Home MetroCard With OMNY launch, the end of the MetroCard almost finally arrives

With OMNY launch, the end of the MetroCard almost finally arrives

by Benjamin Kabak

With a sealed token slot, a MetroCard swiper and an OMNY reader, our Frankenstein turnstiles showcase the last three generations of subway fare payment technology. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak. See more on Instagram.)

It’s hard to believe the MetroCard is only 26 years old. It seems as though the MTA has been talking about replacing the now-iconic blue and gold cards for nearly half its life, but that’s what happens when plans for a fare payment system based on a magnetic strip first proposed in 1983 take a decade to become a reality. By the time everyone is using the thing, it’s already outdated.

Now, though, the end is truly near, and the MetroCard’s killer, a tap-and-go system called OMNY and developed by Cubic based off of London’s current contactless fare payment technology, officially launched on Friday. “The Metrocard has served New York well for the last 25 years but its time has come,” MTA CEO and Chairman Pat Foye said during Friday’s press conference.

The path to get to a tap-and-go system for New York City was a bit of a torturous one, and the city has yet again seen its global competitors pass it by. London, for instance, adopted its own proprietary tap-and-go card in 2003 and has been accepting contactless cards on the Underground since late 2014. New York City, meanwhile, rolled out the MetroCard when magnetic strips were nearly obsolete and spent much of the last two decades spinnings its wheel. A brief contactless pilot around 2006 went nowhere as American payment card market wasn’t in line with the MTA’s needs, and a concerted effort to replace the Metrocard by 2012 floundered spectacularly amidst a bureaucratic morass. The Cubic solution came into view in mid-2016 but not until after a short delay in the project due to political in-fighting over the MTA’s capital plan. It’s never easy in New York City.

But on Friday, New Yorkers could finally tap and go. The new system — branded as One Metro New York since it will be used throughout the region — launched with a 16-station pilot on all stations along the Lexington Ave. line between Grand Central and Atlantic Ave. and on all Staten Island buses. For now, and as the system rolls out citywide over the next 18 months, only those riders paying full fare will be able to use the contactless option as OMNY won’t be ready for time-based cards — 7- or 30-day unlimiteds — until 2021 at the earliest.

Still, even though over 50% of riders can’t use their preferred travel passes on the system, MTA officials were excited about the debut. “We’ve spent years designing, developing and testing OMNY and we’re going to spend the next several months with the help of all New Yorkers to ensure all systems are working as we designed them,” Foye said.

OMNY doesn’t come cheap. Cubic’s contract includes a budget of nearly $650 million as workers need to outfit every turnstile and bus in the city with the new technology and develop and build new fare payment card machines. But the MTA expects to earn back this expense by significantly lowering the amount of money is spends on fare collection. With higher maintenance costs and a technology wearing down, even with the steep cost, the MTA believed it had to upgrade. “We really didn’t have a choice but to replace the Metrocard,” Foye said.

Under the OMNY rollout schedule, all buses and subways will have readers by the end of 2020, but the MetroCard will live on until 2023. (Click to enlarge)

Despite the hoopla surrounding Friday’s launch, New Yorkers still have a lot of questions about OMNY, and it’s clear in the responses I’ve received that people still aren’t quite sure what is happening and what the new fare payment system will be. I’ll try to explain. OMNY is a contactless, open loop payment system that will fully replace the closed-loop MetroCard. This means riders can pay with a variety of options including contactless-enabled debit and credit cards, Apple Pay on their iPhones (or an Apple Watch), Google Pay or any similar system or, when the rollout is complete, riders who are unbanked, don’t have credit or debit cards or wish to pay with cash, will be able to purchase an OMNY card, as they do now.

“At every phase of this,” Foye explained, “New Yorkers will be able to use Metrocards (or OMNY cards) or cash. People who do not have bank accounts or credit cards are going to continue as they can today use cash to buy a MetroCard or ultimately an OMNY card.”

For those of us who use time-based monthly or weekly cards, the MTA will at first establish an account-based system via OMNY where riders can purchase time. I’d imagine WageWorks will rely on a similar system too, but the pre-tax benefits system hasn’t yet determined how its offerings will work with the new system.

The MTA will eventually offer a proprietary OMNY card for those who want to pay in cash or do not have bank cards. Cash will always be an option, MTA officials said on Friday.

