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Latest Best of NY

Nina In New York: MetroCards Change, People Are Confused

Credit CBS 2

Credit CBS 2

Best Of: NYC Art

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

Stop everything!

The MetroCards. They’re . . . different? I don’t—what’s happening? Something is new, and therefore I don’t understand.

The fronts of them now bear advertisements for The Gap rather than the standard yellow MetroCard branding.

In a pretty funny article on DNAInfo.com yesterday, tourists have already begun to express their deep confusion as to how to operate the newly designed cards. The new format, you see, neglects to include the traditional arrows and line of instruction to “insert this way/this side facing you.”

“’We don’t know which side. We had to put it this side,’ said Sander Volker, 51, of Germany,” in the piece.

I know. It isn’t fair to make fun of German tourists.

By virtue of their country’s incredible personal vacation time philosophy, they always happen to be the ones around a-touristing. And they are always confused. Frankly, they (and many, many others from all over the country and the globe), have trouble operating a MetroCard with our without the clarifying words. I have stood behind my fair share of bumblers and missed enough trains to know that the letters could be big and red and in twelve different languages, and they still wouldn’t read them and be able to smoothly walk through a turnstyle without fumbling around. It’s okay. I know, it’s hard. It’s a very foreign thing,* and there’s all the pressure of dozens of people waiting to get through behind you, and it’s all very, very difficult. I’m not criticizing. I’m just saying, there’s nothing new here.

Don’t forget. These are the people for whom we were also concerned that the on duty/off duty light system on the tops of our taxis was far too complex. For whatever reason, I think we need to accept the fact that our tourists are always going to feel somewhat out of sorts.

For locals who are not necessarily always flummoxed by the workings of this city, there’s still a visible black magnetic strip on the bottom indicating that at the very least, you ought to understand how not to hold it upside down. Sure, I don’t think it would kill the MTA or The Gap (in this instance) to preserve the white space at the bottom of the card for a helpful little arrow. But if this new revenue can help the MTA climb out of its current financial abyss, I don’t really care if they turn the whole thing into a work of abstract art.

I’m confident that everyone can figure this one out without chaos erupting.

*No, not really—much Europe was using cards when we were still hoarding tokens.