Home Fare Hikes MTA, eyeing 2010 hike, blames the machines for the 2008 raise

MTA, eyeing 2010 hike, blames the machines for the 2008 raise

by Benjamin Kabak

What’s in The Daily News? I’ll tell you what’s in The Daily News. A story about the MTA blaming the MetroCard Vending Machines for what otherwise would have been a smaller fare hike. That’s what in The Daily News.

My apologies to all of those fans of Guys and Dolls out there, but seriously. The MTA is saying that a flaw in the way the MetroCard Vending Machines are programmed is one of the leading reasons why the 2008 fare hike is set to a quarter instead of just 10 cents. That, ladies and gentlemen, may be a first.

Pete Donohue, transit writer for The Daily News, has more:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority acknowledged yesterday that one BIG reason it wants a 25-cent bus and subway hike is because its vending machines can dispense only dollar coins and quarters.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin defended the increase as fair and said upping it by a nickel or dime wouldn’t be enough. “The limitations of technology would make a $2.10 fare extremely costly to implement and would provide a much poorer quality of service,” Soffin said.

Oof. This may go under that ever-special category of Things You Keep to Yourself. Subway guru and Straphanger lawyer Gene Russianoff was outraged for the lot of us. “It’s not acceptable for them to say, ‘The machines are making us do it,'” he said to Donohue. “What are they going to [do] if next time they think there should be a 35-cent hike? Round it off to 50 cents and make us pay?”

In response to this spate of bad publicity, the MTA announced that they are looking at technological alternatives to the current vending machines. Considering that only 14 percent of subway riders pay in case, searching for something that doesn’t rip off everyone would probably be a good solution here. The MTA is also considering some sort of card for low-income subway riders, but the Authority refused to discuss any details whatsoever of those mysterious program. Maybe they should just step on it with those plans to adopt Smart Card technology.

In other fare hike news — and I use that term loosely because anyone reading Second Ave. Sagas won’t be too surprised by this information — New York newspapers are making a big stink over the fact that the MTA has plans to raise the fares in 2010. For as long as the MTA has debated this upcoming fare hike, MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander has repeated warned the public that the Authority prefers and would pursue two smaller fare hikes in 2008 and 2010 instead of one larger fare hike when the MTA’s financial picture became too dire.

As the public becomes more aware of this looming fare hike and its long-term ramifications, people are going to get more annoyed at the MTA. Just you wait.

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Victoria September 27, 2007 - 1:01 am

Wow, whose brilliant idea was it to program the machines like THAT?

mg September 27, 2007 - 7:33 am

They could conceivably make it $2.10 if you pay by credit card and charge cash users $.40 for the transaction, no?

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Marc Shepherd September 27, 2007 - 11:26 am

This is a rather silly post.

For the last 16 years, and for 27 of the last 32 years, the base subway fare has been a multiple of $0.25. It was, therefore, not surprising that the machines were designed to give change in twenty-five cent increments. Sounds pretty sensible to me.

Even if the design was wrong, what do you want them to do about it now? It’s not merely a programming issue. The machines would need a new physical capability that they currnetly do not have. Do you really want them to waste our money designing new machines that dole out nickels and dimes, when for the last 16 years we’ve never needed it?

Yes, it may be that only 14% of riders pay in cash, but that’s still a pretty significant percentage. And yes, the MTA is looking into replacing the current generation of machines, but that’s several years away (at least), and no one thinks the fare can stay at $2.00 until that happens.

Benjamin Kabak September 27, 2007 - 12:54 pm

Silly, Marc? I would hope that the MTA would choose a fare based on the economics of the times and their financial situation and not on the demands of their vending machines or lack of any sort of foresight when ordering those machines.

Looking back at the history of transit fares, recent history aside, rare are the days when the fare is a multiple of $0.25. The fact that the machines make this sort of flexibility tough is rather absurd, no?

Marc Shepherd September 27, 2007 - 1:26 pm

Ben, the capabilities of the hardware are very much a part of the economics. If the machines that you have work in multiples of $0.25, how can that not be part of the equation? The machines are what they are.

The issue is a red herring. Hardly anyone pays the base fare anyway. And there are many other levers can be adjusted to get the revenue to whatever level they need: bridge & tunnel tolls, LIRR and MNRR fares, MetroCard discounts, unlimited ride discounts, and so forth.

It really is silly to suggest rolling out new fare-collection machines as a “solution,” when the fare is probably going up again in a couple of years anyway.

Yes, I do realize that the fares used to go up in smaller increments. (I looked at the same Wikipedia article before posting.) The point is that they have not done so in a very long time.

Benjamin Kabak September 27, 2007 - 1:27 pm

In that case, I wouldn’t call new fare-collection machines a “solution.” But as the MTA looks to replace them anyway (and possibly adapt SmartCard technology), the Authority should ensure that the new machines can handle fare increments of varying degrees.

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MiKe Hansen September 27, 2007 - 9:18 pm

I agree with Marc.
The last time the fares went up less than a quarter it was an increase of about 10%. A quarter increase now is just about 10% The problem is that a quarter does not go very far as it did in tha past

peter September 28, 2007 - 8:49 am

Yeah, they coulda designed a machine to take nickels & dimes, or even pennies, but it wouldve been a bigger more complicated even more expensive machine.

Instedda spending around a billion bucks to design install and operate the complicated AFC csystem throughout NYCTA, a regional tax shouldve been instituted, and the subway made free. Of course, if wishes were horses (or trains), beggars would ride.

MTA Discriminates Against Dimes : SUBWAYblogger.com: Blog from the New York City Subway | Transit | MTA | News September 28, 2007 - 11:16 pm

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Killuminati October 25, 2007 - 11:57 pm

Fcuk the mta!!!!! they could suk my dik, bastids, yet another attack on the middle class……..

Tom Pick November 9, 2007 - 11:58 am

Smart Cards would definitely solve the problem – they could make the fare $2.16987 if they wanted, and the vending machines wouldn’t matter.

Part of the reason for the slowness of adoption is that smart cards have been expensive to produce. Costs are coming down now due to several recent technology developments. One that caught my eye was an announcement by Aveso of its new Primero flexible display technology. This lets card makers embed flexible displays onto cards using existing production machinery, which should make the cards much easier and cheaper to produce. It will also improve security for things like online banking and e-commerce transactions.

cindy June 29, 2009 - 12:10 pm

this is bullshit i hate the fucking mta and god forbid i need change for because all of the “time saving’ machines are not accepting bills these pointless pieces of flesh in burgundy vests have nothing for me all they do is stand there… a fucking mannequin can do more than they do!! i jump the turnstile as many times i can fuck them!!!!


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