Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mass T-RANT-sit (Government Follies Post #1)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a New York State agency that manages public transportation systems in and around New York City, wants to charge $1 for Metro Cards. They've been trying for awhile now to encourage reloading existing cards rather than buying new ones. That's well and good for people who use the subway or the city buses every day, or at least live near a subway station where they can recharge their card before going on the bus.

But for us in Westchester County, which signed on to using MetroCards a couple of years ago, this amounts to a tax or a fee, for using a system we didn't ask for. I happen to live in Mount Vernon, which borders the Bronx. I can walk to the 241st Street subway station to recharge my card... theoretically, at least. More about that later. The point is, someone in, say, Tarrytown or in Mount Kisco, doesn't have a subway station nearby to put more money on their cards. Their local Metro North train stations have ticket machines that will dispense MetroCards, since MetroNorth is a division of the MTA, but those machines don't recharge existing cards.

The MTA would probably claim that the cost of allowing for recharging cards outside the city is prohibitive, not cost-effective, and so forth and so on. But there is an obvious solution to that problem. Since the cards are issued by the MTA, and Metro North is run by the MTA, just allow for Metro Card use for Metro North train fares. Metro North is not a closed system as the NYC subways are, but the system could be made to accommodate the cards if the MTA wanted to do it. 

As it happened, I went to the 241st Street subway station intending to put some money on one of my Metro Cards, only to see when I got there that I couldn't get into the station. It was closed because of trackwork. Riders were being offered shuttle buses to the 180th Street station, but I wasn't about to ride to 180th Street just to put money on my card. I wound up using the remaining balance on my one Metro Card with money on it to go to a local store, then taking a cab home, since I didn't have change or a Metro Card for the bus. Again, if there were a way to recharge the cards in Westchester, I wouldn't have to go the subway station just to find that I can't get in.

Yeah, I know, I didn't have to wait until I had only one ride left to recharge. But that's beside the point... ;-)

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