Transportation Nation

The New MetroCard Probably Won't Be a Card

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The MTA is at least five years away from implementing its new fare payment system. Meanwhile, it has to keep the MetroCard limping along.
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With Transit Benefits, the Rich Pay Less and the Poor Pay More

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If you pay for your MetroCard with pre-tax programs like TransitChek, you save money. But the person sitting next to you may be saving even more.

Comments [10]

Transportation Nation

Your Subway Fare is Going Up. It's Only a Question of How.

Monday, November 17, 2014

New York City transit riders will be paying more next March. The question is how.
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Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

A Push for Transit Pre-Tax for More New Yorkers

Sunday, April 27, 2014


New York City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick wants to require businesses with more than 20 employees to offer the benefit to their workers.

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Comments [3]

Transportation Nation

New York's MetroCard Turns 20

Monday, January 06, 2014

It's one year away from legal drinking age, but New York's MetroCard won't last much longer.

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Comments [7]

Transportation Nation

Fast Forward: Monthly NYC Fare Card Could Hit $168 by 2023

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New York's MTA is planning for a future of raising fares every two years. While the MTA won't put a dollar amount on what that will look like, the Straphangers Campaign has no such compunction. According to their calculations, in ten years the current cost of a monthly MetroCard will go from $112 to $168.

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Says Charging $1 For A New Metrocard Is Not, As One Rider Claims, "Ridiculous!"

Monday, March 04, 2013

Replacing a beat-up Metrocard (left) with a new one (right) now costs a dollar.

(New York, NY - WNYC) This weekend, New York subway and bus riders were hit with their fourth fare hike in five years. That money is collected with every swipe of a Metrocard--a piece of technology that was introduced 20 years ago and becomes more obsolete by the day. Despite the card's slow slide into obsolescence, riders must now pay a dollar surcharge if they lose or discard their card.

That has some straphangers, like Rich and Jean Wasicki, grumbling. Every six weeks, the couple come to New York from Buffalo to visit their son, a student at Fordham University. Each time, they buy a Metrocard and, after using it, throw the card away. When Rick Wasicki was informed that the practice will now cost him a dollar per card, he blurted, "Ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous."

Wasicki said it's a lot to ask a Buffalo guy to keep track of his New York City Metrocard. But the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it costs $10 million a year to produce those cards. Plus, there's the extra cost to cleaning up cards that riders toss on the ground.

Jean Wasicki countered that the NY MTA profits from some of those discarded cards. "Half the time we put dollars, as out-of-towners, on that card that we ultimately don't end up using," she said. "And so those are dollars that the MTA has in its pocket."

Riders do leave about 50 million unredeemed dollars on Metrocards each year. But the NY MTA says that's not extra revenue. It costs the authority the same amount of money to run subway trains on a schedule, whether Wasicki uses all the value on her Metrocard or not.

Naomi Rosenberg commutes by the 1 train to her job at a non-profit serving the homeless. She wondered why New York can't get rid of the Metrocard for something more convenient, like the Transit Card used in Chicago, where her mom lives.

"My mom has a plastic credit card. It's basically connected to her credit card, her transit card," Rosenberg said.

Her mom's transit card draws money directly from her bank account, and refills automatically. "You don't have to keep track of old cards. It's not paper, it's plastic," she added.

The New York plan was to swap out its Metrocard last year for a bank card with a computer chip that would let riders pay their fare. But not enough banks signed up, and the program was scrapped.

The NY MTA is now building its own transit card. The new technology must be ready by 2019, which is around the time the Metrocard turnstiles and vending machines are expected to wear out. In the meantime, the authority expects to collect $20 million a year from the new Metrocard replacement fee, a dollar at a time.

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Transportation Nation

In Case You Forgot: NYC Transit Fares, Tolls Rise this Weekend

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beginning Sunday, monthly MetroCards will cost $110, single fares will cost $2.75, and each new MetroCard you buy will cost you $1. Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, express bus and MTA bridge tolls also rise.

The fare hikes have been planned since 2009, and were confirmed last summer.  They were adopted on December 19, the same day Joe Lhota announced he was leaving the MTA to run for Mayor.

Here are the details, from the MTA.

New York City Subway, Buses in New York City, Staten Island Railway & Access-A-Ride

New fare rates for subways, buses, Staten Island Railway (SIR) and Access-A-Ride will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, March 3.


