All the actors are picked up and dropped off everyday. Since we work such long hours in remote areas it is a safety concern for us to drive ourselves. Again our insurance company makes sure heartland hires class 4 licensed drivers (same class for a taxi driver) so that if we fall asleep from exhaustion on the way home someone else has the wheel.
—  Amber Marshall (via Instagram)

One of the things about bans on medicaid covering transition care that particularly affects rural trans people is that often rural transportation programs (particularly those for seniors and disabled people) generally require that the place they are taking you be a medicaid covered provider.

So even if you could find a clinic that might give you free or low cost transition care, it’s going to be hundreds of miles away and you won’t be able to get transportation.

How Memorizing "$19.05" Can Help You Outsmart the MTA

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: 

image

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:

image

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: 

image

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: 

image

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: 

image

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: 

Before:

image

After:

image

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.  

For the latest I Quant NY data analysis of this great city, sign up for my Mailing List (about one post a week), Follow me on Facebook or Follow me on Twitter.  I tell stories with data.

Past posts include finding and fixing the most profitable fire hydrant in NYC, showing that the Health Department is inflating grades or looking at gender and Citibike.

Ben Wellington is a Visiting Assistant Professor in The City & Regional Planning Program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he focuses  on NYC Open Data.  He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from NYU.

Update (9/8/2014):

Some have pointed out that this may not be intentional.  Yes, it could be the case that even though the MTA takes in about $50 million dollars a year in unredeemed excess balances that no one ever noticed this.   I don’t have any idea where these decisions come from, so I am not in a place to point fingers with any proof.  But, intentional or not, the buttons are tricking people out of their money.  If it really is unintentional, I’d be thrilled because it won’t be long until the problem is fixed given all the attention this post has gotten.  So let’s hope all the people who say the MTA did not do this intentionally are correct.  I can think of no better way to be proven wrong. 

Update2 (9/8/2014):

MTA Responds!  Read more here

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London designer Dominic Wilcox just unveiled his visionary concept for the future of transportation. Behold the beautiful Stained Glass Driverless Sleeper Car of the Future. Traveling in this beautiful vehicle must be like taking a ride inside a giant Fabergé egg, which, of course, sounds incredibly awesome.

Wilcox presented his driverless glass car prototype at the London Design Festival 2014:

"In the future it will be safer to drive in a driverless car than it will in a manual car," said Wilcox. "Therefore we don’t need the protection systems that are built into contemporary cars. We can just have a shell of any design."

The designer imagined a future where all cars were controlled by computers that would eliminate collisions and accidents, meaning everyday vehicles would no longer need to be designed for safety.

Wilcox proposes that a perfectly safe self-driving car is a car that can be made out of something as fragile as glass and used as, in the case of this prototype, a sleeper car. It contains a cozy bed in which the rider can sleep while being driven to their destination. But there are many other possibilities besides a mobile bedroom. Liberated from the responsibility of driving, people could have cars that served as mobile offices, gyms, dining rooms, or lounges. The only limits are your imagination and, of course, your budget.

In addition to unveiling this daring prototype, Wilcox also launched a concept website, called TaxiRobot, where users can customize and order their own driverless cars for a variety of functions and featuring all sorts creative exterior designs.

Click here to watch a video about Dominic Wilcox and his stained-glass driverless car.

Photos by Sylvain Deleu

Head over to Dezeen for additional information about this fabulous futuristic concept car.

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Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPheretothere

Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post announcing the weekend’s project every Friday.

The goal this weekend is to capture creative photos and videos that explore the ways we get from place to place. Some tips to get you started:

  • This project is all about going places, so don’t be afraid to go somewhere new! Ride a bus you’ve never taken before, hop on a ferry or borrow a bicycle.
  • Transportation lends itself well to video. As starting points, try focusing on details likes motors or propellers or filming your surroundings as you move through them to create a sense of place. Think about all the ways you can tell the story of your trip.
  • If you’re interested in taking photos of people, try introducing yourself to your driver or fellow passengers and sharing portraits with their stories.

PROJECT RULES: Please only add the #WHPheretothere hashtag to photos and videos taken over this weekend and only submit your own photographs and videos to the project. Any tagged image or video taken over the weekend is eligible to be featured Monday morning.

Watch on urbanresolve.tumblr.com

2016 Campaign Promise: Piano stairs in every subway stop!

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