When the MTA introduced the new fare scheme and new 15 percent bonus system in March, the authority also revamped their prepackaged MetroCard program. Chief among the new pre-paid options were two pay-per-ride cards — one for the odd total of $17.39 and the other for the off-kilter sum of $52.17.

When a Racked reader got wind of these new fares, this person tried to find a conspiracy, and Racked bought into it. On Friday, they posted on what they called “The MTA’s ‘Brilliant’ Scam.” Their reader wrote:

Was wondering if you’d noticed the brilliant scam in progress at the MTA. They’ve changed the ‘prepackaged’ Metrocard values, such that you’re always left with a value less than one fare on the card. Whereas you used to be able to buy a $10 card, get $2 free (6 rides, exactly) and just throw out – I mean recycle – the used cards when done, now you have to save them because they’ve got values of .05 or $1.05 or $1.50 on them. They’re banking on people leaving this loose changed unused, right? WTF was broken about offering cards with an exact number of rides on ‘em?

Racked itself was equally puzzled: “Though others have no doubt realized the new card policy is a bum deal for riders, we’re still puzzled as to what you are supposed to do with the left-over change on your Metrocard. Answers, anyone?”

Well, here’s your answer: There is no scam. The MTA just requires MetroCard buyers to have an advanced understanding of multiplication.

Under the new fare scheme, straphangers using pay-per-ride cards begin to accrue a bonus on purchases totaling $7 or more. Unlike the old scheme, when paying for 10 rides bought two free swipes, the new bonus is a good old fashioned 15 percent. With this convoluted math scheme in place, those odd amounts seemingly left over on the prepackaged cards disappear. It’s magic.

As you could guess, 15 percent of $17.39 is $2.61 cents, and 15 percent of $52.17 is $7.83. Therefore, those cards end up offering up $20 (or 10 rides) and $60 (or 30 rides) respectively. There is no scam: The cards still have the exact number of rides on them, and there is your answer to a non-controversy (for once) surrounding the MTA’s fare hike.

For the mathematically confused among us, online MetroCard bonus calculators abound. You have your choice of the NYC MetroCard Bonus Calculator, the New York City MetroCard Refill Calculator and the New York City MetroCard Calculator. A handy image of the amounts on the new pre-packaged MetroCards — only available at select Pay-O-Matics and other retailers in the city — is below.

Categories : Fare Hikes, MetroCard
Comments (1)

Oh, The Post. There’s nothing like it for a little bluster with your morning coffee. While one of my sites has sworn off sensationalized tabloid coverage, I haven’t done the same thing here, and Steve Cuozzo’s ripe for the picking today.

In a piece that brings up some very valid points, Steve Cuozzo rips into the MTA and Mayor Bloomberg for its approach to the Second Ave. Subway. Calling the project “traumatizing,” “farcically underbudgeted,” and “a joke,” Cuozzo rips into the MTA for pulling budget numbers out of thin air — which they didn’t — and calls on the agency to ensure adequate protocols are in place to finish the project.

Now, the latter point is a valid one. The city and the MTA should do everything under their combined powers to finish the job. But Cuozzo’s point is obscured by some need to be That Angry Guy and his over-the-top statements lessen the impact of his editorial. Take, for instance, this claim:

The MTA’s capital-budget summary (released in February) farcically underbudgets all that work at $4.34 billion. And it takes only common sense to appreciate what a pittance that is.

The MTA says it needs $1.1 billion for the Fulton project – not to lay an inch of track, buy new subway cars or build new stations, but just to rearrange underground platforms and build a pedestrian tunnel to Ground Zero. And in all likelihood, $1.1 billion won’t be enough, thanks to galloping building-trade inflation (as much as 5 percent, by some estimates).

By that light, it doesn’t take an engineer or an accountant to grasp that $4.34 billion for the Second Avenue Subway Phase 1 is a joke.

Cuozzo omits the fact that a segment of the Phase 1 tunnel already exists, and he fails to note that the MTA has already revised their budgets for the project upward. When the original budgets were released five years ago, those numbers made sense. Today, they don’t, and no one is claiming otherwise.

Meanwhile, his conclusion is a little absurd considering the historical tale of the Second Ave. Subway. “If they can’t come up with a viable plan, then work should stop before Second Avenue turns into a mess worse than Fulton Street – one from which a huge slice of Manhattan might never recover.”

A huge slice of Manhattan has recovered from three other attempts at building the Second Ave. Subway. If the MTA had to call it quits for a fourth time, I think once they patched up the streets, the memory of a fourth failed effort would simply enter city lore as another sad chapter in the Second Ave. Subway.

