Monday, March 23, 2009

Response from the MTA

I got a reply to my e-mail inquiry from the MTA. Unfortunately, it didn't answer my questions, and raised new ones.

This is in response to your recent e-mail to MTA New York City Transit regarding the ability to recycle Unlimited Ride MetroCards.

Supervision in our Department of MetroCard Operations advises that MetroCards may not be recycled through ordinary means due to the type of plastic used to manufacture these cards and the magnetic strip imbedded in the card that is used for encoding its value. However, New York City Transit has already implemented a program to collect used MetroCards. This program involves the installation of MetroCard receptacles on the sides of the MetroCard readers in the subway, with signs attached to these receptacles to attract customers’ attention. These receptacles have been installed in all of our stations for the convenience of our customers.

If you have other transit-related concerns, you may call Customer Services at (718) 330-3322, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or write to Customer Services at 2 Broadway, RM A11.146, New York, NY 10004.

We take the concerns of our customers very seriously and thank you.

La Wanda C. Green
Associate Transit Customer Service Specialist II

Well, actually I didn't ask about recycling. I asked about REFILLING. Why can't the unlimited cards be refilled? And now I also want to know:

- what kind of plastic are the cards made from?
- what happens to the used cards that are collected in the Metrocard receptacles? Are they re-used? Recycled? If not, why bother collecting them, why not put out an extra trash can?

3 comments:

The Green Cat said...

It's also interesting to note that many of those collection bins have no bottoms so you drop your expended card into it only to have it fall out the bottom and end up on the floor. Please keep us posted, Juli, on what you find out about the MTA's "recycling" of these cards. If they really are reusing or recycling them, I'd like to see deposit bins placed at turnstiles, which is where many empty metrocards are discarded.

Juli said...

I found a possible answer at a Straphangers.org discussion board:

"The reason cards expire and you can not refill unlimited cards is related to the serial number and how the computer system banns cards.
The turnstiles are not a problem as the station computer updates them every 6 minutes and the station computer updates from the mainframe.
The issue is with the fareboxes on the buses and how they are updated and the length it takes the load the ban list of metrocards during a probe.
Expiration and non-refill on cards are much easier then loading them to the ban list."

This makes sense to me. I knew it had to be something like that- where the sensible fix is expensive . But I still plan on asking the MTA why they don't refill the Unlimiteds. AND what they do with the used cars they collect.

As for the collection boxes with no bottoms- they may have been vandalized to get at the cards inside. If you've ever seen people with stacks of cards, swiping them to check for balances-- they take cards with small balances that are frequently discarded and transfer the small amounts to one card. That isn't illegal-- but damaging the boxes to get at them probably is.

--- said...

The better question is why do they use archaic magnetic strip readers and cards? Why not use smaller, re-usable and commerce-creating rfid toggles or ultra-efficient and non-waste creating mobile phone payments?

Why is America stuck in the 1970s and 1980s in terms of its mass transit technology?