The first ever MetroCard design by Runs With Scissors via Flickr/Creative Commons
No New Yorker’s life is complete without a MetroCard slipped into their wallet. For $2.75, it’ll get you from Brooklyn to the Bronx, and everywhere in between. But the lifespan of the MetroCard is perhaps shorter than you might think–the flimsy plastic card, complete with the Automated Fare Collection turnstiles, only became an everyday part of subway commuting in 1993. And in recent years, all signs point to the card becoming extinct. The testing phase of a mobile device scanning and payment system began this fall with plans to roll out a fully cardless system by 2020. And so in honor of the MetroCard’s brief lifespan as an essential commuter tool, 6sqft is delving into its history, iconic design, and the frustrations that come when that swipe just doesn’t go through.
Cubic MTA payment system. Rendering courtesy of Cubic Corporation.
Cubic, the San Diego-based company who was awarded the job of creating the MTA’s new cardless fare system, has just announced that the $539.5 million contract award (with additional options worth $33.9 million) has been approved by a vote of the MTA Board. As 6sqft previously reported, Cubic is the same company that developed the MetroCards that replaced subway tokens over 30 years ago. The new MTA system is modeled on the one that has been in use in London’s Underground and commuter railroads.
See the new fare payment system in action
Image: Phil Hollenback via Flickr.
6sqft previously reported on the launch of testing on a mobile device scanning and fare payment system with the goal of eventually phasing out the use of MetroCards in the New York City subway system. New turnstiles have already been installed in the Bowling Green and Wall Street Stations, where riders can make the transfer using scanners that allow them to swipe their phones. According to the New York Times, a rollout of the new fare system citywide is not far off: The new readers will hit 500 subway turnstiles and 600 bus fare boxes starting in late 2018; the remainder of subway stations and buses will have them by late 2020.
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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.
Find out when and where you can try out the new system
Image Public Domain
Continuing this summer’s subway saga, Mayor de Blasio announced a plan on Sunday that would tax the wealthiest 1 percent of New Yorkers to fund the system’s much-need repairs and renovations. The proposal, which requires Albany’s approval, would also provide half-price MetroCards for low-income straphangers. As the New York Times reported, the “millionaires tax” would increase the tax rate of the city’s wealthiest residents to 4.4 percent from roughly 3.9 percent for married couples with incomes over $1 million and for individuals who make more than $500,000 annually.
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In light of NYC’s recent subway fare hike that bumped the price of a monthly pass to $121, the data jocks at ValuePenguin took a look at public transportation systems throughout the U.S. and ranked them according to affordability, based on the cost of a pass as a percentage of income and the median income of the city’s commuters. Among the findings: New York City’s transit system isn’t the most unaffordable; that honor goes to Los Angeles. Washington D.C. topped the most affordable list among large cities, followed by San Francisco and Boston.
Read on for more insight on the cost of a commute
This morning MTA officials voted in favor of a subway and bus fare hike, which will go into effect March 19, writes The Times. The transit agency opted not to increase per-ride costs to $3, as previously floated, but to instead up monthly and weekly MetroCard prices from $116.50 and $31 to $121 and $32, respectively. Moreover, although the base price of a ride will not see an increase, there will be a decrease in the “bonus” riders get when they add money to their cards. This will drop from 11 percent to just 5 percent.
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At a board meeting over the summer, the MTA began discussions about increasing subway and bus fare to $3 by 2017 “in an effort to raise more than $300 million annually,” as 6sqft reported at the time. The Daily News has now learned that the agency will officially recommend the four-percent increase at their board meeting next week. Though they’ll be passing on another option that would’ve kept fares at $2.75, the hike will increase the bonuses that come with re-loading one’s MetroCard from 11 to 16 percent, “an extra 96 cents for every $6 purchase.”
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The ye-olde MetroCard swipe has made national headlines in recent weeks, thanks to Hilary Clinton’s inability to get through the turnstile and Bernie Sanders’ belief that we’re still in the dark ages using subway tokens. The fact that these snafus are so attention-grabbing goes to show how intrinsic the simple act of swiping a MetroCard is to New Yorkers’ daily lives, which makes today’s announcement that the MTA is seeking proposals for ways to pay for subway rides with “contactless media” like smart cards or mobile devices all the more emotionally charged. Though the Post notes that this wouldn’t take effect until at least 2021, 6sqft wants to know if you’ll lament the days of “please swipe again.”
Turnstile image via Phil Hollenback/Flickr; Hillary Clinton image via FiveThirtyEight/Twitter