Metrocard Swipes and Larceny

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Michael Grynbaum, transportation reporter for The New York Times, discusses a recent court decision about selling unlimited Metrocard swipes, which ruled that it does not fit the definition of larceny.


Michael Grynbaum

Comments [32]

rp from manhattan

Interesting comments all. The anger about the heavy financial burden of using the subways should not be directed at the MTA. The system is decidedly not perfect -- far from it. But considering what it accomplishes every day, 24/7, as the largest system in the world, it is damn near miraculous. Yes, even with the crazy breakdowns, mishaps, and all kinds of problems. Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani continually took away financing support from the system, and basically made the decision to put the burden on the riders. Just think about what this system means to the City and what life would be without it. Fight to make it better, but don't blame them for being underfunded.

Dec. 15 2011 04:19 PM
Kevin from Marine Park, Brooklyn

This is a fascinating discussion. I think commentor Scott has it a bit mixed up with his analogy. I believe the real dilemma here is whether Metrocards (and their swipes) are property of the MTA or the person. If someone purchases a Metrocard, does the purchaser "own" the card and what "rights" does the purchaser have with purchasing a card.

I understand the "theft" when you have those guys that alter the Metrocard and sell swipes they never purchased. But if someone legitimately buys a Metrocard and sells (or gives away) swipes, is it really illegal?

Dec. 15 2011 11:39 AM

Is "Former Governor Cuomo ... a longtime board member at Medallion Financial, one of the industry’s most powerful companies"?
"The company is a prime opponent of the bill — and a generous supporter of Andrew Cuomo’s political career."
Give your guest MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM more time on this issue.

Dec. 15 2011 11:28 AM

Does Mario Cuomo have a link to Medallion Financial?

Dec. 15 2011 11:19 AM
Beth Rake

FYI: on an unlimited card you cannot swipe your card a second time until 20min. after the first time. No one is getting rich with making tops maybe $6 in an hour.
How about the new bus routes that require receipts? You know there are people getting on the buses without them . I am sure the MTA doesn't have the man power to do the number of spot checks necessary to make arrests on the buses. It would also slow down the buses down ,which would defeat the purpose of having such a system. If they are really interested in catching "thieves" they would have to put someone at the back door of each these buses to keep people from jumping on. You know that's not going to happen.

Dec. 15 2011 11:09 AM

Doesn't Mario Cuomo have an ownership interest in a yellow cab company?
Isn't the value of his licenses diminished by new competition?
Might we consider that a conflict of interest for his son the present Governor Andrew Cuomo, and an interested reason for Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the bill?
Would this be the first time Andrew Cuomo used his official position for his own financial gain?
Didn't Andrew Cuomo later take a multi-million dollar job with a company that HUD had previously settled a fraud case with, when Cuomo ran HUD?

Dec. 15 2011 11:08 AM
RBC from NYC

@Sarah from Chelsea - Because people can't afford it!! 20% of NYers are living at or below the poverty line. Everyone can't afford to lay out $104 for an unlimited. A round trip ride for two people costs $10. Many low income families can't afford that, especially if they have to travel every day.

Dec. 15 2011 11:02 AM
david from Brooklyn, New York

I was paying for monthly cards pre-tax, through work.

I had been riding my bike to work so much that these were piling up, so I sold them for $90 apiece & found many people willing to buy.

I didnt feel like I was ripping anyone off, this was my property I was selling.

Dec. 15 2011 10:57 AM
Jay F.

Simple fix... Bring back tokens.

Dec. 15 2011 10:57 AM
stan schnier from NYC

Good lord-----nothing better to have on the program?
Some hapless person is willing to stand at a turnstyle to make a huge profit of FIVE dollars an hour (you can only swipe every 12 minutes).
The real issue should be, why the MTA would waste our money on such a non story and then tie up the courts with this nonsense. The we add in the NYPD.....we, the citizens, the taxpayers and public transportation users are the big losers on this issue....
Crime....hardly. Moral? Maybe/maybe not, but not the job of the MTA to be the Moral Police.
The MTA misuses an enormous amount of our money.

Dec. 15 2011 10:56 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

Another profit loophole for the poor and industrious.
I say TAX THE INDUSTRIOUS POOR who stand in stations!

Dec. 15 2011 10:56 AM
Jeff from hoboken

A friend was ticketed for asking for a swipe - (panhandling)...looks like they found another way to get you!

