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today’s mta gripe

the mta, or metropolitan transit authority, is the outfit that runs new york subways and regional rail service, among other things. and it’s the most poorly run excuse for a bureaucracy i have ever seen, and having worked in quite a few bureaucracies, that’s saying something.

a few months ago all we heard was that they are going broke. and now we hear that they have a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars, and that they are going to share the wealth by giving everyone a break on the cost of their december holiday travel.

let’s take a look, shall we?

for those of you not familiar with the ins and outs of new york subway transportation, you can buy subway rides on a metro card, kind of like an atm card that you swipe to get in. you can buy metro cards on a single ride basis at $2.00 a pop, or you can buy weekly passes, or monthly passes at $76 per month.

a lot of frequent travelers and commuters, myself included, buy monthly passes because they are more cost effective. and many employers, mine included, have programs where you have the cost deducted from your pre-tax salary and are reimbursed when you buy a card and turn in a receipt. other employers give you a pre-loaded visa debit card with which to buy your metro card. it’s a nice cost savings because you are essentially buying the card with untaxed money. and $76 a month for all of your transportation needs is a screaming good deal.

does $76 even buy a tank of gas for you anymore? i wouldn’t know. i don’t have a car, and i’m damn proud of it.

anyway, the card is good for thirty days once you start using it, and then it expires. so if you don’t use it, you are s.o.l. why isn’t that s.o.o.l.? always wondered that. oh well.

so now along comes the mta with their plan to share the wealth by giving everyone a break on the cost of their december holiday travel. and here’s how they will do it.

for people who buy single-ride based cards, the mta will deduct only half the fare on weekends in december and all week christmas week. $1.00 rides instead of $2.00 rides.

great deal. doesn’t help me.

for people who buy monthly cards, you can buy a special card using cash only. the card will be good from november 23 through january 2, for a total of 41 days instead of 30.

great deal. my current card expires in mid-december. doesn’t help me.

kirk’s employer uses the visa debit card method, and so kirk can’t buy a card with cash, and his current card expires at the end of december anyway. great deal. doesn’t help kirk. in fact, doesn’t help him, twice.

what do i get for being a loyal mta rider who never puts his feet up on the seats and never crosses between cars? i get a four day bonus.

thanks, mabel, for the sour persimmons.

i guess i should be grateful that i am getting something. but it’s a mystery to me who is actually going to use these special monthly holiday cards. and i guarantee you that a lot of people will buy them and hold onto them and start using them in mid-december when their current card expires. and, on january 2, when their monthly card stops working after two weeks of use, there’s going to be a firestorm of upset protesting people.

is that their fault? technically it is. but the mta is being duplicitous and are publicizing only the 41 days for 30 days angle, and not at all explaining the expiration date.

bottom line, it seems to me that they are going to actually make money on this scam, off of the people who spend a month’s worth of money for two weeks’ worth of rides.

so, the next time you think you are getting something for nothing, be sure to read the fine print.

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