The base fare for subways, local buses, SIR and Access-A-Ride is rising to $2.50 from $2.25; the base fare for express buses is rising to $6.00 from $5.50. The pay-per-ride bonus discount will be reduced to 5% from 7%, but will now be available for adding as little as $5 onto a MetroCard, down from $10 previously. A Single Ride Ticket purchased from MetroCard Vending Machines is rising to $2.75 from $2.50.


The 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard will cost $112, up from $104. The 7-day unlimited-ride MetroCard will cost $30, up from $29. The 7-day express bus plus MetroCard will cost $55, up from $50. Unlimited-ride MetroCards purchased on March 2 or earlier must be activated by Sunday, March 10, to obtain full value. Those activated after that date will allow travel through April 9 for 30-day cards and March 17 for 7-day cards. Any remaining time will be refunded on a pro-rated basis.


A $1 fee will be charged for each new MetroCard purchased at a MetroCard Vending Machine or station booth. At commuter rail stations, the $1 card fee will be applied to MetroCards providing bus and/or subway travel only; the $1 fee will not be applied to Joint Rail MetroCards providing subway, bus and commuter rail service. Customers can avoid this fee by keeping their MetroCard and refilling it at any vending machine or station booth. MetroCards now can be refilled with any combination of unlimited-ride time and/or pay-per-ride dollars. Customers turning in an expired or damaged card will be provided a new card at no charge. There are also exemptions for those who buy cards at out-of-system merchants or participate in the EasyPayXpress program or a pre-tax benefit program.


More information about fares on subways, buses and SIR can be found here:


Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad


New fares will go into effect on the LIRR and Metro-North on Friday, March 1, for monthly, one-way, round-trip, and 10-trip ticket holders. For those using weekly tickets, which are always valid from Saturday through the following Friday, new fares take effect on Saturday, March 2.


On average, most commuter rail tickets will increase between 8.2% and 9.3%, depending on ticket type and distance traveled. The discounted CityTicket fare for one-way weekend travel within New York City will rise to $4.00 from $3.75, starting March 2.


More information about fares on the Long Island Rail Road can be found here:


More information about fares on Metro-North Railroad can be found here:


MTA Bridges and Tunnels


New toll rates on the seven bridges and two tunnels that are operated and maintained by the MTA will go into effect at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 3. At most crossings, tolls are rising to $5.33 from $4.80 for E-ZPass customers and to $7.50 from $6.50 for cash customers. 


For more details about ways to save on tolls, please see the attached press release.


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Transportation Nation

SLIDESHOW: Art on NYC MetroCards

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Single Fare 3" takes populist art seriously. Over 1,000 people answered a call to look at a MetroCard not as a $2.25 transit pass, but a tiny canvas instead. Their efforts are on display -- and for sale -- at RH Gallery in lower Manhattan through the end of next week.

If you can't get there in person, a slideshow (mostly taken during the packed opening night) is below. The art can also be found online here, where it's also been helpfully grouped into categories (such as "put a bird on it," "let's get naked," and "city scapes").

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Transportation Nation

Breaking: MTA Approves Fare Hike -- and Lhota Officially to Resign This Month

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

MTA head Joe Lhota announcing his "bittersweet"'decision to resign as chairman. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

(UPDATED) Rare is the meeting of NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority at which the secondary story is a vote to raise fares and tolls. But that was the case on Wednesday morning, when NY MTA chairman Joe Lhota presided over the system's fourth price hike in four years before announcing he'd step down on Dec. 31 to "explore" a run for mayor.

First, the money side: starting March 1, New Yorkers will pay  $30 for a weekly Metrocard and $112 for a monthly card. The base fare for buses and subways will rise to $2.50. Riders of commuter rail lines will see an eight to nine percent increase in ticket prices. Tolls on the authority's bridges and tunnels will go up by about the same amount.

The board voted to adopt Lhota's fare and toll hike recommendations. The board also approved Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President, as the new MTA vice chairman.

According to the MTA, its 2013 budget "assumes small cash balances available at the end of 2013 and 2014 that will be rolled forward to help address deficits in the following years that will nevertheless total more than $330 million by 2016."

Or, as the agency's official twitter account tweeted: "Our Board has adopted a 2013 budget that is fragile and faces risks, but is balanced."

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Head Formally Backs Fare Hike

Thursday, December 13, 2012

As expected, the head of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is recommending the agency raise the base fare for subways and buses by 25 cents, and increase the cost of a 30-day MetroCard from $104 to $112.

Joe Lhota outlined his recommendation in a memo sent to MTA board members Thursday. The board is expected to approve the fare hike at its meeting next week. It would go into effect in March 2013.

Lhota says in his memo that the increase in fares and tolls will raise an additional $450 million annually for the agency.

