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NYC Subway: Scrounge Up A Free Ride

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If you live in New York City, odds are you rely on MTA on a daily basis. You already know. So I don’t have to tell you how integral the subway system is to our daily lives. And as far as cost goes, yes, we must admit, even after the recent fare hike, $2.25 to get from anywhere to anywhere in the massive 468-station system is a hell of a deal. (Take that, San Francisco. You know BART is a crying shame.) Of course, you also know, that because of the indispensability of our tremendously train-tracked people mover, how frustrating its occasional inconveniences are. (Hello again, month-long stint for the L train shuttle bus for the second time in three months; wtf!?)

This is all that stands between you and total New York City freedom.

This is all that stands between you and total New York City freedom.

However, and perhaps I don’t have to tell you this either, dear broke reader, but I’m gonna. Sometimes, even a meager $2.25 is too much to come up with. I’ve heard about lots of different ways to get a free subway ride, from the classic two-for-one (when you and a friend both fit through a full length roundabout) to the more classic hop over/duck under the turnstile during rush hour to station-specific loose gates that open with the right push/pull gimmick. But these can all potentially land you a $100 fine. It may be a little time consuming, but I’ve found a surefire free ride that always works. There are constantly discarded Metrocards everywhere. These Metrocards are not always devoid of credit. They do almost always swipe at the turnstile as INSUFFICIENT FARE. That just means they have less than $2.25 on them. Collect as many as you can and run them all through the fare checker thingy (that tells you how much money or time is left on your card) and keep the ones with small amounts of money left on them. You can have any MTA employee in a booth combine them onto a single card for you, and voila! You’ve got yourself a free subway ride. It may be a pride-swallowing, desperate route to a free ride, but you’re not reading this site because you just won the lottery. And I tell you from personal experience, it’s not that difficult. So ride away, broke friends!

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Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe grew up in South San Francisco, spent a decade in Santa Cruz, and
relocated to Brooklyn in late 2008. He has been a waiter, a maintenance
man, a record store clerk, a professional radio DJ, an amateur
newcaster and a movie theater popcorn-slinger. Being broke is his
birthright, as he is from broke stock and has limited prospects. He
likes comic books and is obsessed with soul music.


  1. Alexis Relucio
    October 7, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Hahah Awesome!! Never thought of that one!!

  2. […] sprawling stage, full of entertainment in its stations, on its platforms and inside its trains. For $2.25, one could literally spend their entire life within the subway system watching the show. Any train […]

  3. June 3, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Or just get an Unlimited MetroCard. It may be $104 for 30 days, but three rides per day makes it $1.15 per ride. And you never have to worry about how much money is left, just ride as you please.