The sums are a pittance — spare quarters and dimes, perhaps less in some cases — left behind on the unwanted MetroCards tossed to the station floor.
But add a few together, the thinking goes, and a downtrodden rider might have enough for a swipe. Combine a few more, and perhaps a job seeker who is homeless can find his way to a few interviews.
And if there was a means to recover all of the more than $50 million in unused balances wasted annually by New York City’s transit riders? Then, Zachary DuBow thought, he would really be onto something.
So Mr. DuBow, 24, a consultant and recent New York University graduate, founded the Next Stop Project, in February. He would collect discarded MetroCards, ask station agents to aggregate the remaining balances into full-fare cards, and distribute them to needy residents — ideally partnering with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to gather the forgotten passes.
“Transportation is overlooked relative to food or health care,” he said. “But people need it to access those resources.”
In recent weeks, though, Mr. DuBow has found himself in an unexpected tussle with the transportation authority over the spare change. The authority has barred him from placing card-collection bins in stations and from soliciting card donations there in any way.