To learn more, read the memo below, or download a pdf of it here.

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Enters 21st Century--You Can Now Claim a Lost or Stolen Metrocard Online

Monday, December 10, 2012

At long last, the R train runs through Silicon Valley.

You can finally file a claim for a lost or stolen card on the world wide web.

Until today, if your Metrocard was lost or stolen, you had to call the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Once you got through to a person, that person would take your information, including when and where you bought the card, your credit card number and address, and they'd send you a new one. If you called after hours, you would have to leave your number and wait for someone call back.

Since pretty much no one calls anymore, that was kind of, um, crazy.

Okay, there's another way to replace a Metrocard. Go to a subway station and locate the token booth clerk--not always easy, especially at a large station--and ask for a card replacement form. You then have to fill out the form, find a stamp and remember to put it in a mailbox.

Now, you can do all it online:

Oh, by the way, the actual train that runs through Silicon Valley, aka the CalTrain? You can't pay on board. So, you see. Even the Silicon Valley train could use a bit of updating.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: NY MTA: Monthly MetroCard Could Go Up to $125

Monday, October 15, 2012

The New York MTA has released its new fare hike proposals, bringing the cost of a monthly MetroCard to as much as $125 under one scenario.

The hikes, which came as the authority also proposed a one dollar rise in cash tolls over most of its bridges and tunnels -- to $7.50 -- are not unexpected.  The authority has presented a virtually endless series of hikes to pay for its operations in its current budget.

MTA chief Joe Lhota said the increases are unavoidable. "Costs that the MTA does not exercise control over, namely those for debt service, pensions, energy, paratransit, and employee and retiree health care, continue to increase beyond the rate of inflation."

The proposals will now go to hearings before a final option is settled by the MTA board.

Our Jim O'Grady sends these notes from MTA's headquarters.  We'll have a fleshed out version soon.

The current base fare of MetroCard is $2.25. A 30-day unlimited pass is $104, and a 7-day pass is $29.

There are four proposed versions of the increase, which the MTA is calling 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. (Click on the below graphic for more detail.)

Under Proposal 1, the base fare would rise to $2.50. Under proposal 1A, the bonus discount would remain unchanged, effectively providing a per-trip fare of $2.34. Under this proposal, the 30-day unlimited MetroCard would rise to $112 and the 7-day would rise to $30. Under proposal 1B, the bonus discount would be eliminated but the increases to time-based cards would be lower. The 30-day would rise to $109 and the 7-day would remain unchanged.

Under Proposal 2, the base fare would remain unchanged. Under Proposal 2A, the bonus discount would be reduced to 5%, effectively increasing the per-trip fare to $2.14. Under this proposal, the 30-day unlimited MetroCard would rise to $125 and the 7-day would rise to $34. Under Proposal 2B, the bonus discount would be eliminated, the 30-day card would rise to $119, and the 7-day would rise to $32.

Under each of these proposals, the $1 surcharge for purchasing a new MetroCard would be implemented.

(image courtesy of MTA)

Eight public hearings are scheduled from November 7 to 15. The public can also record videotaped comments at MTA headquarters and train stations in Long Island and Westchester. From the MTA's website: Members of the public are also encouraged to submit written comments via to the MTA's website, or register to speak at a public hearing by calling (718) 521-3333 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.  MTA Board Members will review transcripts of all public hearings and submitted videos, as well as copies of all written comments submitted via the web.

The MTA says 2013 fare and toll increase must generate $450 million annually. The 2015 fare increase must raise $500 million annually.

Usage statistics:
38% of fare trips use bonus MetroCard
31% use 3o-day
16% - 7-day
10% - pay per ride
5% - cash

Most Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North tickets would rise by 8% to 9.3%, with the fee increase based on distance.

E-ZPass discounts  (vs cash) remain.

RFK Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Queens Midtown Tunnel:
E-ZPass - from $4.80 to $5.30
Cash - from $6.50 to $7.50

Verrazano Narrows Bridge:
E-ZPass round trip - from $9.60 to $10.60
Staten Island resident E-ZPass rate:  from $5.76 to $6.36

Henry Hudson Bridge
E-ZPass - $2.20 to $2.43
Tolls by mail (camera snaps license plate, bill mailed to driver; this bridge is cashless) - $4 to $5

Cross Bay, Marine Parkway Bridges
E-ZPass $1.80 to $1.99



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Transportation Nation

Infographic: How Far Can You Travel on a Single Subway Fare?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

(NYU Rudin Center)

As New York's MTA mulls over specifics for its coming fare hike, NYU's Rudin Center is looking at what riders get for their money.

