New Years in New York: How & Where to Get Your Free MetroCard, or $15 for a Cab

NYC Gives Away $30K to Reduce New Years DWI. Brought to Us by ... Johnnie Walker

Taxis in Times Square, New York City
Taxis in Times Square, New York City. Flickr user prayitno

For The Holidays, Get A Free Ride

New York City is using giveaways and social media to help New Yorkers get home safely on New Years. They're giving away:

  • 1,500 free $15 cab rides to use within any of the 5 boroughs, plus
  • 4,000 single-ride MetroCards.

The offer is good while supplies last.

NYC Anti Drunk Driving Campaign Hands Out $30,000 For Safety Over New Years 2011

The point of the You The Man program is to discourage drunk driving — and encourage New Year revelers to use mass transit or cabs, car services, or sober designated drivers.

The giveaways alone in the You The Man anti-drunk driving campaign are worth over $30,000 at face value. The promotion, an initiative of the City Department of Transportation, not the MTA, will hand out $22,500 in cab rides, and $9,000 in free bus and subway rides in the two weeks before New Year's Eve. That seems like a lot of money, but it's nothing compared to the loss of a life.

The target audience is men age 21 to 39, who, according to city statistics, are "most likely to get into a DWI-related crash or accept a ride from an intoxicated driver".

Where & When to Get Taxi and MetroCards

In 2011, the Taxi and MetroCards will be distributed at different times and places. The freebies will be distributed around the city at a few major events and also by "street teams" at the locations below.

  • Friday, December 16, 11:30 am – Times Square, Manhattan
  • Thursday, December 20, 6 P.M. – Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Bedford & North 7th) and Astoria, Queens (Broadway & 31st)
  • Thursday, December 22, 5 P.M. – Bronx Hub (149th street between Grand Concourse and The Hub)
  • Friday, December 23, 5 P.M. – St. George, Staten Island (St. George Terminal) and Downtown Brooklyn somewhere in the Fulton Mall.
  • Saturday, December 31, 5 pm – Upper East Side (Second Avenue & 86th) and Harlem (Broadway & 125th), Manhattan

To learn the exact whereabouts of the giveaways — — for instance, where in the Fulton Mall? — follow You The Man online and on Twitter.

The campaign's Twitter address is @Youthemannyc.

Free Taxi Card & Metro Card: How to Use

Free MetroCard : Using the free holiday MetroCard is simple; it's just like any other MetroCard. The freebie Metro cards work on the whole system: subways and buses run by the MTA, as well as PATH, and NJ Transit. You cannot use the MetroCard to pay for a cab ride or car service.

Free Taxi Card: How does the Taxi Card work? It's simply a pre-paid debit card.

According to the DOT, people can use them in both yellow cabs and participating livery car services. If you are taking a car service, ask the driver before you hop in if he or she will take the city's Taxi Card. The Taxi Card is worth $15. If your ride is more than that, you have to pay the balance.

The pre-paid debit cards are also redeemable exclusively "in the city’s 13,000-plus taxicabs, participating livery car services, MTA, PATH, NJ Transit or other ticketing machines from Dec. 16 through noon, Jan. 1, 2012," says the agency.

Use the "Find a Ride" Button to Get Phone Numbers for Local Car Services in Brooklyn

Not sure where to find a car service on New Year's Eve to get back home? Stuck in Brooklyn, where the chances of finding a yellow cab are slim?

Not to worry. The DOT website lists car services by neighborhood, so you can just check into their website, type in where you are located, and up pops a few names of local car services.

Things to Know About New York's Free New Year's Transportation Cards

  • To get one of these free cards, you must be 21 or older.
  • You can only get one; there's a limit of one per person.
  • You can't sell $15 Taxi Cards or get cash for it.
  • You can only use the taxi cards from the time of issuance until noon on January 1st, New Year's Day. MetroCards are valid for term printed on the card.
  • If your free card gets lost, stolen, mangled or eaten by your dog, that's your problem; they are not responsible for replacements.
  • Taxi cards are not valid for fares about $15. No cash value. No refund allowed.

Safety Campaign Underwritten by Johnnie Walker

If a $30,000 giveaway in the midst of a recession sounds too good to be true, of course, there's a hitch.

Ironically, this campaign was underwritten, in part, by the alcohol industry. The DOT, according to their December 2011 press release, is "working with Johnnie Walker to provide 1,500 free debit cards." Those prepaid debit cards account for the lion's share of the giveaway, worth up to about $22,000.

DOT launched the first Safe Rides Home program in 2010. Over three quarters of all debit card transactions from that giveaway took place between 10 P.M. and 5 A.M. on New Year's Eve, according to an agency spokesperson.

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