We’ve all been there. The train is coming into the station, and you grab your MetroCard and quickly try and swipe it at a turnstile.
"Please Swipe Again". "Please Swipe Again". "Insufficient Fare".
The last two words are killer. You think to yourself “I swear I had a balance on this card”. You go and check the card out and you see you have “$2.45”. Yes, you need $2.50 to ride the subway, and you have $2.45 on your MetroCard. Sure enough you miss that train all because of that nickel.
How did you end up in that situation any way? It turns out the MTA has designed it that way. Imagine how many tourists come to NYC and leave with balances that never get used. Imagine how many people lose metro cards with those balances that never get used. And even if it gets used on a later refill, the MTA gets to collect the cash earlier this way! Win win for them, right?
But now, with some simple math, you can fight back!
First, let’s see how the MTA tricks you out of your money earlier than you might want to release it to them.
When you are buying a MetroCard, you can get a 5% bonus if your purchase is big enough. So you get the following screen early on in the purchase process:
If you click the button on the left, they just got you. Your card will have $9.45 on it, meaning you will get 3 rides and end up with $1.95. That is a great deal for the MTA. They get all the money from every rider who does that, and they get the interest on that until you refill again and repeat the cycle.
Let’s say you don’t take the bait. You click MetroCard. Then you get this screen with three new short cuts:
Three quick options. But wait a minute. One button leaves you with the same $9.45 card, and gives a remainder of $1.95 after just three uses. The next one is even more frustrating: you end up with a $19.95 card, leaving a remainder after 7 uses of $2.45! That’s right, the nickel we were talking about earlier. The last option does not leave you much better off. You’ll get a $40.95 card, which leads to $0.95 on your card after you use 16 rides. So all three buttons presented leave quite a bit of “insufficient fare” on the card.
So how do you fight back Well, click “Other Amounts” and type your own values:
and remember these three magic numbers: $9.55, $19.05 and $38.10. That’s right. Never use the short cuts. Just type in one of those numbers.
Once you do, you’ll see your excess balances nearly vanish once you apply the 5% bonuses:
Buy a $19.00 card? $2.45 left on card after use. Buy a $19.05 card? No balance left after use! Magic. But what if you want a $10.00 MetroCard? There is literally no way to buy one because of the 5% bonus and the fact that all payments need to be divisible by a nickel. Your options are to pay $9.50 to get a $9.98 card after bonus, or pay $9.55 to get a $10.03 card after bonus. Once again, you literally can’t buy a $10 metro card from a machine.
If you absolutely don’t want any left over money, you really only have three choices of payments below $40, as seen in the table below:
If the pennies bother you, then maybe memorize these three numbers: $11.90, $19.05, $30.95.
So if the MTA really cares, what can they do to fix this?
Well here at I Quant NY, I’ve been hard at work coming up with a proposed software change. After much thought, check out this before and after:
Not a big change you say? Echm. That’s right. If they really wanted to fix the issue, they could ask “How much do you want on your MetroCard” instead of “How much do you want to pay”. But don’t count on those changes coming to a MetroCard Vending Machine near you anytime soon, given how lucrative the current set up is.
Which means it’s up to you. Write down the three numbers, $9.55, $19.05 and $38.10 or pick just the one that matches your buying habits best. You could even write it on the back of your Metrocard if you can figure out how to get ink to stay on it. (There’s a reason they are so shiny.)
A side note: one reason that the MTA may do this is to make paying with cash easier. It would be a nightmare to dispense change if cash buyers used this technique. But that does not explain why they can’t update the credit card only machines or all other machines if they first ask if you are using cash or credit. And of course unlimited card buyers avoid this all together. Also, this does not include the $1 fee associated with new metro cards.
So in closing, Math is useful. And luckily, you don’t have to be Einstein to outsmart the MTA. Plus, guess what year Einstein handed in his dissertation… You guessed it. 1905.
