i remember one time the simpsons made a joke about fox news and they got so insulted they tried to sue them but the court was like “this aired on ur network u can’t sue urself”
We’ve all been there. The train is coming into the station, and you grab your MetroCard and quickly try and swipe it at a turnstile.
"Please Swipe Again". "Please Swipe Again". "Insufficient Fare".
The last two words are killer. You think to yourself “I swear I had a balance on this card”. You go and check the card out and you see you have “$2.45”. Yes, you need $2.50 to ride the subway, and you have $2.45 on your MetroCard. Sure enough you miss that train all because of that nickel.
How did you end up in that situation any way? It turns out the MTA has designed it that way. Imagine how many tourists come to NYC and leave with balances that never get used. Imagine how many people lose metro cards with those balances that never get used. And even if it gets used on a later refill, the MTA gets to collect the cash earlier this way! Win win for them, right?
But now, with some simple math, you can fight back!
First, let’s see how the MTA tricks you out of your money earlier than you might want to release it to them.
When you are buying a MetroCard, you can get a 5% bonus if your purchase is big enough. So you get the following screen early on in the purchase process:
If you click the button on the left, they just got you. Your card will have $9.45 on it, meaning you will get 3 rides and end up with $1.95. That is a great deal for the MTA. They get all the money from every rider who does that, and they get the interest on that until you refill again and repeat the cycle.
Let’s say you don’t take the bait. You click MetroCard. Then you get this screen with three new short cuts:
Three quick options. But wait a minute. One button leaves you with the same $9.45 card, and gives a remainder of $1.95 after just three uses. The next one is even more frustrating: you end up with a $19.95 card, leaving a remainder after 7 uses of $2.45! That’s right, the nickel we were talking about earlier. The last option does not leave you much better off. You’ll get a $40.95 card, which leads to $0.95 on your card after you use 16 rides. So all three buttons presented leave quite a bit of “insufficient fare” on the card.
So how do you fight back Well, click “Other Amounts” and type your own values:
and remember these three magic numbers: $9.55, $19.05 and $38.10. That’s right. Never use the short cuts. Just type in one of those numbers.
Once you do, you’ll see your excess balances nearly vanish once you apply the 5% bonuses:
Buy a $19.00 card? $2.45 left on card after use. Buy a $19.05 card? No balance left after use! Magic. But what if you want a $10.00 MetroCard? There is literally no way to buy one because of the 5% bonus and the fact that all payments need to be divisible by a nickel. Your options are to pay $9.50 to get a $9.98 card after bonus, or pay $9.55 to get a $10.03 card after bonus. Once again, you literally can’t buy a $10 metro card from a machine.
If you absolutely don’t want any left over money, you really only have three choices of payments below $40, as seen in the table below:
If the pennies bother you, then maybe memorize these three numbers: $11.90, $19.05, $30.95.
So if the MTA really cares, what can they do to fix this?
Well here at I Quant NY, I’ve been hard at work coming up with a proposed software change. After much thought, check out this before and after:
Not a big change you say? Echm. That’s right. If they really wanted to fix the issue, they could ask “How much do you want on your MetroCard” instead of “How much do you want to pay”. But don’t count on those changes coming to a MetroCard Vending Machine near you anytime soon, given how lucrative the current set up is.
Which means it’s up to you. Write down the three numbers, $9.55, $19.05 and $38.10 or pick just the one that matches your buying habits best. You could even write it on the back of your Metrocard if you can figure out how to get ink to stay on it. (There’s a reason they are so shiny.)
A side note: one reason that the MTA may do this is to make paying with cash easier. It would be a nightmare to dispense change if cash buyers used this technique. But that does not explain why they can’t update the credit card only machines or all other machines if they first ask if you are using cash or credit. And of course unlimited card buyers avoid this all together. Also, this does not include the $1 fee associated with new metro cards.
So in closing, Math is useful. And luckily, you don’t have to be Einstein to outsmart the MTA. Plus, guess what year Einstein handed in his dissertation… You guessed it. 1905.
Ben Wellington is a Visiting Assistant Professor in The City & Regional Planning Program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he focuses on NYC Open Data. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from NYU.
Some have pointed out that this may not be intentional. Yes, it could be the case that even though the MTA takes in about $50 million dollars a year in unredeemed excess balances that no one ever noticed this. I don’t have any idea where these decisions come from, so I am not in a place to point fingers with any proof. But, intentional or not, the buttons are tricking people out of their money. If it really is unintentional, I’d be thrilled because it won’t be long until the problem is fixed given all the attention this post has gotten. So let’s hope all the people who say the MTA did not do this intentionally are correct. I can think of no better way to be proven wrong.
MTA Responds! Read more here.
I JUST UGLY LAUGHED SO HARD I WOKE UP THE DAMN HOUSE JFC!!!
HOLY FUCKK DO NOT CLICK THIS IF YOU NEED TO BE QUIET
red girl blue bird (I want a little bird so badly)
The crowdfunding site allows users to raise money to ban abortion, but won’t allow women to raise money to get one.
In case you needed MORE reasons to boycott GoFundMe, they really need to be an organization that ceases to exist entirely.
ALICE ROOSEVELT WAS HARDCORE. “She was known as a rule-breaker in an era when women were under great pressure to conform. The American public noticed many of her exploits. She smoked cigarettes in public, swore at officials, rode in cars with men, stayed out late partying, kept a pet snake named Emily Spinach (Emily as in her spinster aunt and Spinach for its green color) in the White House, and was seen placing bets with a bookie.
She even looks hardcore.
here’s an excerpt
sometimes tumblr’s US-centric social justice makes me so fucking frustrated. Right now sweden’s third biggest party are literally neo-nazis and our elections couldn’t even get onto trending tags today, goddamit.
Okay, so the post is gaining notes and…
burned my hand curling my hair today
you can make as serious of a batman movie as you want but at the end of the day he’s still gonna be a guy who specifically designed his vigilante justice outfit to have little pointy ears on his head
This is adorable
Distinguishing Asian Scripts
As a Chinese can I just say that the Chinese one is freakin accurate because everything is either blocks, has wings or has so many strokes that it looks like it wants to kill you.
As a Vietnamese I can pronounce the joke sentence above and it is amazing.
Fun story: my name with all of the fancy Vietnamese accents is Hiển, which looks obscenely similar to Hiền, a rather common name. Mine’s a bit unpopular so growing up I have never not been called the latter. I honestly don’t mind it too much, but it’s hilarious when people get it wrong on my various graduation ceremonies and certificates.
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