A Confusing Attempt to Take Money from Subway Riders and Taxpayers

MetroChange is a proposal for a kiosk that will allow MTA riders to donate the pesky leftover funds on their Metrocards to charity. NYU students Stephan Boltalin, Genevieve Hoffman, and Paul May have imagined a friendly, easy-to-use machine that invites New Yorkers to swipe their Metrocards, press a button, donate their chump change MTA credits, and feel the love of their own big hearts. A thin metal slot will even take used Metrocards off your hands for recycling, so you won’t have to Frisbee them into the tracks later. … One major hurdle is the fact that the credits on Metrocards are already part of the MTA economy, though their value belongs to MTA riders. The proposal hopes that the MTA can either match the value of rogue funds and donate the amount to charity, or that another institution can take on the same endeavor.

[emphasis mine]

(from here, as quoted by Andrew Sullivan)

“One major hurdle”??? More accurately, this is the factor that shows how this idea, which may seem at first to be a way of diverting money which otherwise would be “wasted” to a good use, is actually just a plan to take money from subway riders and taxpayers (or to convince some rich person that it is a good idea to base his charity donation amounts on the totally random fact of how much people happened to overpay for metrocards in a given month).

Subway riders prepay for their subway cards, and often end up with unusable credit. The proposal is basically to allow a customer the ability to fine the MTA by the amount equal to is prepayment, and then divert the fine to a charity.

This is no more legitimate or ingenious than trying to convince Time Warner Cable to donate a bunch of money to charity since I didn’t watch nearly enough TV last month to justify the $100 bill I got for it (one difference is that the MTA has a $900m annual deficit).

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