It’s the subway equivalent of buying two bucks’ worth of gas with quarters and dimes you scrounged up in the couch cushions.
The New York Times has a fun little piece on those goofy white MetroCards that cost $2 and are useless after a single run through the turnstile. Around 3% of subway purchases are for the one-ride card, which reporter Michael Wilson compares to a “loosie”–a lone cigarette bought and sold in shops located in the country’s less savory neighborhoods.
Single-ride tickets are the closest existing link to the old subway tokens. They can be bought only at certain machines, and must be paid for with cash; they are spit out of a special hole at the bottom of the ticket machine, separate from the MetroCard dispenser slot. Seconds later, after a single swipe, they are useless, and usually left on the floor near the turnstile, creating a pile like a snow drift.
A pay-per-ride MetroCard offers a 15 percent bonus when a buyer spends at least $7. A rider gets a $2.10 bonus, or a free ride, for $14 (about $17 after the fare increase). Asked why the transportation authority did not simply do away with the bonus and charge everyone the same amount, Aaron Donovan, a spokesman, said, “As a policy matter, we offer the bonus instruments because we believe they encourage New Yorkers to use the system regularly.”
This makes the single-ride ticket a profoundly shortsighted purchase, presumably marketed toward tourists or people on the lam, not workaday New Yorkers.
Wilson finds that some people like the loosie MetroCard, either because they’re fearful of the more expensive MetroCards failing on them (and eating their money), or they simply don’t have the cash for the more expensive card.
For Roy Boney, 54, a homeless man entering the Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn, a single-ride was the only option. “Right now, I can’t afford $4,” he said, referring to the minimum MetroCard purchase (soon to be $5). “I buy a $2 card when I’m running low on cash. It will be hard when the fare goes up to $2.50, because I use all the money I have to get on the train.”