Eventually, too, the MTA can institute fare capping as Transport for London does in London. This system essentially converts pay-per-ride outlays to time-based caps after a rider pays for a certain number of rides in a certain period of time. After a rider reaches the cap, the rest of the rides in that time period are essentially free, and capping is a huge benefit for those riders who can’t afford to layout nearly $130 in advance for a monthly card or who wind up riding more frequently in a certain period of time than they anticipated. Any capping fare structure is still at least 3 or 4 years down the road, if not more.

As to payment processing, the transaction is seamless and without the potential for swipe errors that currently plague MetroCard users. Payment card taps are nearly instantaneous, and Apple’s new Express Transit Pay feature means a user doesn’t even have to unlock the phone or pre-validate use of the card to pay.

That doesn’t mean the initial pilot will feature smooth contactless transactions each time. During Friday’s press conference, Al Putre, the MTA’s executive director of new fare payment technology, spoke about the breadth of credit cards available throughout the world, a concern also raised by the MTA’s independent engineering consultant during a recent Board review of the project. There are, Putre noted, over 350 payment cards manufactured all over the world, and each have their own chipsets. “We’ve configured this system to match as many of them as we can find,” he said. “However, until we introduce them into the ecosystem and we run this pilot, we can’t be certain we’ve hit them. So hopefully with this process, we’ll identify any cards that need to be configured, and we’ll be good to go.”

(Interestingly, the MTA’s decision to implement a contactless fare payment technology finally pushed the U.S. bank card industry to embrace contactless as a standard. The MTA spent a lot of time pressuring and working with these companies to bring contactless to the masses, and the industry expects these cards to spread rapidly as OMNY comes online. Bloomberg’s Jennifer Surane wrote an insightful overview on the behind-the-scenes negotiations that went into bringing OMNY to reality.)

As to concerns over security, the MTA noted the technology adheres to payment industry requirements and vowed to continue its current practices. “It’s the same process as someone going to a MetroCard vending machine with a credit card,” Foye said. “We are not going to sell, lease or do anything with any customer’s information. That’s our policy today and that’s going to continue to be our policy.”

I’m sure I’m not answering some questions a lot of New Yorkers may have, and I’m hoping to schedule a chat or mailbag on OMNY along with a few more Q-and-A type-posts. In the meantime, the MTA’s OMNY website discusses the future to come and includes the rollout schedule. The early returns though are promising. In fact, for its first full day of use on Saturday, OMNY saw 6100 taps, far more than the MTA had expected, and 80 percent of those were via phones, Vin Barone of amNew York reported on Sunday. “We’re thrilled,” Putre said, “New Yorkers are adopting OMNY even quicker than expected, and that the first several days have gone so well. The more that people use the system the easier it will be for us to learn what’s working and what isn’t, ensuring that New Yorkers will get the system they deserve — one that saves them time and hassle as they go about their day.”

Ultimately, then, this is the true end of the MetroCard. We’ll be stuck with it until 2023, but the 1990s’ hot new thing that somehow became a familiar New York icon in short order is on the way out. The MetroCard is dead; long live the MetroCard.

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JJJJJ June 2, 2019 - 11:35 pm

Here are my questions:

1) They say the name is because it’s a regional card. Have any steps actually been taken to talk to PATH, NJT, NYC Ferry, Airtrain, etc etc?

2) In the current system, you add $20 to your Metrocard at the machine (example), which counts as one credit card swipe. Under OMNY, you are “swiping” your MasterCard multiple times a day – doesnt that mean Mastecard starts raking in significant swipe fees? How much will this cost MTA?

3) Just last week, PATHs fare system – managed by Cubic – melted down for an entire week. 5 days, no one could pay by card. Imagine if this happens with OMNY. Has anyone cared to ask Cubic about this?

4) SEPTA launched their own system 3 years ago. 3 years later…they still arent close to being done. Many of the promised features have yet to materialize, and they havent been able to figure out how to get commuter rail on board. Worse, SEPTA key cars come with a $5 fee and expire every 3 years. You can get a new one for free only by visiting HQ downtown. Why do we think MTA will do better? As an ominous sign, Cubic has delayed their work with MBTA because theyre just so darn busy elsewhere.

5) Have they given a more specific rollout timeline? If you live in Harlem, for example, you need a Metrocard to go downtown but can use OMNY to get back.

