A Great Idea for What to Do With the Pennies Left on Your Metrocard

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If you ride a subway or train system in which you swipe a flimsy card through a reader, you are familiar with the experience of being left with 20 cents on a card. Sure, you could feed that card back into a machine and wring every last nickel from the card, but we know a lot of people don't. Instead, those cents get tossed into trashcans or left in wallets, hiding behind business cards from people whose startups have long been purchased by mid-ranking enterprise software companies. (Wait, maybe I'm talking about myself here.)

In any case, there is money on stored value cards and it's sitting out there and three enterprising graduate students at NYU's Interactive Communications Program want to put it to good use. They've hacked together a prototype for a system they call MetroChange. The current incarnation is a simple kiosk that allows you to donate the leftover value on your card and then recycle it. Designer Brad Dechter called it "a charity donation platform for using New York City subway cards," which is apt.

Here's a demonstration of how the system might work:


If you're interested in how they hacked together MetroChange, check out their blog, which lays out the various steps in glorious detail.

Via Ari Greenberg, who spotted it at ITP's Winter Show.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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