‘Green Card’ Fee Benefits Only MTA
If the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has its way—a virtual certainty— riders will shell out a $1 fee every time they purchase a fare card.
In addition to recovering the cost of providing MetroCards, the fee is intended to reduce the number of cards that litter the ground in and around every turnstile in the 468 subway stations in the system. Riders would not have to pay to refill old cards or if exchanging an expired MetroCard for a new one.
On its face, the proposal seems reasonable, at least within certain limits. The MTA prints about 160 million MetroCards in a year. Not all of them are recycled, mainly because most riders do not “zero out” their cards before tossing them, hopefully into station waste baskets, and buying new ones. The few cents left on cards can mount up, and many individuals loiter around stations purposely so they can gather cards left on floors and other surfaces and consolidate the small amounts into a sum that adds up to at least a single fare. They cannot, of course, pick up every single card, nor does every card have value, so the littering continues.
The MTA’s concerns about discarded fare cards are not entirely altruistic. Each year, the MTA recoups around $50 to $60 million in unused fares when riders purchase pay-per-ride cards but fail to zero them out. Adding the $1 surcharge to the MTA’s revenue figures will generate around $20 million while reducing the agency’s fare collection costs, around 15 cents of every $1 in revenue, A decrease of even one cent can save the authority hundreds of millions of dollars a year, if it forgoes the unspent rides in exchange for a more efficient collection system. The MTA plans to institute the $1 fee next year, in 2013, and to rely on the $20 million ($2 million in cost savings from reduced MetroCard printing volumes and $18 million in added revenue) it sees coming in from the “green fee”.
This idea was not met with unbridled enthusiasm by riders. If the MTA is truly concerned about environment, the agency could just as easily program MetroCard vending machines to give a small discount for recycling a card and extending its useful life. The $1 green fee, they maintain, is one more way for the MTA to squeeze more money out of the riding public. We agree. However little at a time riders pay to purchase fare cards and board a train, the added fees still mount up.
Meanwhile, the MTA has plans to replace the MetroCard in 2015 (or so) and has offered up no date yet on when this “Green Fee” surcharge will actually be put into place. More to the point, with its propensity for tripping over its own feet, the MTA for some time now has consistently and continually announced plans for instituting a system in which riders will be able to tap their own debit or credit cards at turnstile sensors to pay their fares. (Where this will leave riders who for whatever reasons have no debit or credit cards we have no idea; we wish them luck.)
The “green fee” is green only for the MTA. It is one more way to complicate life and engender added expenses for the riding public. If this idea is to be implemented at all, the MTA would do much better by giving discounts for recycled cards. The city Department of Sanitation has instituted a recycling program that has had some degree of success. The MTA could do far worse than implement some of the Sanitation Department’s ideas—or any others, whatever their origin—in order to help save the environment and, more important, spare the riding public, which has few other choices for getting around the city, a little of their hardearned cash.