Webster June 3, 2019 - 4:42 am

1) No, because the MTA exists as it’s own entity, unfortunately. Although, technically, it should be possible to accept any contactless/mobile payment media (eg. transit card, phone, mobile app, etc) that supports similar standards as what the OMNY program is implementing.

Such that, in the event that, say, NJ Transit *does* move towards contactless (I’m not so sure about that) or else updates their mobile app to support it, you could in theory buy single fares that include transfers within the app and simply swipe in at each turnstile (ie. New Brunswick-PSNY;PSNY-Jamaica;Jamaica-AirTrain).

Which, by the way, is the complicated aspect of rolling this out: It isn’t the turnstiles or the readers, TVMs (ticket-vending machines), etc but the back-end systems for processing these payments that’s very complex and needs time to be made robust and otherwise just be implemented.

But long answer short, the same obstacles that prevent the agencies from coordinating on rationalized fares – that is, simply serving a regional travel market rather than carved-out, local ones – is going to remain regardless of the payment technology.

2) I would think that is the very issue that the agency has had to negotiate at great length. I wouldn’t think it would be much of an issue in any case, because a) the MTA is processing many of these payments itself and likely pushing them to the respective card issuers in bulk rather than real-time (again, I think CUBIC’s system does some intelligent things on the back-end in this regard) and b) any fees are going to be incorporated into the fare anyways across the millions of swipes that occur.

It’s not much of an issue as the fee isn’t really a problem for large merchants (ie. this is why only small shops prefer you not use cards for purchases under a certain dollar amount as the fee can be higher than what they’re making in margin on, say, a $2.50 bottle of water).

3) The MetroCard is also a CUBIC system. So is London’s. It isn’t the company that matters as much as the implementation. I don’t know how PATH’s system works but suffice it to say, I don’t think it really matters much to the topic at hand.

But again, the back-end is what matters. The system needs to be robust, capable of processing potentially millions of transactions a minute, secure, and resilient.

If you’ve ever tried to make a card purchase at a retailer during a heavy thunderstorm or otherwise while they were experiencing internet connectivity issues, you’ll know outages in these systems aren’t unheard of. The point rather is to manage against them.

4) The OMNY card itself will be available at TVMs, retailers, etc. They have said this from the start…that’s the entire beauty of this system: The MTA doesn’t have to be the sole provider of fare media.

Moreover, any bank issued card that supports contacless payments should work. For those without typical bank services, prepaid debit cards that support the same should also be an option. Heck, the city can add a chip to the ID card they issue to allow it to be used as a pre-paid debit card…there are *MANY* options.

The back-end just needs to be robust enough to enable customers to use them.

5) A station-specific schedule? No.

But it doesn’t matter as the MetroCard is being phased out once OMNY is ubiquitous. Hence, the long roll-out…

You can see which stations *DO* have OMNY readers, however, but I don’t remember where that list is.

It seems they’re rather enabling it line-by-line.

Billy G June 3, 2019 - 1:12 pm

PATH has the “PATH SmartLink Card” which can be refilled at their website or at TVMs.

That is a contactless card that they accept in addition to the MTA’s MetroCard with declining balance. They don’t appear to accept the weekly/monthly MetroCard.

You’d have to look up whether CUBIC is their vendor too.

Patrick June 3, 2019 - 6:38 pm

1) I’ve asked that question, but haven’t gotten a response yet. Other than some brief mentions about “initial discussions” with some other carriers, there hasn’t been any indication of any substantive progress on that front. None of the MTA’s presentations or literature make mention of any timelines or anything about adoption on external carriers. I am particularly curious about what this means to existing carriers who accept the MetroCard (PATH, RIOC, AirTrain JFK, NICE, Bee-Line)…RIOC would probably get rolled in with the subway rollout since they use normal subway turnstiles and don’t sell any fares themselves, but the others…

The lack of talk about integration with external carriers at this point is concerning. External carriers (buses, ferry operators, etc.) may have different needs, and now is the best time to incorporate that into the development process. The NYC region already has 8 different mobile ticketing applications, so if history is any indication of what will happen this time, it would not be beyond imagination to see One Metro New York turn into Four Metro New York.

PATH already has Smartlink, ConnDOT just launched their own Go CT contactless card last year, and NJT is developing their own smartcard system with a completely different vendor–I would not bet there is much being done to make them interoperable.

