When details of a fare hike emerged on Friday, straphangers long used to unlimited ride MetroCards gasped. In addition to raising the costs of cards across the board, the MTA, said the reports, planned to cap the number of rides available on the so-called unlimited ride cards.
Today, the Daily News has the details: A 30-day unlimited ride card would allow the user take 90 trips, and the authority may cap the 7-days at 21 rides. Under the current rates of $89 and $27 respectively, this move would cap the minimum cost of a ride at $0.99 for the monthly and $1.26 for the weekly. If the rates go up as expected, the lowest possible cost per ride would be approximately $1.11 for the 30-day cards and $1.33 for the weeklies.
According to the News, the MTA alleges that the vast majority of riders do not average three swipes per day for their unlimited ride cards. Thus, this cap would impact those people who are abnormally heavy subway users and those subway scammers who try to sell unlimited ride swipes at the turnstile for $2.25 to unsuspecting customers. Despite these intentions, riders are wary of the proposal, and advocate groups believe the MTA’s approach is misguided. “The MTA’s financial problems are real, but I’m very concerned they’re going to sock it to the riding public to the exclusion of other groups [that] benefit from transit, like drivers and businesses,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said.
For what it’s worth, during my personal experiments, I’ve found my monthly usage to be less than the MTA’s rumored caps. In my November 2007 MetroCard challenge, I rode 74 times while working a regular job, and in my November 2008 challenge, I rode 73 times while commuting as a student. In October 2009, while commuting as a student and working a part time job, I swiped in 88 times. Reporters and messengers, among others, will far exceed the 90-swipe limit.
The fare hike, which the MTA will debate over the next few months, is set to go into effect on January 1, 2011. Among the other parts of the proposals is a planned $1 surcharge for all MetroCards, and the MTA will, in all likelihood, make unlimited cards refillable at the same time. Soon enough, those unlimited cards won’t be so unlimited after all.