Home MetroCard MTA: No Sandy-related refund for unlimited MetroCards

MTA: No Sandy-related refund for unlimited MetroCards

by Benjamin Kabak

This news comes as little surprise after the MTA dropped some hints last week, but MetroCard users won’t be getting a refund for the days of travel lost to Sandy and her storm surge. As The Times reported today, the MTA has determined that “processing refunds would have been a logistical nightmare.”

Details on the decision are scant. As The Times notes, the MTA didn’t offer a refund after Irene shut the system for a few days last year but did extend unlimited cards for a few days following the 2005 transit strike. According to an item in The Post, the MTA could have chosen to reimburse riders $3.47 per day for lost service, but again, how do you add monetary value to an unlimited ride card?

With customers grumbling, the Straphangers Campaign head Gene Russianoff offered up his take: “There’s no way to really calculate the number of trips not taken by the riders. At least this time they offered free fares on the Thursday and Friday after the hurricane. I thought that was a good gesture to the riding public.” Of course, those “free” fares were good only for the half of transit riders who are pay-per-ride card users. The rest of us were left stranded as time ticked off our unlimited ride cards, never to return.

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Jonathan November 13, 2012 - 10:08 am

Who is the entrepreneur willing to come up with transit travel insurance? Pay some small amount a year and if the system goes down, the insurer forks over an unlimited card to make you whole.

Abba November 13, 2012 - 10:12 am

I think the fact they got the system up and running that quickly is more than $3.47 a day.If these workers would have been lazy I think the L and G would still be down today.

Kai B November 13, 2012 - 10:18 am

The big difference between the transit strike and the hurricanes is that the former is either the MTA’s or the union’s fault (maybe both), while the later fall into the “act of god” category.

Alex November 13, 2012 - 10:33 am

If your cable got knocked out, even the villainous cable companies will reimburse you for the lost service. A day or two extension of unlimited cards would be appropriate since, as Ben mentioned, the “free” days did us unlimited card holders absolutely no good.

Bolwerk November 13, 2012 - 11:03 am

Absolutely no good? What do you suppose would have happened if every single sucker stuck on a bus those days had to swipe? (Think of what a normal rush hour bus ride is like with everyone swiping, and multiply that by some factor.) Your already miserable trip would have been worse, and riders would be bitching that the MTA isn’t just letting people on.

Meanwhile, we who use unlimiteds know what we’re buying upfront: the chance that, some days, we won’t need to take a ride we anticipated taking. I agree it sucks, but in the end the MTA made the right decisions.

Josh November 13, 2012 - 12:17 pm

“won’t need to take a ride we anticipated taking” is different from “are unable to take a ride we need or want to take,” whether we’re talking about Sandy or the transit strike.

Bolwerk November 13, 2012 - 1:49 pm

The point is buying an unlimited is a bet that you’ll get a better deal in exchange for paying less upfront. I don’t see a huge problem people with sometimes losing that bet when it’s not the TA’s or TWU’s fault and, on balance, you know you’re coming out ahead with an unlimited. If they didn’t already know that, future unlimited buyers should assume there is a small chance of a disruptive weather event, especially in the summer, and act accordingly. If that’s bothersome to them, they should not buy an unlimited.

True, I was presuming most wage-/salary-slaves were out of work those days regardless, at least until the system started coming back. Maybe that’s unfair. But unforeseen circumstances are unforeseen circumstances, whether it’s a hurricane or going out of town for a funeral.

Ant6n November 14, 2012 - 12:18 pm

That’s BS. Service outages are not part of the trade-off of the unlimited metro card.

Bolwerk November 14, 2012 - 12:38 pm

Funny, then why didn’t my unlimited get credited for the days the service was out?

Robert November 13, 2012 - 10:36 am

Even after the strike, MetroCards were extended because of the holiday bonus they were offering that year. (MetroCard Holiday Bonus, 2005)

The way I see it, they should offer a 5-day bonus (three days for when the system was shut down, plus two days when the service was offered for free) for the 7- and 30-day cards.

VLM November 13, 2012 - 10:39 am

The way I see it, they should offer a 5-day bonus (three days for when the system was shut down, plus two days when the service was offered for free) for the 7- and 30-day cards.

Well, sure that’s what they should do, but the real question is how? The storm hit two weeks ago and most subway service was restored eight days ago. By now, any weekly card that was valid during the storm has long since expired, and likely at least half of the monthlies in circulation than have as well. Those cards are long, long gone. How do you process a refund or credit in that situation?

It’s clear that, given a preference, the MTA wouldn’t screw over their customers, but I think the excuse of “logistical nightmare” is perfectly valid.

Christopher November 13, 2012 - 12:02 pm

If it wasn’t a logistical nightmare back in 2005, why would it be a logistical nightmare now? Here’s an idea: I take my card to a token booth clerk. She swipes it, and she should be able to tell it was an unlimited ride card that was valid that week. Either she re-programs the card to extend it by a few days, or she gives me a new card with, say $7 on it.

Bolwerk November 13, 2012 - 12:08 pm

The outage time is a lot longer this time. Many more cards expired during that outage time. Some people were unable to use their cards for significantly disparate periods of time. And none of it is the MTA’s fault.

