Home MetroCard Impact of the $1 Metrocard fee coming into view

Impact of the $1 Metrocard fee coming into view

by Benjamin Kabak

I had to assist someone with a Metrocard purchase yesterday, and I nearly did a double-take when the vending machine alerted me to the $1 surcharge for new cards. As a WageWorks member, my new Metrocards come in the mail and without the MTA’s so-called green fee so I haven’t had a chance to go through the purchase process in a while. For many, of course, since March, the added charge for a new card has been a part of the routine process.

Now that the MTA has been collecting revenue from these purchases for a few months, the agency is in a better position to shed light on the economics behind the move, and according to a report in the Daily News today, it is paying dividends. Pete Donohue says the MTA has already collected $10 million in fees. He has more of a breakdown:

The MTA expects to print 60 million fewer MetroCards next year – so much plastic that, placed end-to-end, the cards would stretch 3,196 miles, the distance from New York City to Los Angeles and up the West Coast to San Francisco. It sold 101 million MetroCards last year, said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg…

In its first four months, the green fee generated $10,841,000 for MTA coffers, said NYC Transit division budget director Aaron Stern. The MTA expects gross revenues to total nearly $24 million this year, and $28 million next year with a combined $3.8 million savings in production costs, said agency officials…

The green-fee windfall will be partially offset, officials said, by an estimated $11 million reduction in “fare media liability.” The MTA budget term is used to describe unused value riders leave on MetroCards: small change or trips paid for but not taken.

Initially, this is certainly good news for the MTA. Even though its fare media liability total is decreasing, it is saving significant costs by printing far fewer Metrocards, and the move has been environmentally friendly as well. I’m still a bit skeptical of the agency’s predictions of increased revenue from the fee next year though.

As I wrote in May, at a certain point, subway riders’ habits will change. Already Donohue easily found riders who have been using the same Metrocard since March, and that trend will continue. The MTA can save money on production costs, but will the revenue from the $1 fee continue to be as robust? Tourists will pay, but everyday riders will curtail their Metrocard purchases. For now, though, and until the Metrocard is finally phased out, the fee will remain.

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Nyland8 August 1, 2013 - 2:15 pm

Come to think of it, I have noticed far fewer MetroCards lying around at my feet in subway stations.

Epson45 August 1, 2013 - 7:28 pm

Not true. There this stupid MetroCard for 2-trips only, no value to refill. Litter around the MetroCard balance reader.

Nyland8 August 1, 2013 - 11:32 pm

NO! It IS true. I HAVE noticed less MetroCards at my feet in subway stations. Don’t deign to tell me what I’ve seen.

Epson45 August 2, 2013 - 1:42 am


Theorem Ox August 2, 2013 - 12:12 am

Come to think of it, you’re right. I rarely see standard refillable Metrocards (sold at booths or VM) lying around on buses and near balance readers anymore.

I do see an abundance of non-standard varieties (single ride paper tickets, two-ride cards issued by social service agencies, two-ride reduced fare cards, etc) as litter though.

D in Bushwick August 1, 2013 - 2:46 pm

A great idea that you only wished would have happened many years sooner.

JJJJ August 1, 2013 - 2:49 pm

I think it would be easier to support this fee if there was a way you could return the card for a refund on your deposit. THAT would make it a real green fee, not a money scheme.

John August 1, 2013 - 5:47 pm

Why would you need to return it? When it wears out?

Jonah August 1, 2013 - 8:39 pm

When your trip to New York ends.

Spiderpig August 1, 2013 - 10:39 pm

Good point.

Ian MacAllen August 2, 2013 - 11:32 am

The problem is these cards are terrible, and often wear out without warning. The replacement program for cards that still have value is horrific. Basically this whole thing is a scam to add an extra $1 to the monthly pass holders.

Simon August 2, 2013 - 3:45 pm

What replacement program? You just take it to a booth and ask the clerk to transfer it to a new one, and you’re done.

