This week NYCTheBlog has decided, for some reason, to champion so-called Free Swiping as a way to “stick it to the man.” “You may legally use your metro card to swipe anyone at anytime, as long as you’re not selling the swipe. Charging people for it is how you would run afoul of the law,” they write. “So go ahead and stick it to the man, swipe someone through.” That’ll feel good, right? There was a fare hike! And now you have to pay $104 for your unlimited monthly pass! Unfair! Screw the MTA!
Let’s think about this. It’s one thing to do as some financially pressed neighborhood residents are doing, which is to band together to buy passes for the group to save money for the individual. That’s a deft way to deal with a painful economic reality. And there’s generosity, too, involved in helping someone who clearly can’t afford a subway ride. But those aren’t the people who are in it to “stick it to the man.” There’s something entirely different about using something you spent a hundred dollars on to swipe through someone who refuses to spend any dollars.
According to the Facebook group, you should be on the lookout for a person “standing by the turnstile making a swiping motion.” You’ve likely seen people doing that, or heard the ones who flat-out just ask for a swipe. How often are they the type of people who look like they need the swipe in order to commute to and from work? Or, on the other hand, how often are they the type of young, entitled people who would know about this system from joining a Facebook group?
But that’s beside the point. My opinion is admittedly 100 percent biased by the people I see try to pull this move at the First Avenue L station. Perhaps I’d see a more noble slice of humanity if I commuted from somewhere that wasn’t the exact spot where the East Village and Williamsburg intersect. Here’s the real problem: The reason these fare hikes happened was because the MTA is broke. How, exactly, is cutting into the MTA’s earnings supposed to fix the situation and prevent further hikes? When you hand out your expensive swipes, are you really “sticking it to the man”? Or are you “sticking it” somewhere else, maybe a little bit closer to where you wear your messenger bag?