Before you get too distraught–you’ll still be able to swipe (and “swipe again”) your MetroCard until 2023. But for those techier New Yorkers, as of May 31st you’ll be able to take advantage of the MTA’s new tap-to-pay fare system when a pilot launches at 16 Manhattan and Brooklyn subway stations on the 4, 5, and 6 lines between Grand Central-42nd Street and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, as well as all Staten Island buses. The new payment system, called OMNY (One Metro New York), will employ e-readers that can accept contactless credit, debit, or reloadable prepaid cards, along with digital wallet apps on mobile phones and wearables. Additionally, Google announced that they’ve teamed up with the MTA to enable Google Pay as a payment option.
The new $574 million system was developed by Cubic Transportation Systems, the same company that replaced subway tokens with MetroCards over 30 years ago. OMNY is projected to be available throughout the entire subway, bus, and commuter rail systems by late 2020. Until then, it’s only available on a full-fare, pay-per-ride basis. Free transfers will only apply if transferring at another OMNY-equipped station; otherwise, you’ll need to keep using your MetroCard.
When the 2020 milestone arrives, the MTA will add additional fare options such as weekly and monthly passes and reduced and student fares. There won’t be a cash option initially, but starting in 2021, the MTA will sell contactless transit cards at retail locations. In 2022, they’ll be available for sale through 2,000 vending machines in subway and commuter rail stations.
Google Pay’s partnership with the MTA is part of a larger initiative in which Google is working with transit agencies in 30+ cities around the world. In NYC, they will also have a real-time Google Assistant feature that will tell you the ETA of the next train and walking directions to stations. In the next few weeks, Google Maps will also note which subway stations accept Google Pay.
As Bloomberg reports, the impending MetroCard phase-out has banks working overtime to update their cards to feature contactless technology. Currently, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp, and Wells Fargo & Co. have the tap-and-go technology for all of their credit and debit cards. JP Morgan leads the pack, having issued 20 million contactless cards thus far. And by the end of 2020, Visa predicts the number of contactless cards in the U.S. will triple to 300 million.
To manage the new payment system, OMNY will have accounts where riders can access a personalized dashboard showing 90 days of travel and transaction activity and manage their payment methods. The OMNY app will be available for iOS and Android by late 2019.
If all this information has your head spinning, keep in mind the MTA’s inspiration behind the OMNY moniker. “[OMNY] is based on the prefix ‘omni,’ which means ‘all’ or ‘of all things.’ We believe that transportation is an essential service that connects communities and brings the diversity and energy of New York together. OMNY is the newest way to experience all that our region offers.”