Dec. 15 2011 10:56 AM

Charging and arresting people this "crime" is a joke and waste of money. How much does it cost tax payers to book, process and incarcirate the individuals who are re-selling metro rides? How about focusing on the true criminals in the city? Wall Street included...

Dec. 15 2011 10:55 AM
Chris from Queens

The MTA continually under-serves and screws over the city populace. If they provided great service, I'm sure it would be morally unacceptable to distribute the rides in an unintended fashion. However, we the people have not much recourse against the MTA's poor service, so we get our digs where we can. Give us a stake in the success of the metro, and we might care enough to not undermine the system.

Dec. 15 2011 10:55 AM

By the reasoning of the judge that selling a swipe is not theft from the MTA, it would not be theft from a publisher to download a copyrighted book and resell it because no property is taken from the publisher when someone buys a duplicated copy of the work.

Dec. 15 2011 10:55 AM
John A.

Right, caller, just add a clause in the contract that allows confiscation of card for resale of a swipe (only).

Dec. 15 2011 10:54 AM
Sarah from Chelsea

An unlimited Metrocard cannot be used twice within 18 minutes. You could let someone into the subway as you are exiting the subway. If you let someone into the subway as you are entering, then you have to wait for 18 minutes. Why would anyone do that?

Dec. 15 2011 10:54 AM
Jeff from hoboken

A friend was ticketed for asking for a swipe - (panhandling)...looks like they found another way to get you!

Dec. 15 2011 10:54 AM
Zach from Brooklyn

What if the MTA changed the terms of a monthly card and required you to agree to something similar to an EULA as you see with software?

Then would it not be arguable that property is being lost?

Dec. 15 2011 10:54 AM

Then what is it when the unlimited card "just stops working"? Well before its deadline?

Aggravating, costly to the user...maybe a way for the MTA to make some additional fare revenue? Because when you're heading home, you gotta get home....

Dec. 15 2011 10:53 AM
Cesar from Manhattan

On the new Select Bus service, receipts are disbursed from kiosks at Select Bus stops. I wonder if giving away (or selling?) a used receipt after my ride to a passenger about to board the bus would be equally "unprosecutable" in the eyes of the law.

Dec. 15 2011 10:53 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

You go, Nick!
Remember, the METROCARD is a PERSON, TOO!
Like a little flat corporation with no lobbies but that judge.

Dec. 15 2011 10:53 AM
John from Forest Hills

The MTA sets the unlimited card based on your anticipated number of travels. If you lend it to someone else, your taking revenue from the MTA. It is theft. You are taking revenue away, which is how they make money.

Dec. 15 2011 10:52 AM
Anne from Manhattan

My former nanny and I used to share my unlimited monthly card. She used it to come to work, gave it to me, I used it to go to work and gave it back to her at the end of the day. It saved her $100 a month and guaranteed I was making the most of the unlimted card.

Dec. 15 2011 10:51 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

What an impossible waste of time in an economy where the still inferior subway system of New York (those who have traveled know this is true) is a rat and roach infested mess of garbage.
Say, all that money they lost and keep finding under their MTA couches could have been used to make the subway the world leader in transport, no ?

Dec. 15 2011 10:50 AM
Janine from NYC

It's my metrocard. If I give someone a swipe, it's out of generosity because the person really needed it. Not everyone can afford it.

Dec. 15 2011 10:50 AM

The documentation on the unlimited Metrocard DOES SAY this it IS transferable.

Dec. 15 2011 10:50 AM

Why is unlimited even offered? Does anyone really need to ride all day every day? And even if so, just put a counter on it and price the rides appropriately.

Dec. 15 2011 10:49 AM
Philip from Windsor Terrace

I thought you technically couldn't swipe the same card in the same station for 20 minutes...

Dec. 15 2011 10:49 AM
Nick from UWS

What's the problem? You've PAID for it; it's yours to do with what you want. What if the person you swipe in is your spouse, parent or child?

Dec. 15 2011 10:48 AM
Sarah from LES

Not sure if it should be a crime or not.

I do see "couples" where one swipes and they wait 15 minutes or whatever and the other person swipes.

Dec. 15 2011 10:48 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

It should be FREE ANYWAY!
How about a tax on the rich merely to give all New Yorkers a FREE RIDE?
Sounds catchy?
Like a cold?
What a Xmas present?
Ask a rich guy to tax the rich-ain't happenin'.

Dec. 15 2011 10:47 AM

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