Cuozzo makes some good points: The MTA and the city have not been kind to merchants along Second Ave., and it’s been hard to assess the progress on the project with many residents saying they don’t see much happening above-ground. Of course, subway construction happens below-ground too, but that’s a conceptual leap people find hard to make. They want to see progress.

The MTA and the city should, as Cuozzo says, work out a way to 100 percent ensure the future of this subway line. But make your point without all the bluster, man.

Comments (6)

The MTA is going your way at a record pace this year. (Graphic courtesy of The Daily News).

Just last week, I wondered how the fare hike would impact MTA ridership figures. Through February of this year, ridership was on pace to set a modern-day record, but the fare hike loomed.

Well, the numbers are out, and ridership continued to increase in March at near-record levels despite the fare hike. Through the first quarter of 2008, ridership on the commuter rail lines and the subways is up around 5 percent over the same time period from 2007. By the end of March, 393.7 million riders had swiped into the subways this year. The Daily News blames rising gas prices.

“Obviously, there’s been an enormous push by gas prices moving people from cars to mass transit, but that’s not the only factor,” Christopher Jones, vice president of research at the Regional Plan Association, said to the News. “The economy is getting weaker, tolls are going up and traffic congestion is getting worse.”

As the News notes, conditions are ripe for drivers to eschew their cars. The average price of a gallon of gas in the city is $3.97, up nearly 80¢ from last year; and with tolls up as well, the MTA saw a drop of nearly 2 percent in the volume of cars passing through their tolls. The Port Authority saw a drop of 1.5 percent. (The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has noted a similar decrease in the volume of cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.)

All of this brought the Daily News to a logical conclusion: Despite the moans from the anti-congestion pricing forces, charging drivers would actually get them off the roads, and the MTA would have had a dedicated revenue stream to address the higher ridership demands being placed on the system. In fact, the paper editorialized on that exact point yesterday:

The trends prove that the theory of congestion pricing was valid: When the cost of driving rises, people actually do switch to mass transit.

Opponents of imposing an $8 fee to cross the untolled East River bridges scoffed that motorists would never leave their cars. But the opponents were wrong, and mass transit riders are suffering for the error.

Had Silver and the Assembly passed congestion pricing, as the City Council did, the MTA would already be using that $354 million in federal aid (which has now been disbursed about the country) to make more bus and subway seats available.

Then, the congestion fee would have given the MTA a half-billion dollars a year to pay for big projects like completing the Second Ave. subway and extending LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal. When that money vanished, the MTA’s building plan was eviscerated.

The News takes an appropriately strident tone toward the Assembly, but I don’t think it’s a clear cut issue of dead or alive anymore. As gas prices continue to rise — What? You think they’re ever going back down? — MTA ridership will increase, and as public education campaigns continue, public sentiment will shift in favor of congestion pricing.

Congestion pricing isn’t dead; it’s simply dormant with many people working behind the scenes to plot the plan’s next move. In all likelihood, Richard Ravitch’s commission will recommend a form of congestion pricing to fund the MTA. And when that time comes, the plan’s proponents will have the facts and the knowledge to get this necessary improvement off the ground. It’s only a matter of time.

Comments (1)
  • Anti-congestion pricing Assembly rep wants more G service · One of the staunch opponents of congestion pricing — Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries — would like to see the MTA increase service along the G train, and Streetsblog takes him to task for his hypocrisy. G train service upgrades, you see, were part of the planned service increases the MTA was going to institute this year when congestion pricing passed. But due to the efforts of Jeffries and others of his ilk, congestion pricing failed and the service upgrades have been shelved for now. Jeffries had his chance and he went the other way. Now he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. [Streetsblog] · (0)

As the Tishman Speyer deal for the Hudson Yards collapsed completely on Tuesday, tempers have flared over the fate of development along the West Side. In one corner, we have Sen. Chuck Schumer fighting for Moynihan Station and office space in and around Penn Station. In the other corner, we have Mayor Mike Bloomberg, 18 months away from heading out of office and in search of a lasting New York City legacy.

The stakes in this political death match are high: They start with the 7 train extension and end with nothing short of a radical alteration of the Manhattan landscape west of Midtown. How it will end is anyone’s guess, but with Tishman Speyer out and the MTA back in negotiations with other potential Yards suitors, the battle has just begun.

The troubles started when talks between the MTA and Tishman Speyer collapsed late last week. While the Bloomberg administration put pressure on the two groups to keep trying this week and even promised to have the city cover the cost overruns for the 7 extension — but not necessarily that controversial station at 41st and 10th Ave. — things died for good today.