From the center's blog: "Even if the base fare is raised to $2.50, you’re still able to go about six times farther on a MetroCard than the MBTA Charlie Card, WMATA SmarTrip or any other city fare."

Unlike other systems -- DC's Metro, for example -- the New York City subway operates on a flat rate. So whether the trip is ten blocks or 31 miles (the distance of the longest ride with no change of trains), the undiscounted fare is $2.25.

Check out the twitter conversation about this story. And read the Rudin Center's post here.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Straphangers Could Lose Last Bit Of Bonus On A Multi-Ride Metrocard

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The value of a Metrocard would shrink if the NY MTA eliminates a bonus on multi-ride cards of $10 or more. (photo by ultrahi / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota wants to either take away or reduce the bonus money from subway and bus riders who use pay-per-ride Metrocards. Right now, riders get a 7 percent bonus when they put $10 or more on a Metrocard. Lhota says he’ll propose cutting the bonus as part of the transit agency’s effort to raise the $450 million needed to balance its budget next year.

"The stated fare price is $2.25 cents, and the average revenue we receive per rider is $1.63," he said. "It shows the depth of our discount system that goes on, and I think we really need to have a discussion of, 'Do we need a discount that deep?'"

Lhota says he'll formally propose the change next month. If the NY MTA Board approves the plan, which would be subject to public hearings in November, the bonus could be gone by March. That's also when fare and toll hikes of about 7 percent are scheduled to kick in.

For every $10 a rider adds to a Metrocard, the card comes out with $10.70, which brings down the cost of a subway or bus ride from $2.25 per trip to $2.10.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, a transit watchdog group, said he opposes the idea of cutting the bonus because they're designed to help those with lower incomes. "It's accessible to poor people," he said. "You don't have to have $104 in your pocket the way you do with a 30-day pass, or $29 a week with the seven-day pass."

It was not hard to find riders at the Spring Street stop of the C / E train who frowned on the proposal. A.T. Miller, a temp worker and photographer from Brooklyn, claimed the bonuses have helped him. "If I'm going to do a gig for somebody and I'm shooting somewhere else, I usually end up using two and three rides and that becomes very expensive," he said. "And that helps out with the little bonuses that they give us for buying a $10 Metrocard."

Lower East Side resident Jasmine Villanueva was more direct: "I think that sucks, 'cause I'm already broke."

NY MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg countered that there's only three ways to raise the $450 million needed by the authority next year:

  • Raise the base fare in increments of a quarter. (Raising fares by nickels or dimes adds too much to the cost of collecting fares.)
  • Raise weekly and monthly pass prices in dollar increments.
  • Reduce or eliminate the bonus for buying multiple rides on a Metrocard.

“It's going to be some combination of those three,” he said, adding an assurance that cutting the bonus will not allow the authority to take in more than an additional $450 million next year.

Lhota unveiled the initiative on Wednesday in a Crain's New York Business talk in Midtown Manhattan. Talking to reporters afterward, he portrayed the bonus as an odd vestige of New York's retail culture.

"It's like this unique New York concept of, you buy 12 bagels, you get 13," he said. "I can't figure out when that started. But we had that same theory going on when you bought tokens. You buy 10, you got one free. So the thought was, if you buy $10, you gotta get something additional for it."

In fact, the NY MTA used a 20 percent bonus in the late 1990s to help entice riders to give up their brass tokens and switch to the then-novel concept of a Metrocard.  Over time, the authority reduced that bonus to 15 percent and then the current 7 percent.

Subway ridership dipped after the last bonus reduction and fare hike in 2010--but then rose past previous levels. That's part of why MTA Chairman Joe Lhota doesn't seem worried about reducing the discount, or eliminating it all together.

"There are some people who are basically saying, 'Look, if you don't give the discount, they won't buy a ten dollar card, they'll buy it individually.' I don't buy that, I don't buy it at all," he said. "New Yorkers love convenience."

Pay-per-rides with discounts are the most popular type of fare cards, accounting for more than a third of all Metrocards sold, and more than monthly or weekly passes.

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Transportation Nation

Front of NYC's MetroCard Now Prime Ad Space

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Your Ad Here (photo by Kate Hinds)

The New York MTA is hoping the MetroCard could dramatically change -- for a price.

The transit agency is now soliciting ads for the front of the cards, which, barring a color switch from blue to yellow, have been more or less unchanged since their 1993 introduction. Previously, ad space had only been for sale on the back.

