Saturday, July 10, 2010

This proposal sucks, but could reduce a stream of NYC plastic waste.

[Photo: Gothamist]
Something tells me this proposal won't pass, because millions of New Yorkers will scream bloody murder, and I'll be one of them.
The MTA has proposed a $1 surcharge every time one of the city’s 1.6 million straphangers purchases a new MetroCard from one of the MTA’s vending machines.

Sources told the New York Post, "It would provide an incentive to hold onto the card. Helping rein in manufacturing, distribution and disposal costs as well as providing a new revenue stream for the cash-starved agency.”

...the proposal is part of a financial plan due at the end of this month to bridge a $400 million budget shortfall. I think the dollar surcharge idea sucks, because it punishes the people who can least afford it, and will discourage ridership.

The idea only has appeal in that, if it passes, it will mean fewer plastic MetroCards being manufactured, distributed, and thrown away-- so less waste, less carbon footprint. It will encourage riders to purchase unlimited monthly cards, so they will only pay the surcharge once a month, or once in a blue moon by using the EasyPayXpress program that automatically refills your card. I have been successfully using the same MetroCard for over a year with this program, and think it is great.

BUT. There are an awful lot of New Yorkers who can't afford $89 up front for a monthly unlimited card, or even $27 for a weekly. I can just imagine the boardroom full of Mr. Burns who thought up this idea, to bridge the budget gap on the backs of the working poor and unemployed. Nice. And for a tourist or bridge-and-tunneler visiting New York, an added dollar surcharge will likely be the deciding factor between taking the subway or taking a cab.

The idea is being pitched like a sin-tax, with the sin in this case being the act of purchasing and throwing away so many of those evil, wasteful plastic cards. Now, usually the beneficiaries of sin-taxes are not the folks who create the 'sin' in the first place. Gambling taxes often pay for education, cigarette taxes pay for smoking cessation programs, etc. But a MetroCard tax that goes right back to the MTA, makers of the MetroCard? Um....NO.


Anonymous said...

but the unlimited metro cards are not reusable.. I try and it rejects it so I must throw it away. can they change that feature and post signs to recycle your card by the machines because I don't think people actually think of that when they are rushing to the train

Juli said...

Do you mean the monthly and weekly unlimited cards? I didn't realize those were not reusable- worth and inquiry the MTA. One way around that is to use EasyPayXpress (, which automatically refills your card from your linked bank account/debit card/credit card. These cards will last an entire year- mine last year was almost completely worn out by the time a replacement arrived.

If and when the card fees go into effect, I have a feeling there will be far fewer cards tossed by the turnstiles- that fee is all the reminder most people will need.