MetroCards Become More Flexible

The bad news: subway and bus fares are still going up next month. The good news: paying them just got a little easier.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Wednesday that riders could now fill their MetroCards with both unlimited-ride time and pay-per-ride dollars. The change will allow New Yorkers to avoid a $1 charge on new card purchases, which will begin March 3.

“This card is the most flexible MetroCard ever offered,” Thomas F. Prendergast, the authority’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

For a MetroCard loaded with both a dollar value and either 7 days or 30 days of unlimited rides, a swipe will be drawn from the unlimited pool first, the authority said. Once the time expires, fares will be collected from any pay-per-ride value on the card.

The change should be especially welcome for riders who carry unlimited MetroCards but also take express buses or PATH trains — where the old unlimited cards were not accepted. Now, a rider can fill an unlimited card with enough money to cover the PATH or express bus fares.

The authority produces nearly 160 million MetroCards per year, at a cost of nearly $10 million. The empty cards often become litter at subway stations, “so by refilling your MetroCard,” Mr. Prendergast said, “you’ll reduce expenses and help the environment.”

The authority noted that the new $1 card fee would not apply to people who bought MetroCards from vendors outside of the subway system, those who got them directly from employers or benefit providers, or riders who purchased a combination of railroad and MetroCard tickets.

In December, the authority voted to raise the base fare on subways and buses by a quarter, to $2.50, and to increase the cost of a 30-day unlimited-ride card by $8, to $112 from $104. Fares on the authority’s railroads will increase by an average of about 9 percent. Tolls on several major crossings will also rise.

Gene Russianoff, the staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, welcomed the revamped cards. “Nothing tempers the pain of the fare increase,” he said, but at least riders will not be “trapped into having to buy a new MetroCard.”

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