Report on Yesterday’s Adventures

Mostly Fighting with Ticket Vending Machine

We planned a fairly complicated agenda yesterday, around a visit to the N.Y. Botanical Garden holiday train show in the Bronx.  Read on.

We needed to catch an early train, so we aimed for the 7:06 a.m. from Basking Ridge. With resurging ridership, the 30 or so free parking spots are at a premium (the much larger number of permit-only spots remain largely empty, another example of government interference with the free market).  We arrived 15 minutes early just in case; fortunately there were a number of empty spaces. (The alternative is to drive to the Lyons station, where daily parking costs only $2 and in fact leads to an overall lower total cost, since it’s in a lower NJT fare zone.  However, when school is in session, all the roads that lead there are blocked by the hundreds of students driving their own cars to the local high school, and this peak is from 7 to 7:30 a.m., so that’s another crapshoot.

The First Ticket Purchase

Next step is to buy tickets.  The TVM again and again refused to accept any of the credit cards we had, so in frustration we fed it a $10 bill, which worked fine.

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Riders Leave Money on MetroCards

The MetroCard has become a popular way to use New York City’s transit services; in fact, for most riders, it’s the only practical way to ride subways and buses.  Riders pay in advance to load cards with money, then use it up as they make trips.   But what happens to money that is still on cards that are lost or expire?  New York City Transit gets to keep it, and it’s counted as fare revenue; in 2012, the revenue from expiring cards reached a peak of $95 million, according to reporting by Sam Roberts in The New York Times (January 17).  MetroCards typically expire about two years from purchase; after that time, they cannot be redeemed or the amount transferred to new cards.  The amount recorded in 2012 was unusually large because many riders purchased cards before a 2010 fare increase.  Once the cards expire, do they have sentimental value?  Not much, apparently: according to the article a lot of 100 used, expired, “worthless” cards can be bought on eBay for $13.75.

Read the full article (limited access) at:

PATH Fares Rise

The new one-ride fare on PATH is $2.50, effective October 1.  PATH fares for a single ride are thus equal to NYC subway and bus fares, although the PATH system is much smaller than New York City’s.  Free transfers to and from buses—a feature of the city system— are not included, nor are free transfers between PATH and city lines.  Ten-trip tickets for 10, 20, and 40 PATH rides cost $1.90 per ride; unlimited-ride passes are priced at $7.50 for one day, $26 for 7 days, and $80 for 30 days; these passes can be used only once each 18 minutes at a given station, so multiple people can’t use the same pass at the same time.  Senior fares (65 and older) remain at $1.00, but a special, personalized PATH smart card is required to secure this rate.  New York Metrocards are also usable to ride PATH; the Metrocard must have per-ride value on it, and $2.50 will be deducted for each ride.  PATH machines also issue MetroCards, but as in the machines on NYC subway stations, a new MetroCard will incur a $1 charge in addition to any value added.

MTA Fares Increase March1 and March 3

Fare increases on MTA rail lines (Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad) are effective March 1, and average 8-9%.  NYC Transit (subway and bus) fares increase effective March 3; the base fare increases from $2.25 to $2.50. Finally implementing a long-announced change, New York City Transit has announced that MetroCards bought within the subway system starting March 3 will cost $1, in addition to any transportation loaded onto the new card.  The fee will not apply to MetroCards purchased from private vendors, obtained from employers, or in conjunction with railroad tickets for the Long Island Rail Road or Metro-North Railroad; it applies only to cards obtained directly from the NYC Transit system.

In a recent change, the agency announced that MetroCards will be capable of simultaneously being loaded with a weekly or monthly unlimited-use option and with per-ride fares, thus avoiding the need for commuters to buy a second card.  This is particularly important for riders who need a per-ride card for use outside the regular subway and bus system, particularly on the PATH transit system, where only per-ride MetroCards are honored.  When a card with both types of fares is used on a regular subway or bus, the card automatically honors the unlimited-use fare until its time expired, after which per-ride fees will be deducted.  The $1 fee for new cards can be avoided by turning in an expiring or damaged Metrocard, which will be replaced for free.

NYC Transit Fare Increases Loom

Increases in the New York City transit fare structure are likely by March 1, and the base fare may not be the only thing to rise.  According to reporting by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times (Sept. 13), parent organization Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering reducing or eliminating the 7% bonus granted to riders who buy pay-per-ride MetroCards worth at least $10.  The bonus dates from the change-over to MetroCard fare payment in 1998; the discount was originally 10%, but was later reduced to the current 7%.  In any case, according to MTA chairman Joseph Lhota, changing the discount will not produce enough revenue to raise all of the $450 million the authority expects the hikes to generate, so increases in the base fare, currently $2.25, and/or in weekly or monthly rates, will also be necessary.  The authority expects to release its proposal for the new fare structure in October, with public hearings in November and a decision by the MTA board in December.