With the March 3 fare hike rapidly approaching, the MTA today unveiled the mechanics of the fare hike. Can you stock up on unlimited ride cards as my parents used to do with tokens? And just how is that $1 surcharge the MTA has been threatening with since 2010 going to work? All of that – and more! – below.
To recap, the not-so-fun stuff first: With this fare hike, the base fare will jump to $2.50 with a pay-per-ride discount of just 5 percent on all purchases at or above $5. The 7-day unlimited will cost $30, and the 30-day unlimited will set back regular riders by $112. An express bus ride checks in at $6, and the single-ride cards available only through vending machines will clock in at $2.75.
With the fare hike, the $1 “new card” surcharge will be instituted as well. Each card purchased at a MetroCard Vending Machine, a station booth or at commuter rail stations will cost $1. The MTA says that to avoid the fee, riders should keep and refill current cards. Damaged or expired cards may be replaced at no cost, and those of us who receive pre-tax MetroCard in the mail through a transit benefit organization will not be assessed the $1 surcharge. Those who buy combo railroad/MetroCard tickets also will not be charged that dollar. As with any MTA project, it took the authority only three years since initial reports to implement this fee.
Now what of the question of hoarding? The short of it is that straphangers pretty much cannot hoard cards. According to the MTA, all cards purchased before Monday, March 3 must be activated by March 11 for users to receive the full value. So seven-day cards are valid through March 17, 2013, and 30-day cards are valid through April 9, 2013. What happens if you activate your card after the March 11 date? Glad you asked. So says the MTA:
For unused Unlimited Ride MetroCards purchased prior to the March 3, 2013 fare change, refunds will be made at the purchase price. For partially used Unlimited Ride MetroCards purchased prior to the March 3 fare increase, refunds will be made on a pro-rated basis. Ask for a postage-paid envelope from your bus operator, at the station booth, or download the form at mta.info and mail it to us with your card.
That refund process can be a bit of a pain. So I’d say start using that card by or before March 11 or find someone willing to pay you for that unused card you have lying around your house.
And that’s that. The breakeven point for a 7-day card will be 13 rides and for a 30-day card 48 rides. In that inexorable march of time, the fares will go up. They always do. After all, someone has to pay for this whole thing.