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Morning Spew

Why Did My MetroCard Betray Me at the AirTrain

And some links that will not cost you an extra dollar for your Monday.

9:49 AM EDT on August 21, 2023

A MetroCard kiosk screen with the message, "Card not valid for refill."

(Hell Gate)

On a recent jaunt out of town that required me to fly out of JFK, I arrived at the AirTrain station at Jamaica in high spirits. Had the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey finally installed OMNY readers? No, but I was smug with the knowledge that I had a MetroCard I had previously bought and used to take the rail link to the airport in my wallet, thus allowing me to save $1, as well as reuse a piece of plastic that I had kept expressly for this purpose. 

So imagine my dismay when I received an error message that my card was "invalid" when I attempted to re-up it with the one-way $8.25 AirTrain fare. I tried a different kiosk—same message. I checked the magnetic stripe—seemingly unblemished. Perhaps it had expired? Nope, it should be good until March 31, 2024. Now defeated once again by the combined forces of the MTA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, I begrudgingly bought a new MetroCard and went on my way. 

Upon my return, I had some questions for the MTA: Namely, why did this happen? I sent them photos of the offending card, along with a plea to help me solve this mystery. 

After a bit of back and forth, the kind media relations staff at the agency, had only this to tell me: "Because the MetroCard has a magnetic stripe on it, it's possible that the stripe got demagnetized or damaged in wherever the card was stored during that 9-month period. This may be a reason why the card could not be read at the vending machine, regardless of the card’s expiration date."

The card was damaged, sure, a likely explanation that I accepted logically if not in my heart. (I will note here that it had resided in my wallet for less than a year, in the same location where I always kept my MetroCards in the past—are the MetroCards of today such sensitive creatures?) What about the fact that I paid for a MetroCard that stopped working before its expiration date, even though I handled it like the precious cargo it is? "If that card still had value on it and you would like to get it replaced, please visit our website and fill out a claim form," the MTA told me.

Of course, there is a fix for this problem that is allegedly on its way. As for when OMNY will be installed at the AirTrain stations, well, PANYNJ spokesperson Seth Stein basically repeated the agency's line from eight months ago: "We are working closely with the MTA to roll out OMNY at the JFK AirTrain and look forward to providing an update on timeline in the near future."

Buddy, me too. 

And some links that will not cost you an extra dollar: 

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