(Do token booth clerks even have those capabilities?)

Matt November 13, 2012 - 12:40 pm

Every unlimited ride card holder is supposed to get in line to talk to a token booth clerk (assuming they can even find one)? For a $7 credit? That seems … unlikely to scale.

Christopher November 13, 2012 - 12:42 pm

It’s still better than nothing. I’d rather see them do it automatically, the way they did it in 2005.

Andrew November 13, 2012 - 1:01 pm

It wasn’t a logistical nightmare in 2005 because the extension was made before the cards expired. The MetroCard system is not set up to do what you ask of it here.

Christopher November 13, 2012 - 1:05 pm

Yet another reason that MetroCards should be replaced with 21st Century technology.

Andrew November 13, 2012 - 10:46 am

Having effectively lost a week of a 30-day card that’s now expired, I’m fine at this point with not getting a refund or extension, considering that the MTA did about as good as possible in getting the system back up and running.

Larry Littlefield November 13, 2012 - 11:03 am

The fact that the MTA is not offering financial compensation to holders of 30 day Metrocards is nothing to complain about, and not a big deal.

On the other hand, the fact that the MTA IS offering free days to holders of monthly passes on the commuter railroads at the same time as not doing so for city transit riders IS a big deal, in that it is consistent with past policies.

If nothing else, the whining suburbanites ought to have the differential treatment shoved in their face for a day or two.

Matt November 13, 2012 - 12:37 pm

The extra couple of days on the commuter railroads is effectively no different than the couple of free days on the subways and buses. Recall that our monthly passes are just that — monthly passes. They start and stop on month boundaries, as opposed to the length of time metric used for the unlimited metrocards. So if you extend by October MNR monthly by a day or two, it makes no difference to me, as all you’ve done is make my November pass cover fewer days. Net it all out, and there’s no difference. Just like with the 30-day unlimited metrocards.

Christopher November 13, 2012 - 12:41 pm

Are the monthly passes from the first of the month to the last day of the month? If so, that’s different from the 30-day passes on the bus and subways, which expire 30 days after they are first swipe. So not the same thing at all (if I’m understanding you correctly).

D-train November 13, 2012 - 12:18 pm

The logistical nightmare is really the issue. THOUGH, a goodwill gesture would be an additional free 24 hour travel period for all customers. I’d be happy with this Sunday 5am – Monday 5am all MTA travel free as compensation for lost days.

Though the MTA has already lost enough $$$ during the storm.

Benjamin Kabak November 13, 2012 - 12:21 pm

An additional free 24 hours does absolutely nothing for the unlimited ride card users. And really, this is an issue that impacts only the unlimited ride card users.

Ryan 6 Train November 13, 2012 - 12:56 pm

I am an unlimited card holder, as is my brother, and we were both discussing this when they decided to make Thursday and Friday free. He metioned that we, the monthly’s, were most likely just going to take the shaft on this one and that will be that.

I took his advice and chalked this up as a $hit happens scenario and filed it with my other nyc annoyances that cause me to grumble and ultimately do nothing.

RBH November 13, 2012 - 1:41 pm

I offer a simple solution: the MTA Should have made a better offer and still can. I can give MetroCard holders an unlimited ride card for the days they lost.

A less global solution would be to extend the expiration date of the Unlimited Metro Card, especially the monthly unlimited card, by the number of days the subway and bus rides were not available and/or were free to ride.

E.g., the subway and bus was out or free from Monday 10/29/2012 through 11/2/2012. The number of days would be 5. Supposedly, 11/03/2012 people were to pay. If a Monthly unlimited card expired on 11/13/2012, the new date would be 11/18/2012.

My card expired yesterday 11/12/2012. Today, I bought a new card. I realize this solution would not help anyone with a card that expired between 10/29/12 and 11/12/2012 but it would be fair to anyone still with an active card.

When a person was not able to use the train and or bus to get a free rides during the period, the MTA revenue wrongly increases by at least $17.33 per monthly unlimited MetroCard because of having to buy a MetroCard and not receiving in service day opportunities.

From my perspective, rather than just being agreeable and acquiescent, the Straphangers Campaign and its “spokesperson” Gene Russianoff need to ask the MTA to consider fairer solution.

Christopher November 13, 2012 - 1:54 pm

Just use the Metrocard the next month more? Some months I use it a lot. Some I don’t. That’s the cost of convenience.

Phantom November 13, 2012 - 9:32 pm

We’ve been cheated a little. Not enough to make a big deal about it, but cheated the same.

I never thought that unlimiteds made much sense for many of us. Will soon go permanently back to per ride cards,which are very likely better for most riders anyway.

AndrewYF November 20, 2012 - 9:28 am

It is trivial to calculate which unlimited 30-day MetroCards lost service, as long as you know the expiration date. What may not be trivial is extending only those 30-days that lost service. Is the MTA’s system hardy enough to accept a one-time ‘patch’ that extends all 30-days for X number of days whose expiration fell less than 30 days after system shutdown? I’m guessing ‘no’.

dandiD November 20, 2012 - 11:25 pm

i disputed it with my credit card for the amount of time i could not use, and they credited. Hopefully they charged it back to MTA as well.


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