New York

HOLY CRAP! The MTA Reprogrammed MetroCard Machines to Zero Out After 11 Rides!


Update, 3/23/15, 8:15 p.m.
Fare hikes suck. But see what the MTA went and did? You have to look closely, and you have to know what you’re looking for. But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority appears to have reprogrammed its MetroCard machines yesterday, deviating from its default settings, which steer purchasers to buy in round numbers that leave them with worthless remainders when the ride-buying is done.

See that $27.25 button there? The one with the (Village Voice–supplied) big green arrow pointed at it? That’s the magic number — assuming you’re refilling a MetroCard with a zero balance. PUSH THAT BUTTON! MAGIC THINGS HAPPEN!

Trust us: That’s your button. Why doesn’t the MTA tell you that’s the button to push if you want to make everything come out even? We don’t know. But we’ll call them and ask.

Original story follows:

This Sunday, March 22, the well-meaning folks at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are poised to louse up New Yorkers’ lives by raising bus and subway fares to $2.75 per ride, up from the current $2.50.

For those of us who like to consider ourselves frugal, marginally adept at avoiding being gamed by the system, and socially conscious, the fare hike triggers a two-level reaction.

The first stage of grief: The new fare structure is — like just about everything else in life — unfair to poor riders!

The second stage of grief: I finally got used to putting $19.05 on my MetroCard to keep the MTA from ripping me off with its default purchase options, and what the hell am I supposed to do now that the fare has gone up a quarter and the discount is 11 percent?

Guess what, fellow straphanger: The MTA actually has you covered! Late today the transit agency announced in a press release that it has unveiled a new MetroCard Calculator, “a handy tool that will assist customers with planning a new card purchase or refilling a full fare Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard.”

Accessible via or by directly pointing your web browser to the MTA’s MetroCard Calculator, which allows users who pay by the ride to enter a ballpark dollar amount for a new card or a card refill, whereupon — voilà! — the calculator will spit back out:

• Value added with the 11 percent bonus on purchases of $5.50 or more
• Number of rides you get for your money
• Remaining balance on your MetroCard

Will wonders never cease?

It gets better: The calculator will also highlight payment options that allow you to make your rides come out even, with no worthless balance after your last $2.75 ride.

Because here’s the thing: When you walk up to a fare machine, the MTA practically demands that you spend $10, $20, or $40 if you don’t already own a MetroCard, or $9, $19, or $39 if you’ve previously shelled out a buck for the card.

What’s the problem with that? Well, say you’re buying a new card and you opt to fork out $20. After charging you $1 for the card, the MTA will pop you a $2.09 discount, bringing your balance to $21.09. Hieing to the turnstile, you swipe your card, see its value reduced by $2.75, and go your merry way with a balance of $18.34. Do that six more times and the next time you try to swipe your card you’ll have only $1.84 on the sucker. That, friend, will get you the dreaded blue INSUFFICIENT FARE message, and is guaranteed to happen when there’s a line of people behind you and your train is juuuust pulling in to the station. (Push the $10 button and you’ll find yourself with $1.74 left over after three rides; spring for $40 and you’ll be stuck with $2.04 after fifteen rides.)

In order to bypass those larcenous defaults, you need to remember to choose the “Other Amounts” option, which is discreetly placed beneath the big three.

And then you need to know how much you need to spend in order to make it all come out even. And that’s where the MTA is offering to help you out.

If you don’t want to plug in the numbers, we’ve made you a handy-dandy chart that will allow you to minimize your leftovers. Diehard penny-pinchers can just remember the three highlighted numbers: $22.30, $27.25, and $49.55, which buy nine, eleven, and twenty exact-fare rides, respectively.

Bear in mind that this assumes you’re refilling an empty MetroCard. If you’re buying a new MetroCard, you have to add a buck: $23.30, $28.25, and $50.55.

You’re welcome! And remember: If you pay by the ride, don’t let them rip you off.


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