With this development, Schumer, long skeptical of the 7 line funding, took this opportunity to push for a project that he considers to be more viable than the Hudson Yards plans. Speaking on Monday at a Crain’s Business Forum, Schumer renewed his calls for Penn Station-focused development:

Mr. Schumer, in laying out his vision for the area at a Crain’s Breakfast Forum, said the mayor should stop funding a $500 million boulevard on the far West Side and instead build a second subway station on the extension of the No. 7 line. (Emphasis added.)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s push for a 16-million-square-foot project at Hudson Yards, strongly encouraged by the city, suffered a setback last week when talks with its chosen developer, Tishman Speyer, broke down. Although Mr. Schumer said, “I am enthusiastic about Hudson Yards,” he said no one would build office space there until the No. 7 extension is in place.

Instead, he said, government should push for more office space by Penn Station, which has one-sixth as much as the Grand Central Terminal area despite serving more commuters.

Schumer and I are on the same page in regards to the 7 line extension, but Schumer and the Mayor disagree over the role of the Port Authority. The Senior Senator from New York would have the Port Authority assume control of this plan. Bloomberg, meanwhile, will have none of it because the Port Authority can’t even seem to get its act together in Lower Manhattan. It’s a grand ol’ political war of words.

On the MTA front, the agency will in all likelihood push hard to wrap up a deal with another suitor. They need the money for their capital budget, and Charles Bagli at City Room reported that Douglas Durst, Stephen Ross and Steven Roth, three other developers interested in the space, are now back on the table. While Durst would have once offered up just $39 million less than Tishman Speyer, that figure is sure to drop, leaving many to wonder why no one raised red flags with Tishman’s offer before it was accepted. The demands that eventually quashed the talks were not new.

Photo of Moynihan Station via Moynihan Station on flickr.

Comments (1)
  • Tishman Speyer out at Hudson Yards · The press release arrived a few minutes ago: “The MTA met today with Tishman Speyer. Despite the best efforts of both sides, a final agreement could not be reached. The MTA has now re-entered discussions with other interested developers and remains committed to timely development of these unique and valuable parcels of land on Manhattan’s Far West Side.”

    The MTA will now lose some of the promised $1 billion as the economy is weaker, and they are no longer in a strong negotiating position. Meanwhile, the issues surrounding the funding of the 7 line extension remains, and Senator Schumer has begun to push for a focus on redevelopment near Madison Square Garden and Penn Station instead. · (2)
  • Swimming with the subway cars · With all these newfangled, high-falutin’ R160s hitting the tracks, the MTA has a glut of old subway cars. So of course, some of the mid-Atlantic states are getting some new artificial subway reefs. We’ve seen the photos before; now read the articles (Baltimore Sun, MD Coast Dispatch). The trains are set to drop into the ocean today at 11 a.m. Now, sardines can literally cram into our old subway cars. · (2)

Every few months, the plan for a one-seat Metro-North ride from Manhattan to the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh rears its ugly head. At the end of last week, the MTA, at the behest of Senator Chuck Schumer, committed $2.7 million to study a possible Stewart Airport rail link. The Port Authority will contribute the same amount to the study.

While some commenters here in August noted that the Port Authority, operators of the airport, would be paying for the rail connection, that the MTA is now doling out money just to study the issue is a bad sign. Meanwhile, in my opinion, the region’s transportation agencies and the state’s political leaders are approaching the airport and its potential passengers through the wrong lens.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reported on the upcoming jointly-funded $5.4-million study:

Schumer said funding has been slow in coming but that the MTA’s allocation of the remaining $2.7 million needed to jump-start the study avoids the need to wait for a federal appropriation from the 2009 fiscal year. Instead of waiting until 2009, he said, the study can begin in the next few months…

“This is the moment when talk turns to action,” Schumer told a group gathered at the airport. He estimated the alternative study and the following environmental impact study would be done by late 2010. “It means the project can begin this summer,” Schumer said. “It’s also going to help us bring more air service.”

Peter Cannito, president of Metro-North railroad, said the study is broader than just rail access to Stewart Airport. He said the study, called the West of Hudson Regional Transit Access Study, will include upgrades to the Port Jervis line that runs through Orange and Rockland Counties to reduce the travel time into New York City.

This study will also include looking at all means of getting to and from Stewart, including ferries and buses to Beacon’s Metro-North station.

I’m all in favor of extending commuter rail service into parts of the state that don’t have it but only if the areas could really use it. I’m not at all in favor of spending billions of dollars to build a one-seat ride to Stewart Airport at the expense of other, more vital projects that would have a more immediate impact on the Metropolitan Area.

