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Breaking down the math of the MTA fare hike


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Breaking down the math of the MTA fare hike

By Marlene Naanes

amNewYork Staff Writer

February 18, 2008



Dave Sanders

The MTA's fare hike which will go into affect March 2, 2008. With the re-structuring of

weekly, bi-weekly and monthly MetroCard passes a problem could possibly occur as some

cards will read "insufficient fare" however they will have remaining balances although the

balances will be less than a one-way fare. The likelihood that riders will think that the card has

a zero balance will be high and they will likely discard the cards.


Commuters will have to consult their calculators when it comes to dealing with a more complicated MetroCard bonus under the fare hike taking effect next month.


Starting on March 2, the bonus will decrease from 20 percent to 15 percent, resulting in an array of awkward dollar amounts left on MetroCards.


"A ride is $2, so what are you going to do with a $1.50 on a card?" said Jack Li, 23, of Hell's Kitchen, a financial analyst who buys bonus cards because he only rides the subways on weekends. "We shouldn't have to worry about odd amounts on our card."


With a 15-percent bonus, riders will have to spend at least $40 to avoid money left over on their card. Others who buy a $10 card, for example, will have to replenish it three times to eventually zero out the balance.


But other amounts, like a new $7 MetroCard, which transit officials say is intended to benefit lower-income commuters, will yield $8.05 with the bonus, eventually leaving five cents on the card.


Advocates for straphangers worry that riders - out of frustration over dealing with the math - may toss the nickel card out instead of adding money at a booth or vending machine.


William Henderson, executive director for the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, said that already, people throw away their bonus cards when they use it up, fearing the strip will wear out with continued swipes.


About 36 percent of riders buy bonus MetroCards, according to recent transit data. Advocates say that many bonus card users are those who don't ride the subways and buses daily or those who can't afford other cards.


Transit officials will begin a marketing campaign this week, urging riders to hold onto cards with leftover dollar amounts and keep replenishing them. People who buy bonus pay-per-ride cards now tend to discard them and buy another card, transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said.


"In a way we'll be urging some pay-per-ride and bonus card users to adopt new habits," he said.


But riders said change will be difficult.


"The subways are already confusing, and they're just going to confuse us more," said straphanger Dave Fraser, 40, of Chelsea, who usually buys a $10 card and throws it out when it's empty. "It's going to be a hassle to hold onto the card."


Tips for bonus card users after the hike:

- Buying a $40 MetroCard results in a $6 bonus, or a full three free rides.

- Buying a $20 MetroCard yields a $3 bonus. Hang onto the card and replenish it with another $20 to receive another $3 bonus to eventually zero out the card.

- Buying a $10 card means riders will have to replenish it with $10 three more times before it zeroes out.

- Buying a $7 card means riders will have to replenish it in $7 increments 39 times before it zeroes out.

- Riders with a little extra money can replenish the $7 card nine times, and then refill the card with $10 to zero it out.

- If you end up with several MetroCards with odd amounts left over, transfer the amounts onto a single card at a token booth.

- Don't want to deal with the math? Enroll for an EasyPay XPress, which starts at $50. The program replenishes the card by automatically drafting from your bank account when the balance hits $25.

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