MTA Blocks MetroCards for the Poor

April 15, 2013 | Andy Cush

Twenty-four-year-old NYU graduate Zachary DuBow has a plan to help New York City’s poor get better access to the subway system. The only thing standing in his way is the MTA.

DuBow, founder of the Next Stop Project, collects New Yorkers’ abandoned MetroCards, aggregating their (mostly minuscule) values onto bigger cards, then distributing them to the city’s downtrodden. He originally planned to place card-collection receptacles in stations, but ran into a snag when the transit authority barred him from doing so, citing laws requiring any abandoned property to be reported to the state. MTA officials also noted that the Next Stop program could result in revenue loss, if people who would otherwise purchase a card were receiving donations. DuBow takes a more macroeconomic stance, arguing that transit access will lead to more career opportunities for the poor, and may create more paying riders over time.

“If it was Christmas, you’d call [the MTA] Scrooge,” said Gene Russianoff of the riders’ advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign and a supporter of the Next Stop Project. “It’s not like they’re allowing people to get illegally into the system. They’re just taking money off the floor.”

(Photo: Mr. T in DC/Flickr)