MTA officials are planning to eliminate the unlimited one-day “Fun Pass,” saying that the tourist-friendly MetroCards have become too friendly for subway scammers.
The proposal’s expected to come before the full MTA board on Wednesday, along with an array of other fare changes to keep the authority's 2011 budget balanced. Another little-used fare option, the 14-day card, would also go, though less to save money than to simplify the choices that MatroCard vending machines have to offer riders.
Former Gov. George Pataki included the Fun Pass as part of an array of unlimited MetroCards that the MTA introduced back in 1998. At first, it was only sold at tourist locations. But the MTA quickly expanded Fun Pass distribution so that ordinary New Yorkers could also take advantage of unlimited rides for one day.
But transit sources say the one-day Metrocard never really caught on and now accounts for less than 1 percent of all fares paid. They say the Fun Pass also has a sinister side: scammers stand at turnstiles and sell swipes off of them for $2 as people come through. The scammers buy them in bulk so they don’t have to re-use any of them more than once every 18 minutes—the time lag the cards are programmed for. Over the course of a day, each one could be used dozens of times, at great profit to the scammer, while the MTA only receives the $8.25 face value of the card.
The MTA also wants to get rid of the 14-day MetroCard, first offered in 2008 to provide low-income riders better value than a weekly card without requiring them to shell out as much as a 30-day pass requires. But only 2 percent of straphangers use the card, and transit sources say that the other fare changes that will be proposed this week will make the 7-day card a relatively good deal. (The cost of the 7-day card will go up a dollar or two, while the price of a monthly will go up $10 or $11.)
Gene Russianoff, staff attorney at the Straphangers Campaign, had pushed for the 14-day card. He faulted the MTA for not marketing the card more widely.
"I can't say I feel great," Russianoff said. "I had hoped that we would be helping people who could do better than a seven-day card and I'm sad that we didn't convince more New Yorkers to use it."
He said that, ironically, the first time that many New Yorkers will find out about the card will be when they hear of its elimination.
Both proposals will be subject to public hearings this fall. If approved, the changes will go into effect in January.