The agency has been trying to increase ad revenue for some time. It's wrapped subway cars in ads. It runs commercials on digital panels positioned outside subway stations (see below). It's exploring selling ad space in subway tunnels. It runs ads on its website.

Example of a "digital urban panel" ad at a subway station (photo by Kate Hinds)

According to the MTA's rate sheet, it costs anywhere from 18 to 51 cents per card to advertise on the back of MetroCards, with a minimum order of 50,000 cards. An agency spokesman said that while rates for the front are unpublished right now, they'd command a "premium." But once companies buy in, they have free rein to redesign the MetroCards any way they see fit.

Paul Fleuranges, the MTA's senior director of corporate and internal communications, said "the only (design) constraint is the big black band on the bottom." In other words: the front no longer would have to say MTA -- or even MetroCard. And it sure doesn't have to be yellow. Just leave the magnetic strip alone.

(Fleuranges did say that the "insert this way/this side facing you" text below the black strip would likely remain on the card.)

"It's valuable real estate if you're an advertiser," said Fleuranges, who said that no deals had been inked, but that a few companies had made inquiries.

To sweeten the deal for potential advertisers, he said, the MTA can target where the cards are sold. "We can microplace your card in up to ten stations," said Fleuranges. So if advertisers wanted their cards sold only at stations along the Lexington Avenue line between 14th and 86th Streets in Manhattan, they'll be accommodated.

In an email that accompanied the press release, MTA chairman Joseph J. Lhota said: “Millions of New Yorkers carry MetroCards with them everywhere they go, and use them multiple times a day. For those with a message and a desire to reach millions of people in a novel, attention-getting way, there is no better way to advertise.”


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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Chief Lhota: 'Yes' To Extending 7 Train Extension, 'No' To Free Ferry Transfers

Friday, April 27, 2012

Construction proceeds on the 7 subway train extension under the Far West Side of Manhattan. (NY MTA photo)

(New York, NY - WNYC) NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joe Lhota told planners at a Midtown conference that the first project on his "wish list" is extending the Number 7 subway train down 11th Avenue to 23rd Street.

"It's something that I think would make sense because if you look at the demographics of the West Side, we shouldn't just make one stop," he told reporters after taking part in a workshop at the Regional Plan Association's annual assembly, which was held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Lhota said, "It's important to have plans, to have a wish list." But he cautioned there was no active push to send the 7 train from Times Square past its planned terminus at W 34th Street. "I'm not sure it can be done," he said. "I'm not sure about how close you can get to the Hudson River."

The $2.1 billion extension is scheduled to be done by December 2013 at a cost of $2.1 billion. It's being built in conjunction with a massive development of the Hudson Yards immediately to the south.

NYC Mayor Michael  Bloomberg has also been thinking about boosting the capacity of New York's transportation system.

Appearing Friday as a guest on WOR Radio's John Gambling Show, he said "it'd be great" to offer free transfers to the city's private ferries with a Metrocard. "It's all one big thing in these days of technology," the mayor said. "You could use one card and then revenue could be divided up" between the ferry operators and the NY MTA.

Lhota liked the idea of allowing ferry passengers to pay by Metrocard, noting that several non-NY MTA transit operators in the region already do that, from the PATH Train to New Jersey and a newly privatized bus system on Long Island. But he wasn't keen on the idea of making the transfer free and sharing fares. "The NY MTA is in no position to share its revenue with the ferries," he said.

The NY MTA is perennially cash-strapped and only recently received funding from the state for the last three years of a five-year capital plan.

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Transportation Nation

Ode to Poetry's Comeback In The New York City Subway

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Poetry in Motion poster on the 1 train in NYC. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

The MTA, once roundly cursed,
For removing verse
From subway trains
Is today taking pains
To announce the return of Poetry in Motion.

There was a riderly commotion
When it ended in 2008
And the MTA realized too late
That nobody cared to contemplate
The in-house promotional placards that replaced them.

And now a literate lilt has returned underground
Where can be found
Dickinson, Frost and Ezra Pound
And more besides
As a straphanger rides from Dyckman to Canarsie.

As well, you may perchance
to read a couplet by The Bard
on the back of a Metrocard.
'Tis true,
You can scan a stanza and then swipe it through.

That's Poetry in Motion, back on a train near you.


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Is New York a Leader or Laggard?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New York received a vehement finger-wagging on Monday from the United States education secretary, Arne Duncan, about whether it was fully complying with the terms of its agreement that has so far yielded the state about $700 million in federal Race to the Top money.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

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.

Comments [32]