Thursday, June 6, 2013

MetroCard & CitiBike Commuting

Commuting costs make a huge difference in one’s budget. With New York City’s new bike share program, Citi Bike, underway this week, it’s a great time for New Yorkers to compare some travel costs.

MetroCard Pay per-ride costs $2.75 for a single trip, or $2.50 base (including the automatic discount, the base cost is $2.38)
MetroCard Unlimited Monthly costs $112 (48 trips to break even)
MetroCard Unlimited Weekly costs $30 (13 trips to break even)

Citi Bike 24-hour Pass costs about $10
Citi Bike 7-Day Pass costs about $25
Citi Bike Annual Pass costs about $100

An Unlimited Monthly MetroCard costs $112, and requires 48 trips to break even. After 48, the trips are basically free. Let’s say one uses her Unlimited Monthly MetroCard primarily for travel to and from work. With about 20 work days in a month, she would also need to use her card 8 additional times, (an average of one round trip per weekend) just to break even. This may sound reasonable, but consider these possibilities:

-Going out of town
-Office closed for a national holiday
-Staying out of work sick / Working from home
-Taking a cab home after a long day

Each time one of these things happen, the Unlimited Monthly MetroCard needs to be used additional times to make up the difference. So, if one just barely uses her Unlimited Monthly MetroCard 48 times in a month, it may be better to switch to a different type of MetroCard.

An Unlimited Weekly MetroCard costs $30, requiring 13 trips to break even. This card may be useful for someone who travels quite a bit and finds herself in the city only certain weeks of the month.

A Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard for one fare costs $2.75, but there is absolutely no reason to ever purchase this option when a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard purchase of a minimum of $5.00 will give the purchaser a discount of 5%. In other words, if one buys each fare at a time for 50 trips, she pays $7.75 more than if she pays in increments as low as $5 each.

The option I like the best is the Pay per-ride MetroCard. Since I generally walk as much as possible on the weekends, it would be tough for me to hit the required 48 swipes in a month. I also walk to work some days, which means that by purchasing the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard, I am saving money each time I walk.

A friend pointed out to me that this is a Manhattanite problem – if one lives in Brooklyn but works and goes out with friends in Manhattan, it is far more likely that the Unlimited Monthly MetroCard is the most cost-effective choice. If someone often uses her MetroCard three times a day, say, to go to the gym before work, the Unlimited Monthly MetroCard wins out again, as getting a free transfer is complicated with the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard (only from subway to bus, or bus to bus, but not the same bus line, and only within a 2 hour block). It all depends on each person’s lifestyle, but it is worth figuring out the math before buying one card over another. Whichever MetroCard is chosen, it pays to find out if one’s company offers TransitChek. If so, the MetroCard costs will come out of her paycheck before taxes, saving a little money in April.

Even if one uses her MetroCard more than 48 times in a month, now that summer has brought the new Citi Bike program to New York, it may be time to swap out a monthly MetroCard in favor of two wheels. At about $10.00 for a 24 hour pass, and about $25 for a weekly pass, if one wants to use the bike share program for commuting, it makes the most sense to go with the annual pass price of about $100.

Even if one only plans to bike during the summer months, and she includes the price of buying a helmet, this option is still less expensive than many MetroCard choices. Additionally, an inexpensive new bike may cost around $100, and could be stolen, which would raise the annual cost for the owner. Based on the locations of the bike stations, this is a great commuting option for those who live in Northern Brooklyn or downtown Manhattan.

Photo credit for MetroCard MTA
Photo credit for CitiBike NYC Bike Share

UPDATE August 9, 2013: After experiencing CitiBike's assorted problems, I think it might be most economical to either wait until some of these have been fixed, or at least first download the app, and find out if there will even be any bikes available in the area one needs, when she needs it. I have not been able to get a bike more than half the times I've looked for one, and each of those times, I've checked multiple stations. It's a great idea, but clearly needs some work!

1 comment:

  1. Having trouble purchasing a Citibike membership for commuting with my TransitChek debit card. Anyone know why?


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