an entry/exit point between the Dey St. passage and the Cortlandt St. station.
    I was down there yesterday, and I did not see any turnstiles down in that underpass.

    Ben, do you know anything about this matter?

  2. Jerrold says:


    • Jerrold says:

      It’s a pain in the ass when all the sudden your message goes up, even though you have barely started to type it. I typed one word, and the “message” jumped onto the board.

  3. Jerrold says:


    THIS is the sentence that I was referring to:

    “In a construction update, the MTA released photographs of turnstiles being fitted at the underpass level of the R station, which would feed to the Dey Street passageway.”

    It is from the Wikipedia article on the Fulton Center.
    Like I said, there were no turnstiles in the underpass as of yesterday.

  4. Someone says:

    I sometimes manage to make origami out of some of these MetroCards. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, really.

  5. Someone says:

    Off topic, but why doesn’t the NYC subway have RFID cards and fare zones yet?

    • Jerrold says:

      Who needs fare zones?
      Especially because some of the poorest areas of the city are among the furthest from Midtown Manhattan,
      such as Coney Island, Jamaica, and Far Rockaway.

    • BBnet3000 says:

      I support the idea of fare zones on transit from an operating cost perspective, but its really regressive in many transit systems, particularly the subway here.

      • Phantom says:

        Costs will go up a lot with fare zones, since you will have to monitor each passenger when they leave the system. And you will need to hire a lot more people to assist passengers who are confused by it — see London for an example of this

        • BBnet3000 says:

          The marginal cost of having swipe to exit turnstiles is pretty low.

          Are people that confused by fare zones in London? People have it figured out on BART, DC metro, LIRR and various others without constantly needing to ask a station agent. BART gets away with one station agent for a 30,000 passenger station afaik, just like we do.

          Like I said, it will never happen on the subway because of how regressive it would be (rich people pay little, poor people pay a lot). Nor do i think it should happen. It could well encourage driving given that the highest fares would be in the places where more people own cars already.

          • Phanton says:

            London has many visitors who ride the Underground,

            And you see an awful lot of employees at major stations there, and one reason they have them. Is to help those who have miscalculated the zones / fare.

            The deep simplicity of the NYC subway. / bus fare is a strength.

  6. Glenn Howard says:


    I was reading your blog and you were talking about NYC Metropasses and the art work on them. My daughter and I are looking to aquire as many as possible of the different ones. There is a catch to this we live in St. Charles Ontario CANADA. My daughter had found one in toronto at the airport and fell in love with the art on it so she wanted to collect as many as possible for an art project. Do you have any idea of where we can get some or even if there were people that had them lying around to mail them to us. We would gladly pay for the postage and any other cost to them. Its the first time that she has actually wanted to do something of a collecction as well as art. Being a dad and all I want to make her happy so I would love to get as many as possible duplicates are fine its just the first art project that has wanted to do ever and shes only 7 going on 8. Its very hard because we live in St. Charles Ontario Canada and I cant get them way up here. Please if there is anything let me know of what I can do.

    Thanks You and Take Care

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