There has also been no mention of expansions in through ticketing, which would be a nice selling point of a new fare payment system.

2) Most “swipe fees” are percentage-based when the card is present, so it shouldn’t necessarily matter whether that’s one $30 transaction or ten $3 transactions.

3 and 4) There’s no guarantee, but the MTA is certainly the largest system in the country, and delays and protracted outages would generate a lot more coverage than they might on PATH or even SEPTA. Since the MTA is very late to the new fare payment system game, one slight redeeming advantage is there has been plenty of times for mistakes to be made elsewhere, and hopefully Cubic and the MTA have learned from those enough to make this go fairly smooth…

Terra June 3, 2019 - 1:20 am

What about EasyPay or better yet Senior EasyPay … We already have time capping and its easy to see on your easy pay account will that change?

Webster June 3, 2019 - 4:55 am

I wonder if something like this (https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/20/18233034/citymapper-pass-london-launch-subscription-service) can be implemented, but we may not know until we have a clearer picture of how the MTA’s implementation functions.

Effectively I see no reason why we couldn’t have one app which simply allows you to purchase all fare media in one place (eg. NJ Transit rail/bus fares, SEPTA, so on) and effectively allow you to travel as if the fare systems were integrated. I’ll have to think on that.

Secondly, does OMNY require you swipe out? If not, do you think the MTA should be implementing this now, given they’re not likely to be replacing the turnstiles soon? It would give a lot of useful per-user, trip data (eg. origin-destinations, peak travel patterns, transfers, so on).

On the last note, they really need to get out ahead and loudly lay out their policies on data usage and privacy because, once the novelty of it dies off, media outlets are going to start pontificating on it anyways.

Webster June 3, 2019 - 5:01 am

(Sorry Ben, I’ll shutup after this 🙂

I pointed out the data issue, because I just signed-up to create an OMNY account and they allow you to sign in with Facebook/Google. Obviously, that raises some concerns, given that I don’t know just how the MTA collects, anonymizes, or otherwise makes available specific data.

Is Facebook/Google – or anyone else capable of asking for the data – now going to start combing my travel patterns to figure out what my income might be, where I live/work, what shops I may be visiting or likely to visit and how much I might be willing to spend?

Guest June 4, 2019 - 7:55 pm

I’m the total opposite. I want Google to send promotions my way and show me my regular travel patterns.

Patrick June 3, 2019 - 6:43 pm

That Citymapper thing just sounds like they are acting as an intermediary (like any other credit card or more like an insurance company), collecting money from you, and then just paying TfL whatever fares you use. Since OMNY would take typical contactless credit cards, I wouldn’t forsee any issue with that happening here.

There are no real barriers to unified ticketing or through ticketing anymore with modern fare payment systems like this, the different carriers just need to figure out amongst themselves about adoption common hardware and how to transfer money on the backend.

Guest June 4, 2019 - 7:54 pm

Just use Apple/Android/Samsung Pay for all.

Larry Penner June 3, 2019 - 5:13 am


In 2016, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a Request for Proposals for a new Fare Payment System. Funding of $419 million to support this project was included within the $32 billion MTA 2015 – 2019 Five Year Capital Plan. This new fare collection system is now known as “One Metro New York.” In 2015, the proposed original project schedule called for testing in 2018, initiation of implementation in 2019 followed by substantial completion in 2021.

Four years later, both the budget and schedule appear to have been overly optimistic, just like other MTA NYC Transit new technology projects. MTA awarding a contract for $573 million to Cubic Transportation Systems may not be the best use of these dollars. The new anticipated completion date has slipped two years to 2023. The budget went up by $154 million. It was not a great start budget or schedule wise for this project. How will riders without smart phones accompanied with software such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay or Pay With Google, debit cards or credit cards embedded with chips that rely on wireless technology known as near field communication use this new system? Not all students, seniors, poor and working class riders plus out of town visitors have these options. Why will Cubic Transportation Systems open up a call center in Buffalo to support future customers using this new fare collection system with out of work NYC residents looking for employment?

These dollars might have been better spent as a down payment toward funding NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s proposed ten year $37 billion Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize NYC Transit subway and bus system. What good does a new fare collection system do if you are still stuck on the platform waiting for a train. How about finding a seat rush hour or some personal space just to stand without being surrounded in uncomfortable positions? Funding for a new fare collection system could have been postponed till the next MTA 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan.

