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Nina In New York: The MTA Will Incrementally Take All Of Your Money Eventually

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A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
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By Nina Pajak

Another sparkling idea from the MTA, and another step closer towards their ultimate goal of alienating themselves entirely from the people of New York City. For once the rift has been fully and irrevocably established, they’ll be able to institute any horrible policies they want without having to worry about the hassle and timesuck of apologizing or making vague and meaningless promises.

Right? That’s the goal, isn’t it? It’s always made sense to me.

Directly on the heels of the announcement of impending fare hikes comes the revelation that the MTA would like to impose a $1 “green fee” on future MetroCards. In an effort to save money and, uh, save the environment (that sounds better, doesn’t it?), the fee will ideally incentivize riders to refill old cards rather than buying new ones each time they run out of rides. On the one hand, I’m all for saving money (and the environment) in this way. I’m happy to refill my card as many times as I can rather than throwing it out each month. However, I’d be a lot happier if this was more of an either/or situation. Like, $1 for new cards or we’ll have to increase fares. I’d even settle for an “and we’ll” situation. Like, “in addition to the fare hikes, pay this $1 charge and we’ll put some stinking fans in the stations.”

But no. It’s more like, “in addition to fare hikes, pay this $1 charge and shut up.”

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t sitting well with people.

One whole dollar seems like an awful lot to pay every time you need a new card. It isn’t like we’ll just be throwing them away willy nilly, or using them to line our birdcages. Sometimes a card demagnetizes or gets warped or folded. Sometimes we lose them. Sometimes they get stolen. If the penalty was something a little more reasonable, perhaps this would not seem like such a stark injustice. But as it is, this isn’t college and I’m not being punished for losing my ID card. I don’t appreciate getting my hand slapped to the tune of $1 every time my card goes dead because I’ve been using the same one for six months.

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What if the MTA took a page out of the books of the Met and the American Museum of Natural History and imposed a “suggested fee?” Four out of five tourists will pay whatever insane “suggested” cost is posted, while most daily commuters will know better and get away with paying the minimum. At one time, I found this system to be unfair. While waiting in line at the AMNH a few years ago, I overheard a family fretting over the astronomical cost of a ticket and wondering whether they should scrap the museum trip altogether. So, feeling that they were being unfairly cheated out of a nice, affordable day, I leaned over and explained to them the reality of the suggested donation. I smiled warmly and returned to my place in line, awaiting their heartfelt thanks for having saved their family fun day.

Instead, the parents looked at me like I had six heads and should maybe be hunted for sport. They said nothing, glared a little while longer, and then returned to their woeful debate.

After that, I decided they and all the rest of them deserved to pay whatever they chose to believe was necessary.

Okay, MTA? That idea was free. The rest are going to cost you.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina In New York Archives:

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Micro-Apartments: Way Bigger Than A Prison Cell!

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