This morning, on the 6 train, I saw the following advertisement:

Believe it or not.

In 1986, the subway and bus fare was $1. That’s $1.89 in 2008 dollars. Today 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard brings the fare down to $1.17. Believe it.

I have a better idea: I’ll accuse the MTA of engaging in false and deceptive advertising practices.

The ad makes a completely bogus comparison. There were no Unlimited Ride MetroCards in 1986. Hell, there were no MetroCards in 1986. There were single-ride tokens. The equivalent of a single-ride token today is a single-use MetroCard, which retails for $2.00. This is a 6% increase in fare since 1986.

But, just for fun, let’s check their bogus comparison. Where does the $1.17 come from? Well, a 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard is $81. Even if we assume you ride the train twice a day, every day, for a total of 60 times over the life of the card, that means you’re spending $1.35 per ride—still higher than their $1.17. Indeed, you have to ride the train 70 times in 30 days to get down to their $1.17 price point. Where’d they get that number? Who knows. They could just as easily have decided that New Yorkers ride the train fifteen times a day, and claimed a 30-day unlimited card drops your fare to 18¢. The beauty of unlimited v. limited comparisons is I can make up whatever numbers I want.

What’s so stupid is that there’s a comparison that the MTA could have made that would have been valid, and does translate to a real fare drop. When the MTA introduced MetroCards, they instituted a discount program: for every $x you put on the card (currently $7), you get a free ride. As long as you’re buying rides in bulk, the cost of a ride has dropped to $1.75—which is indeed a solid 7.5% drop from the 1986 price.

But that’s not what the ad claims. The ad makes a bogus comparison, and should be called out for the tripe it is.

Believe it? No thanks. I’ll stick to the truth.