Consider the $202 million contract award for a new NYC Transit Bus Radio System to support a fleet of 5,400 buses several years ago. The award was over one year late, based upon the original base line project schedule. This was due to delays in project scope development, progression of design and engineering along with timely completion of the procurement process. Success of this project is also dependent on coordination with and timely completion of the upgraded $150 million NYC Transit East New York Bus Command Center. Funding provided for both includes project milestones under grants from the Federal Transit Administration. The base bid award also included an option clause which has been executed to cover 1300 buses operated by MTA Bus. These buses operate on routes previously served by Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Buses, Triboro Coach, Queens Surface, Command Bus, New York Bus and Liberty Lines Bronx Express private bus operators. Purchasing similar equipment for MTA Bus may have added an additional combined $50 million to both base contracts.

NYC Transit has a poor track record for new technology projects when it comes successful completion on time and within budget. Previous projects such as Public Address Customer Information Systems, Automatic Train Supervision, Communication Based Train Control and Underground Police Radio systems combined costs totaled close to $1 billion dollars. All four projects suffered significant delays during project scooping, design and engineering, procurement process, actual construction followed by installation and testing. This resulted in each being completed several years beyond the original project date milestone schedules as contained in the first federal grants which provided funding for many of these projects. The final bill ended up above each Project Engineer’s original cost estimate accompanied by change orders impacting budgets.

The first CBTC installed on the Canarsie L subway line suffered from many of these problems. The second CBTC installed on the Flushing #7 subway line was also be a victim from many of the same problems and issues. It was suppose to have been completed and be running by October 2016. Victory was declared in November 2018. Riders are still waiting to see the full benefits.

The previous bus radio system project contract was awarded to Orbital Sciences Corporation in 1996. Funding was provided under a Federal Transit Administration grant. Project scope of work included design, construction and installation of a bus arrival monitoring system. After four years of continued delays combined with unresolved challenges of interference by high rise Manhattan buildings, the contract was terminated and project canceled.

Both the new Bus Radio System and accompanying East New York Bus Command Center projects due to their complex scope have always been at risk for completion several years later than promised. Ditto for project budgets which may grow over time due to delays and change orders. Don’t be surprised when the same holds true for the new One Metro New York Fare Payment System.

Both the MTA NYC Transit and Federal Transit Administration also have independent engineering consultant firms to supplement in house staff. These companies previously provided both oversight and technical assistance for ongoing capital projects. Engineering firms which monitor the progress of these and other major capital projects prepare monthly progress reports for both MTA NYC Transit and Federal Transit Administration senior management teams and in house project oversight staff.

Both the Bus Radio System and East New York Command Center projects continue to provide updated Quarterly Financial and Milestone Progress Reports for all open active grants to the Federal Transit Administration. Information includes any changes to scope of work and contract change orders over $100,000. This is accomplished under the FTA Transit Award Management System known as TRAMS. MTA and NYC Transit provide these reports on many other active capital projects and programs worth over $12 billion. They are also supported by both MTA NYC Transit and FTA independent engineering firms who are providing oversight and technical assistance. They also issue their own monthly progress reports. A review for any of these documents would confirm that both the new Bus Radio System and companion East New York Bus Command Center are already many months behind the original agreed upon contractor construction and installation schedules. All of these reports document past history and current status of these projects.

Let’s hope that MTA NYC Transit have learned from earlier problems that plagued new technology projects. Taxpayers and commuters are counting on the MTA NYC Transit being able to complete the Bus Radio System, East New York Command Center and new One Metro New York Fare Payment System technology projects with each contractor based upon the agreed baseline budgets and detailed contract schedules.

The MTA NYC Transit should continue to be more transparent with its own Board, elected officials, riders, taxpayers and transportation advocates on these and other capital procurements. The same is true for better oversight for third party contractors, maintenance of schedule and project budgets.

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA and NYC Transit))

Jeremiah Clemente September 1, 2019 - 11:22 am

FIY, about the Fast Forward Plan, OMNY IS part of the plan. The Fast Forward Plan is going to entail modernization of every aspect of the subway, bus and Access-A-Rose system, including fare payment. On page 29 of the plan, it says:

Introduce a new state­-of­-the­-art fare payment system so customers throughout the bus, subway, and paratransit system can tap-and-go, including smart cards that can be purchased with cash.

