New York City

IBO: Transit riders reusing old MetroCards may cost MTA millions

‘Change jar’ may not be as full in the future

November 20, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Independent Budget Office says that MTA New York City Transit has had an invisible “change jar” full of nickels, dimes and quarters left unused on lost and expired MetroCards. But that change jar may not be nearly as full in the future.

Last year, the account held more than $95 million—an unusually large amount that resulted from transit riders stocking up on MetroCards prior to the December 2010 fare increase, according to IBO.

In March, however, New York City Transit started charging riders $1 every time they bought a new card. So mass transit riders have been refilling their cards rather than throwing them in a drawer or dropping them on the floor of the subway station.

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The transit agency expects the extra funds, which it calls “fare media liability” will drop to about $52 million this year and $41 million in 2014.

MTA says it produces nearly 160 million MetroCards each year at an annual cost of almost $10 million. The agency expects to save about $3.8 million by producing about 60 million fewer cards annually, and to generate more revenue from the fee.  The surcharge is expected to bring in an estimated $20 million this year, according to WNYC.

New York City’s tourists are contributing millions to the MTA’s coffers as they pay a dollar for a card they’ll likely use for just a few days. But so are some native New Yorkers who still neglect to recharge their old cards.

IBO speculates that many cards are still likely to slip away with unused value. As a result, New York City Transit can continue to expect to see some money in its change jar.

The $1 charge can be avoided in a number of ways. MTA gives users two years to trade in expired cards for free, and many stores and locations like check-cashing outlets sell them without the fee.

According to a commenter on Reddit, “The $1 is basically a tax on stupidity for those who haven’t figured out any of the multiples ways to avoid incurring the charge.”

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