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How to Play Three Card Monte and Win

The Story of a Subway Con Job


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Glossary 3 Card Monte - a game of chance often played by sidewalk con-artist where 3 cards are placed face down on a surface like a card board box where the object is for the player to try to pick which card is the Ace of Spades. If the Con-Artist lets you bet, it is likely that you lost
Gov. George Pataki stole 220 million dollars from the MTA. Last year he took our money, which was part of the MTA's reserve fund, and balanced the NYS budget with it. This was money earned at the MTA at the turnstile. It was money which was earned after he pushed through a 25 cent increase in the subway fare. It was money largely earned by working poor NYC residents, who paid a full 80% plus of the the operating costs of the TA by the fare box. Our suburban neighbors paid about 50% of operating costs for suburban commuter rails.

So, make no mistake about it, last year, the working poor of New York City suffered a large tax increase to subsidize a state budget which gave Suburban New Yorkers discounted rail service.

One late night in October this reporter was waiting at the Atlantic Avenue IRT subway station on the southbound side. Long ago the Atlantic Ave. station had 2 extra staircases on the south end of the station. Currently they are locked up with bars. Out of boredom, I walked to the end of the station to see if I could see down the stairs at the relic of a previous generation.

I couldn't see anything down the stair, but I noticed 10-15 large garbage bags laid out on the platform behind the fence. As I was ready to walk away, I noticed movement in the front bag 10 feet away from me. I was startled, and froze for a moment. Then I looked closer and saw that there was definitely something moving in the garbage bag. And it was big and noisy. Then from another direction, I saw something else moving. It was a rat, 2 feet long, not including the tail. He stood on hind legs and gazed at me. It decided I was no threat, and then jumped into a hole in one of the bags. Then I noticed another and another.

Suddenly, it was like dawn breaking over the horizon, as I was able to see 15 or 20 rats behind that fence. They were brash, loud, and everywhere - just a few feet away from my position. It dawned on me that I was not safe standing where I was, and I slowly backed away from the fence, toward the center of the platform.

I was reminded at that moment, that one of the benefits of the recent fare hike was a cutback in service. There were less cleaning crews, less token booth clerks, and the MTA was experimenting with single man operated trains. The needed capital improvement plans, which looked so promising a decade ago when Bowling Green Station was refurbished, stalled at the Manhattan side of the east river. The promised new stations at Franklin Ave. and Nevins Street are never to be done. And rats had taken over Atlantic Ave. Meanwhile, Christapher Street in Greenwich Village is brand new, and the LIRR is enjoying a city subsidized discount.

Enter into this picture the Metro Card.

Every good execution of three card monte needs a slight of hand and a distraction which creates the right kind of confusion in the mind of the victim. The Metro Card was introduced in NYC early this year. The immediate effect of the card was to slow the turnstile down as the mechanical device which took a token was converted to a computer registered device. The new turnstile hesitates before allowing the passenger to pass through. The days of running down the stairs as the train rolls in, throwing a token in the turnstile while in full motion, and running through the stile as the train doors threaten to close, is now as much part of the past as Ebbets Field. Now, the rider has two choices at the turnstile. He either waits for the computer to recognize his payment, which is about 1 second after entering the token, or he jumps the turnstile.

Since most of us won't jump the turnstile, waiting is the only option. Multiply this delay by 100,000 riders at Grand Central Station at 5 PM weekdays, and the result is delays at the station which we have already learned to take for granted.

The Metro Card slows things down even further as a certain percentage of sweeps of the card fail, causing the rider to double or triple swipe. The MTA has accomplished what the Department of transportation has been trying to do for a generation. They have effectively ended the "Rush" in "Rush Hour".

The people of New York would have nothing to do with the Metro Cards. They were rejected them outright. So, in a desperate attempt to get the riding public to accept the Metro Card, The MTA offered Metro Gold - and a free Bus to Subway transfer. As a result of the free transfer, about 40% of the TA ridership gave the Metro Cards a chance. And some benefit has been seen for a few. But in the face of a 25 cent raise in the fare, steep cutbacks in service, the effective end of the Capital Improvement program, and the loss of $220,000,000 dollar to the State general fund, New Yorkers are way behind in the Subway fare game.

Now, facing another huge surplus in the MTA budget, our very experienced City Council President, and relentless Mayor pressed the Governor to give New Yorkers a 12 for 10 fare break. This would NOT be the same as rolling the fare back to $1.25, but it would at least give working New Yorkers the same weekly commuting cost as before the fare hike and what has become know as "The Great Train Robbery".

The real benefit of the Metro Card to the MTA is the ease in which it will be able to raise fares in the future, and the hopeful elimination of token booth clerks, as people will be able to purchase Metro Cards from newsstands and for large quantities. It is common sense that the cost of circulating all those temporary Metro Cards will be more expensive than issuing tokens which outlive the fare price they were issued for. This is the same cost saving that the Federal Government hopes to reap by changing the paper dollar bill for a dollar coin. The coins, lasting longer, end up being cheaper. Of course, if the MTA keeps raising the fare every year, this savings is entirely lost. It ends up being cheaper to just not issue tokens at all, and issue only cheap Metro Cards. Then, when the fare is raised, the MTA has no front end cost of changing tokens. They just change the rate of reduction on the cards.

In light of this, the new proposal by the Governor for discount fare cards becomes exposed as a slight of hand. The Governor has set in motion the president that the fare can go up and down at whim with no consideration for the rider.

This is the Governors current plan:

  • $63.00 monthly passes:
  • At current fare prices a daily commuter pays $60.00 a month for commuting IF he is never sick and there are no holidays that month. In reality, the average commuter pays less than this since there are holidays in most months, and people do take personal days off.

    Also - don't loose the card or get mugged.

  • $17.00 weekly passes
  • Normal weekly fares cost $15.00 a week.

  • $4 daily passes
  • Good for street messengers who might take the train 20 times a day delivering packages around Midtown

  • Half Price passes for people over 65.
  • Seniors also already get a discounted fare.

  • Express Buses decreased from $4 to $3
  • Wealthier upper middle class commuters who use express bus service get a no nonsense fare cut!

  • 11 rides for 10

  • There is very little benefit, if any, in this plan by the Governor except for the 11 for 10 plan. The Mayor is correct in his assessment of the situation. We need at minimum a straight - no nonsense 12 for 10 ride plan. Even better, we should shutdown this card game, return to the riding public it's $220,000,000 dollars, keep the bus to subway transfer, get rid of the Metro Card, reduce the fare back to $1.25 a ride, fund the needed capital improvements, give us back our token booth clerks and station cleaners, and improve service. Then the riders can be happy.

    Now, only the rats at Atlantic Ave. are happy.