Michael June 3, 2019 - 10:52 am

Are weekly/monthly passes not working because they haven’t figure out the technology yet? Seems hard to believe. I have a cc in my pocket and a cc on my device they both work simultaneously. Why would I not be able to use digital on Lexington line and hard pass on no Lexington lines. I suspect MTA is trying to double dip. As they will be some people who will digital on Lexington Line out of convenience and still using pass on non Lexington lines.
Either that or they obviously chose wrong company to create omny

Matthew June 4, 2019 - 10:41 am

My guess is that the MTA isn’t rolling out weekly/monthly passes because 1. a monthly/weekly pass isn’t very useful when you can only scan it at a handful of stations so nobody would buy it and 2. they don’t want to deal with whiny new yorkers who end up buying a weekly/monthly pass not realizing that the prepaid OMNY passes only works at a small handful of stations and then complaint about paying full price for a weekly when it only works at a dozen stops, and 3. I doubt that they are making OMNY compatible with the ancient metrocard system. My guess is that both systems are completely independent with no cross compatibility and the only point of intersection between the systems is that both are installed on the turnstiles, and both systems can send a signal to the turnstyle to let someone through the gate.

SEAN June 3, 2019 - 11:50 am

Lets not forget the OMNY system has a broader coverage scope than MetroCard’s coverage area. The railroads are being included as well as bus systems such as Transport of Rockland & Suffolk Transit. This adds to the level of complexity, but we need only look at TFL to see how a single card can cover numerous modes of travel across a large metropolitan area as OMNY is a form of London’s system.

As for PATH, that system is rather small & could in fact be piggybacked on to OMNY as there cards are somewhat similar & are both Cubic products. However the new fare system that is being designed for NJT is coming from a local vender & may not line up with Cubic’s specs. That said, it’s in the best interest of the entire region to agree on a standard payment system as it reduces confusion & allows for greater travel options.

CT Transit’s new Go CT card as well as Hop fast pass http://www.myhopcard.com in metro Portland use a similar system to what is being proposed with OMNY including fare capping. Also http://www.clippercard.com in the bay area can be used not just on busses, but on BART & Caltrain as well. In those cases you tap on before boarding & tag off when leaving. That last bit is important as failure to do so results in the maximum fare being charged.

JJJ June 3, 2019 - 1:28 pm

Heres another question:

When Chicago launched Ventra, it came with a Mastercard Debit service. This is why the cards expired after 3 years. However, using the debit feature was really stupid because it came with a ton of fees.

So they dropped it.


SEPTA is currently facing the 3 year expiration problem, but has not abandoned the debit feature.

Is OMNY planning on including it?

Also, one problem both Chicago and SEPTA have faced: You cant see how much stored value is left on your card when you tap. Is MTA addressing this problem?

RichardB June 4, 2019 - 5:06 am

That’s interesting as in London if you use an Oyster card it always tells you what your current balance is when you tap in and out. If you have enabled auto top up that new credit will be added to your current balance and will be displayed in the same way. In London you have to tap both in and out on the Underground and railway services but on buses you are only required to tap once upon entry. To be honest my experience of Oyster has been very positive.

SEAN June 3, 2019 - 4:04 pm


One of the reasons why the MTA is moving OMNY in stages is that when the CTA & Cubic launched Ventra a few years ago, they chose to activate it all at once & it was an unmitigated disaster. As a result the CTA with heled payment of $456,000,000 until the bugs were corrected. This lead Cubic to go the step by step route with OMNY’s rollout. You can find plenty of YouTube videos on this subject.

I don’t know if the readers display the amount on the card, but if you activate autoload there won’t be an issue. Autoload functions essentially the same way as easy pass as both are account based systems.

JJJJ June 3, 2019 - 5:06 pm

Sean, while its a different contractor, SEPTA key has been rolled out using the slow and steady stages approach.

It’s been an unmitigated disaster. Theyre five years behind schedule with no end date in sight, and still can’t answer basic questions such as “when will commuter rail be fully enabled?”

