Every time the MTA gears up to raise fares, my inbox gets flooded with the same question: Should I, savvy straphangers want to know, stock up on Unlimited Ride Metrocards?
Usually, the MTA allows a few weeks — or even months — as the grace period. When the agency raised fares last March, stockpiled Metrocards were good until June. With finances very tight at the MTA, this time around, though, New Yorkers will enjoy a sunset period of only a few days.
Metro’s Patrick Arden broke the news this morning, and as the MTA prepares internally for no Senate-approved funding plan, New Yorkers will have just a few days to start swiping unused Metrocards.
Here’s how it works: On May 31, 2009, transit fares across the Metrocard-accessible New York City Transit region will increase. With no Senate plan, the increases will look like this: The base fare will increase to $2.50 with a 15 percent pay-per-ride discount for every amount over $7. Unlimited ride Metrocards will be priced at $9.50 (one-day pass), $31 (seven-day pass), $59 (14-day pass) and $103 (30-day pass).
The anti-hoarding plan institutes a very short sunset date. As Arden explains, “All unlimited ride cards purchased now must be swiped for the first time on or before June 8 in order to get their full allotment of days.”
In fact, this plan is an expiration plan and not really a sunset plan. The MTA has set expiration dates for all unlimited ride cards. If a Metrocard user has an unswiped card on that date, he or she can send it back to Transit for a refund. Those dates are: June 14 for seven-day cards; June 21 for 14-day cards; and July 7 for 30-day cards. That’s why these cards must be swiped on or before June 8.
NYC Transit Spokesman Paul Fleuranges urged riders to adhere to the time limits. “In order to get the full value on a time-based card, you have to use it for the first time no later than June 8,” he said to Arden. “The most important thing is, the first day it stops working, send it in. Go to the station booth and ask for a pre-addressed posted envelope, and we’ll send you back the prorated value.”
In a nutshell, this is a clear indication of the MTA’s precarious fiscal position. They can’t afford not to be drawing in the extra money, and the need the funds as soon as possible. While this entire process has been one big game of political chicken between the Senate and the MTA, the transit authority is serious about raising these fares and is going to do all it can to collect the money it needs to stay afloat.