MTA rakes in millions from unused, lost MetroCards
Your loss is New York City Transit’s gain.
Straphangers threw out an estimated $40 million in unused or unrefunded fare money in 2008, according to agency documents. The MetroCard windfall was up a whopping 38 percent from two years earlier.
What’s more, NYC Transit is budgeting for that revenue to increase to $48 million next year because of the recent fare hike.
“That's a lot of money,” said Elvis Santos, 40, a rider from Queens who has helped friends jump through the hoops to get refunds on expired cards.
At least two other transit agencies decline to budget for unused fares, arguing the revenue is a moving target that can't be relied on for operations.
“It's a tricky one to compute. We don't recognize it as a revenue source,” said Cathy Asato, a spokeswoman for the Metro in Washington D.C.
A MTA spokesman said including the figure for unused fares adds transparency, and all revenue estimates are updated three times a year.
The MTA refunds lost or stolen unlimited MetroCards purchased with credit and debit cards. MetroCards expire after a year, but riders have up to two years after the printed date to transfer the balance to a new card. The agency extended the deadline from a year in 2007.
But many straphangers don't know how to bring their expired cards back to life, transit and community advocates say.
“It's not common knowledge. Why put an expiration on the cards at all” asked John Robert, a Bronx community board official, who learned about the refund when he helped a resident desperate to claim her unused funds.
The MTA Web site includes information about expired MetroCards, and station agents can help riders make a claim for unused funds, transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said.
The agency received 12,600 claims for expired MetroCards this year, or about 1,500 a month, Fleuranges said. The rate has been consistent for the past three years.
“Trust me, people know and do send in their cards and we process their claims,” Fleuranges said.
Still, the last two fare hikes have made it difficult to buy a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard without an odd dollar amount. Straphangers must shell out $45 before they can receive an even number of rides with the 15 percent bonus, up from $10 before the first fare increase in 2008.
To prevent loosing precious pennies, transit has pushed EasyPayXpress, a MetroCard that refills from an applicants bank account. Incoming MTA chief Jay Walder is also looking to scrap MetroCards for “Oyster Cards,” a key fob that is difficult to lose and refills automatically.
Make the most of your MetroCard
If your Pay-Per-Ride card expires:
-See the station agent to transfer the balance to a new card within the first year of the expiration
-Between the first and second year, ask the agent for a pre-paid envelope to send it to MTA customer claims.
If your unlimited card expires:
- Mail the MetroCard to customer claims. Ask the station agent for an envelope.
If you have odd amounts left on the card:
- See the station agent to put more money of the card. They have a fare chart to figure out the bonus.