As the spread of COVID-19 appears to be coming under control, commuters are slowly returning to mass transit. In an announcement made this week and reported by Finextra, officials running the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York are choosing this time to begin a two-year phase-out the 30-year old mag-stripe fare card in favor of contactless options including open-loop debit and credit cards.
So what happens if you bank with financial institutions that don’t yet issue contactless? MTA will be setting up vending machines to issue a contactless version of the MetroCard and also a mobile app:
In total, the fare payment system has now recorded more than 50 million taps, and is currently running at 300,000 per day. Seventy-nine percent of those are at subway stations and the other 21% are on buses. The highest one-day tap total since Omny was launched in May 2019 came on March 5, with 339,000 taps.
“Omny is the easiest way to pay the fare and we’re happy to see so many New Yorkers agree and are using it to get where they need to go,” says Sarah Feinberg, interim president of MTA New York City Transit. “Just tap your phone, your card, or even a smartwatch and you’re on your way. It’s faster than swiping and one less card to worry about.”
The MTA is set to roll out its own contactless Omny card and mobile this year and to begin expanding fare options in 2021 with the introduction of reduced fares for senior customers and riders with disabilities and the integration with paratransit services. The card will eventually be available at vending machines in stations as well, completely displacing the old MetroCard by 2023.
Overview by Sarah Grotta, Director, Debit and Alternative Products Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group