SEAN August 1, 2013 - 2:51 pm

As I read this post an interesting thaught came to mind – what would the impact be if the $1 fee were raised to $2, $3, $4 or even $5? I based this off the fee some transit agencies charge for there smartcards such as WMATA’S Smartrip.

Ron August 1, 2013 - 4:41 pm

WMATA just lowered their smartrip card to $2 (from $5) because they added a $1 PER RIDE surcharge to paper farecards.

Kat Bridges August 1, 2013 - 4:58 pm

I, too, get my MetroCards through WageWorks, and so I can’t really complain, but: this would seem more ‘green’ and less obnoxious if MetroCards were a touch more durable.

Phillip Roncoroni August 1, 2013 - 6:01 pm

Why do people keep saying Metrocards aren’t durable? The WageWorks one works the entire two years or so until it expires and they send a new one, and the fee is waived if you bring a broken one to a booth for replacement anyway.

Epson45 August 1, 2013 - 7:32 pm

They dont last very long with the constant wear and tear to swipe, dip and put in your pocket or wallet crap.

Phillip Roncoroni August 1, 2013 - 8:22 pm

I’ve never had a Metrocard go bad from wear. That’s why I don’t understand what everyone who says they aren’t durable are doing to them. I dip or swipe 120+ times a month and they last until they expire. I keep mine in a wallet.

Epson45 August 1, 2013 - 10:20 pm

good for you. For the rest of us, it varies.

Theorem Ox August 2, 2013 - 12:40 am

Well, good for you!

Try using your card on buses for the majority of swipes (extra fun if you routinely use yours on the older MTAB bus fleet and on any bus of Nassau County’s NICE bus system). If you REALLY want to have some fun, use your card as a pay-per-ride too.

I’ll put my money down that you’ll be screaming bloody murder in three months or less.

Phillip Roncoroni August 2, 2013 - 1:25 pm

I have to take the Q27 every commute to and from work.

Epson45 August 2, 2013 - 3:04 pm

The depot that serves the Q27 must have clean the farebox readers daily. Else where, it varies.

Epson45 August 1, 2013 - 7:31 pm

Its a rip-off $1 fee. Its not surprise that riders DO NOT change their habits since MTA clearly fail announcing the $1 fee to there face. MTA could use the rip-off money to improve the crappy system.

Spiderpig August 1, 2013 - 10:41 pm

How do they not announce it? It’s right there on the machine when you’re clicking through to purchase a new card.

Epson45 August 2, 2013 - 1:44 am

Do the normal people really read the touch screen ad?

Theorem Ox August 2, 2013 - 12:26 am

Yes, it is a rip-off. But at least they’re not subtle about it and they make it conspicuous to all but the most absent minded (large $1 fee sticker at the token booths, the MVM has idle screens advising riders to “Avoid The Fee” and the MVM makes you acknowledge understanding of the fee on a separate warning screen when purchasing a new card)

No, they will never use the rip-off money to improve the crappy system. They just can’t (for the foreseeable future), even if every executive, rank-and-file really wanted to with all their hearts. The revenue is nowhere close to covering the labor and legacy costs.

Epson45 August 2, 2013 - 1:47 am

The advertising of the $1 fee is a joke. I dont think the normal or tourist riders even know there is $1 fee with the small print.

Well, it doent matter, MTA is making money on the rip-off fee.

Spiderpig August 2, 2013 - 11:30 am

I already knew about it and was still shocked to see it on the screen when I used a machine the first time after implementation, so it’s definitely noticeable.

Epson45 August 2, 2013 - 3:02 pm

Its noticeable to you but not to others and its the reason why MTA is making money on the fee and even the single ride ticket.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 4:19 pm

‘Cause people would suddenly stop buying MetroCards and go buy SUVs because of a $1 fee? I don’t think so.

Benjamin Kabak August 2, 2013 - 3:05 pm

Where do you get the idea that riders aren’t changing their habits? They definitely are. Just read the post and the News article.

Epson45 August 3, 2013 - 1:18 pm

Then how MTA is making money?

JJ August 5, 2013 - 1:16 pm Reply

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