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This is not from the latest Paul Krugman column. It’s from William Jennings Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech (1896), which you might have come across in high school history class. “Trickle down economics” is a much older idea than you might suppose.
It’s funny how goldbuggery is still lingering at the edges of U.S. politics and how it’s still strongly associated with a belief that prosperity is mainly generated by the wealthy.
Healthy friendships make you feel good about yourself. You feel valued, listened to, you have fun with this person. You jointly support each other. If there’s a power imbalance or an age gap, or any other hurdle, you don’t constantly feel insecure about it, and that person doesn’t make you feel insecure about it.
In healthy relationships, you both put energy and feelings into the relationship. There is open communication. The friendship makes you feel rejuvenated, not exhausted. This person constantly makes you feel good, and you know where you stand with them.
Unhealthy friendships, by contrast, make you feel bad. They might make you feel insecure. You don’t know how this person really feels about you. You don’t feel like they’re telling you everything that you need to know in order to have a solid friendship with them. They might say or do things to make them seem more popular or more interesting or more worthwhile than you are. If there’s a power imbalance or an age gap, you constantly feel it. You constantly wonder if you’re not good enough for the person, and while the person might reassure you, you feel like their behaviour contradicts this.
They bring out your bad qualities like jealousy, ‘paranoia’. You lie awake in bed at night and wonder why you feel so bad and what’s wrong with you. The relationship feels one-sided, you wrack your brains to try and decide if it’s something you’re doing, something that’s wrong with you.
Unhealthy friendships drain you. You feel exhausted. You can’t remember the last time you felt like the friendship was reciprocal. Was it ever reciprocal?
Trust your gut. If the friendship doesn’t make you feel good, end it. END IT. JUST END IT.
(Huffington Post) The writer of a much-maligned New York Times article about Michael Brown admitted on Monday that he had made a mistake when he described the slain teenager as “no angel.”
Those two words that John Eligon chose, along with a series of of descriptions about Brown’s “dabbling” with drugs, alcohol and rap music, set off a scorching round of criticism for the way the paper had characterized Brown. The Times dug an even deeper hole for itself by writing a concurrent article about Darren Wilson, the man who killed Brown, in which Wilson was described as a “well-mannered, relatively soft-spoken, even bland person.” Many said that the contrast seemed to fit a pattern in which black victims of crime are maligned in the media.
Lawrence O’Donnell’s send up of this article is freaking legendary, people.
Please read this piece to get some historical context:
Shortly before the Civil War, many white writers—especially abolitionists—began anxiously debating whether black children who died could become angels, and if so, whether they needed to become white first. As I write in my book, Racial Innocence, the 1862 abolitionist story “Poor Little Violet,” by Lynde Palmer, included a very disturbing scene in which Violet, an enslaved girl, discusses death and angelhood with a white slaveholding girl named Carrie. Violet asks,“[W]hen we goes to Canaan, that old Sambo sings about, may I be your little slave then, Miss Carrie, ’cause you’s allus so kind?”
“I don’t think there will be any slaves there,” said Carrie, slowly, pondering over the matter.
“Why, what will the black people do, then?” cried Violet, with curious round eyes.
“Maybe,” replied Carrie hesitatingly, “maybe there won’t be any black people—you know, Violet, our bodies are covered up in the ground,”—Violet shivered,—“but our souls go to heaven, and they must all be white.”
“All of ’em?” asked Violet, eagerly.
“Yes, mamma told me that no soul can go till it is washed white in Jesus’ blood.”
“And can my soul be white?” whispered Violet.
“Yes,” said Carrie, “if you ask God.” (Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, p. 59)
The Times's reference to Michael Brown as “no angel” is so deeply hurtful because it extends a historical libel that African Americans, and African American children in particular, cannot be innocent. As the slaveholder Carrie tells Violet, to be an angel is to be white. And in this white-authored text—which was intended to critique slavery—a black girl joyously receives this information with hope that she can shed her blackness, become white, and become an angel.