As I wrote in September, the idea of a one-seat ride from Manhattan to Stewart is simply misguided. “It right now takes an hour and a half on Metro-North/NJ Transit to reach the Salisbury Mills stop from Penn Station,” I wrote. “Considering that it would take another train ride to get to the airport and airlines are asking people to get there 90 minutes earlier, travelers would have to begin their journeys up to four hours before their scheduled departure time.”

But that’s not to say that an expansion of service at Stewart would not be useful. Rather, the Port Authority should figure out how to make Stewart transit-accessible so that it siphons Westchester and Northern New Jersey travelers away from the city’s three major airports. If the Port Authority can beef up Stewart service so that travelers north and west of the city avoid the endless commutes to JFK, LaGuardia or Newark Liberty Airports, Schumer could realize his goals of cutting down air traffic congestion from those three airports while providing travelers with a viable alternate airport.

In the end, the $2.7 million are relatively small beans for the MTA. But what if the study recommends a Metro-North line to the airport. While I’m sure the Port Authority and state will elect to bear some of the costs, as we’ve seen with the 7 line extension, “some” never equates to “all,” and the MTA is bound to be at least partially on the hook for a project that simply isn’t worth it.

Categories : MTA Economics, PANYNJ
Comments (10)
  • It’s not dead yet · Despite reports last week that the Tishman Speyer deal for the Hudson Yards rights was dying a painful death, Mayor Bloomberg, working to secure his legacy, thinks otherwise. As The Times reported on Saturday, Bloomberg is working hard to pressure Tishman Speyer and the MTA to pave over their problems. While Bloomberg claims some sort of altruistic desire to see the potential of the empty area realized, one of his quotes is very telling: “It’s going to get done. And the No. 7 line is going to get done. And it will be so far along before I leave office that nobody is going to be able to stop it.” · (2)

Gas prices have been on the climb in America for years, but investment in mass transit has lagged far behind acceptable levels. Most major cities in the country have only nascent systems, and while new light rail and other mass transit networks are starting to spring up around America, it’s all been a bit too little way too late for a nation long dependent on cars.

Now, though, with gas prices hitting record highs and showing no signs of ever coming back down, the people once behind their wheels are starting to notice that benefits of mass transit. As Clifford Krauss reported in The Times over the weekend, mass transit ridership nationwide has reached new highs, and experts predict this growth to continue. Now if only the folks holding the purse strings would pay attention to these trends too.

Writes Krauss:

Mass transit systems around the country are seeing standing-room-only crowds on bus lines where seats were once easy to come by. Parking lots at many bus and light rail stations are suddenly overflowing, with commuters in some towns risking a ticket or tow by parking on nearby grassy areas and in vacant lots.

“In almost every transit system I talk to, we’re seeing very high rates of growth the last few months,” said William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association.

“It’s very clear that a significant portion of the increase in transit use is directly caused by people who are looking for alternatives to paying $3.50 a gallon for gas.”

Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year. But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited.

In the article, Krauss draws a very telling quote out of Joseph Giulietti, the executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, operators of the Tri-Rail system. “Nobody believed that people would actually give up their cars to ride public transportation,” he said. “But in the last year, and last several months in particular, we have seen exactly that.”

With attitudes like that from the people in charge of these transit authorities, is it any surprise then that our elected officials have been loathe to invest in adequate public transportation networks? Had these networks been in place long ago, people would have gladly left their cars for fast and stress-free commutes.

As ridership increases, though, these nationwide transit authorities — as we’ve seen first-hand in New York — don’t often see the increase in revenue one would expect. While fare box collection totals go up, the same factors that drive people out of their cars — high gas prices, poor economies — are impacting the rail agencies as well. Cities that rely on sales taxes — or real estate taxes — to fund their transit networks are finding their coffers relatively empty, and the high cost of fuel and power is a drain to even the most popular of transit networks.

Over at Brooklyn Streets, Carroll Gardens, Gary Reilly throws out a suggestion that public officials should heed: “The Federal gas tax needs to be increased, and the funds must be dedicated to building a world class transit infrastructure. We are decades behind Europe and Japan in our high speed rail infrastructure. It’s time to show some leadership again.”

I couldn’t agree more. Oil prices aren’t going to go down; the cost of gas won’t magically decrease. It’s time for this nation to invest in public transportation. A token gesture here and there won’t do it, and it’s not a stretch to say that the future economic health of our nation depends on it.

Photo of high gas prices by flickr user xxtukyo.

Comments (7)
Page 412 of 477« First...410411412413414...Last »