Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rethinking the Unlimited Metrocard

As one who has questioned the economical choice of buying an unlimited vs. pay-per-ride Metrocard, I recently had a revelation. I usually go pay-per-ride in the summer (as I have summers off from school and don't travel nearly as often) and buy an unlimited during work. This year I'm at two schools and one is 20 blocks away. I thought I'd walk some days, and wanted to figure out if it was worth it to go unlimited.

Unlimited metrocards currently cost $81 and are valid for 30 consecutive days.
Pay per rides are $2 per ride, with a $15% bonus when you spend $10 or more.

I knew I had Pumpkin and JC to come home to, and probably wouldn't be doing too much post-work travel, so I guessed that I'd be taking 2 rides each weekday (let's average 22 workdays in a month), so about 44 rides in a month.

$81 / 44 = $1.84 a ride. Not too bad. Cheaper than the $2 fare.

44 rides at $2 each would cost me $88 on a pay-per-ride. Until I remembered the 15% discount. If I spent $80, I'd get 40 rides + 6 free rides. $1.74/ride for pay-per-ride vs. $1.84/ride with UL. If I walk to my nearby school at all, I'm saving even more.

Now if you look at September, there's Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah, so school workdays total 20. If I bought an unlimited metrocard in September, the per-trip cost goes up to $2/ride.

If you're a commuter who will travel once more per day, or if you know you like to ride public on the weekends, unlimited is definitely the way to go. But if you're a daily commuter who is looking to really cut costs, look to see if a PPR might be the way to go.

If your company offers transitchek, make sure you sign up for it. I have the TransitChek Card which puts pre-tax money onto an ATM card that can only be used at metrocard vending machines. If I want a 1-day card for my folks when they come into town, I buy it. If I want a 30 day I get it, or I can just refill my PPR. It's good stuff.

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