Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New York Metropolitan Transport Authority vs Recipient

So, one day we were having a Loftstel picnic. Loftstel spends money on ensuring its guests have a fun time, which I approve of. To get to the High Line Park, we had to take the subway. My Metrocard had run out, so I went to buy another one. The machine wasn't taking cash, and my ATM card didn't work because the bank had frozen it (lovely to see that they take financial regulation seriously in the US). Everyone else from the group apart from two girls had gone through the turnstile at this point, so I asked one of them if we could both slip through on her card. So we did.

We were strolling along across the station when Girl No.2 observes "Isn't it nice that there are policemen here to keep the place safe?" Erk. He calls us over - takes names, addresses, passport details. As this is going on, the other Loftstel people come back. One of the guys disregards my Eyes of Death at him and attempts to strike up a rapport with Mr Policeman Sir. This goes reasonably well for him and he points out to me that, if nothing else, I'll get to tell people at home about the time the police beat me up and handcuffed me in the subway. He then suggests that the policeman handcuff us. This wasn't an idea I found immediately attractive, but when the policeman caved and handed me the cuffs, I couldn't say no. So I stuck one wrist-catcher thing on the girl and one on me and the Loftstel people took photos that are languishing in a dusty corner of someone's hard drive right now but will no doubt resurface if any one of me, the cop or the girl ever does anything with their life. I was quite surprised that he gave us the cuffs; he could have got in Big Heap Trouble for that. But basically a fun time was had by all.

On the other hand, I did end up with a $100 fine for me and another for her, which adds up to, lemme think, $200?

I have come to the conclusion that not paying on the New York subway system is A Bad Idea. I think this because in my estimation, it has an expected cost greater than that of paying the fare. If, for example you took 100 rides, I guess you'd come across a policeman 10 times (it feels that I see them about 10% of the time). If you always avoid paying, that would cost 10*$100=$1000. However, if you just paid every time, it'd cost 100*$2.25= $225. This contrasts to the LUAS, where the fine is e45 (American keyboard, no euro sign, eww), the fare is e1.90 and they check tickets - I'd guess - about 1 ride in 50. So that's 2*e45=e90 for never paying, and 100*e1.90=e190 for always paying. So if you don't put a value on avoiding the embarrassment of getting caught, or "honour" or "morality", it's rational never to pay on the LUAS. To fix this problem, Veolia (the people who run the LUAS) need to either a) Increase detection, b) Increase the fine or c) Reduce the fare. Or, I suppose, d) Instil a greater sense of morality in the Irish public.

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