MTA begins testing of new subway fare system, first step to phasing out MetroCards

Posted On Mon, October 9, 2017 By

Posted On Mon, October 9, 2017 By In City Living, Transportation

Image: Phil Hollenback via Flickr.

With the goal of eventually phasing out the use of MetroCards in the New York City subway system, the MTA has begun the testing phase of a mobile device scanning and payment system. Untapped Cities reports that the first trials of a new mobile fare system are being installed at points where Metro-North commuters transfer to the subway, as an expansion of the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road’s eTix app. At specific stations, riders can make the transfer with turnstiles fitted with scanners that allow them to swipe their phones. The new turnstiles have already been installed in the Bowling Green and Wall Street Stations in lower Manhattan for a test run; the expansion is a pilot for the eventual phasing out of MetroCards altogether.

The cards, which replaced the token system in the 1990s, are becoming increasingly obsolete as many cities have adopted modern payment options via apps or bank cards. Using the updated payment methods eliminates the cumbersome drawbacks of cards such as the dreaded “please swipe again” notice at turnstiles. 6sqft has reported on plans to bring the subway’s payment system into the future, including Gov. Cuomo’s vows to install contactless payment by 2018.

Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, explained to AM New York that the MetroCard has “outlived its usefulness. Cities from London to Los Angeles are definitely, at this point, ahead of the MTA in terms of fare technology and it’s good that we’re thinking of how to catch up.”

According to NY1 MTA officials hope to make it clear that the new payment system is only a test, and that the methods eventually adopted may be different from those being tested (NY1 also offers video of the new scanners in action). The new mobile scanners will be installed in 14 stations city-wide, including Penn Station, Grand Central, the 14th Street-7th Avenue station and the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station, before the year’s end.

[Via Untapped Cities]


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  • Laird Ehlert

    What about people who don’t have a smart phone? Yes, there are many. And what will people do if their phone is lost/stolen/broken? Personally, I do not want my whole life controlled by my phone.

    • TomDUWS

      Nor do I, but welcome to life in the 21st century!. Hopefully there will be some type of back up system for non phone owners

    • Linda Mitchell Kemp

      I agree.

  • Kristin from Maplewood

    Will the MTA have the option to purchase a refillable (contactless) card like London’s Oyster card? They work beautifully for non-smartphone owners and visitors.

    • Marc_from_Brooklyn

      Yes. That’s the idea. People will be able to use app, smartphone payment systems, credit and debit cards with RFID chips, or an RFID farecard. We could have had a smartcard years ago like most other transit systems but the MTA has for close to 15 years said that it does not want to be captive to a proprietary system like Washington, London, Chicago, or PATH and has declined to buy a smartcard system from MetroCard system vendor Cubic. Instead, it has been endlessly, repeatedly studying an open system that could use credit and debit cards and through which it could buy smartcards from any vendor, not just Cubic. It did a test with Citibank of chip-embedded cards years ago with the promise that all cards with chips would work and that it could buy its smartcards from any financial institution making them–Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover, or any bank, but nothing came of that. So, once again we have a test program, one that will hopefully lead to a the new fare collection system.

      • Kristin from Maplewood

        Thank you Marc!

  • fredrickwells

    To use an App to pay your fare? NICE Bus already uses such an app for Fare Payments.

    I think there will be improved Weekly, Monthly and Yearly Unlimited-Ride tickets for the buses, Subways and Commuter Railroads.



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