Doctor Memory June 3, 2019 - 4:38 pm

Leave it to the MTA to take a feature I’ve wanted for years now (transit passes loaded onto my phone) and attach it to a price tag that strongly suggests that the entire project should be scrapped now before any further damage is done. Two thirds of a BILLION dollars, and that’s just the estimate: given how MTA projects are run we can probably assume it’ll be close to a full billion if not more by the time 2023 (…or 2025 rolls around). 🙁

Two questions that I also asked on twitter:

1. Was TransitForLondon’s cost to roll out Oyster anywhere close to a billion dollars, PPP-adjusted? (The wikipedia page on Oyster suggests no, but I doubt that’s an apples-to-apples comparison)

2. Given that OMNY’s rollout is going to cost minimally two thirds of a billion dollar’s, is the MTA’s claim that they could not afford ongoing maintenance on MetroCard even remotely credible? (Here, I feel very safe claiming that it doesn’t even pass the laugh test, especially given that LIRR already has functioning app-based tickets.)

Chet June 3, 2019 - 6:40 pm

I find it amazing that seemingly no one can do anything but complain. Complain that the MetroCard is old and outdated. Complain when the MTA finally gets around to, years late, to replace it.

Maybe we should just scrap the entire mass transit system and go back to horses? Would that make all the whiny people happy? No, you’d just complain about the manure.

Enough. I’ve used Ventra in Chicago, Oyster in London (years ago already), and SmartTrip in DC, and Lisbon’s contactless cars and NEVER had a problem. Chicago just sent me replacement cards- at no charge- because my MasterCard labelled ones expired.

Damn it people, give things a chance.

And if this is any indication, here’s a story.

Yesterday, I left a message through the OMNY website asking if there will be a place where we can see the expansion of the system as more subway stations go online.



She was very helpful. She said, yes, the omny.info website will provide that information as it happens.

I still can’t believe the MTA called me back on a Sunday to answer a pretty benign question. If that is indicative of where we’re heading, things will be fine.

So stop whining about every freaking little thing. It’s bloody annoying.

Thomas Schmidt June 4, 2019 - 11:36 am

Thanks for saying this. I get people complaining about the subway all the time, using words like “collapse.”

If I had a time machine, I’d take them back to 1981, when the system really did approach collapse. When we get half as bad as 1981, I’ll also sound the klaxons. I’ll look forward to contactless, everywhere, and never running into someone repeatedly swiping, and 2023 seems fine for completion.

SEAN June 3, 2019 - 7:41 pm


As far as SEPTA is concerned, they are so far behind everyone else including the MTA it’s beyond ridiculous. Therefore I wouldn’t
reference them for anything.

On this topic of transit fare media/ technology, I’ve done a lot of research of card types & functionality as it peaked my interest. The card systems that are most similar to what OMNY will reflect are…

http://www.prestocard.ca of Toronto
http://www.myhopcard.com of metro Portland
http://www.clippercard.com of San Francisco.

These sites should help give an idea what OMNY will like, but on a New York scale.

Given that OMNY’s rollout is going to cost minimally two thirds of a billion dollar’s, is the MTA’s claim that they could not afford ongoing maintenance on MetroCard even remotely credible? (Here, I feel very safe claiming that it doesn’t even pass the laugh test, especially given that LIRR already has functioning app-based tickets.)

I would counter with the fact that the app you refer to is just for the LIRR & will be replaced once the OMNY app is completely functional.

A quick bit of history

When the MTA contracted with Cubic for the MetroCard, Cubic said don’t use the slide cards as they were going out & were being replaced by the first generation of hard plastic cards used on such systems as WMATA. The MTA didn’t follow the trends & got stuck with old technology that was outdated & this was in 1997! Meanwhile the CTA was already going on it’s second generation fare system as a comparison.

So I hope you see just how much ground the MTA needs to make up to be in line just with WMATA’s Smartrip & that system is also seriously outdated as fare collection goes.

Doctor Memory June 3, 2019 - 9:55 pm

“Clipper Card but at New York Scale” is an idea that should give everyone a pause, followed by heart failure. I happened to be living in SF for a good chunk of that debacle.

Clipper (née Translink) was delivered over a decade behind schedule, and at over ten times the original estimated cost. Clipper’s rollout was such a cascading disaster that BART developed and implemented its own contactless payment cart (“BART RiderPass”) around 2006-2007 when BART management got tired of waiting for Translink (which was supposed to have been fully rolled out by 2001) to arrive.

SF MUNI busses and trolleys only finally began taking Translink cards for fares in (IIRC) late 2009, and in 2010 they spent millions more dollars rebranding the cards and readers as “Clipper” because “Translink” had become synonymous with failure.

“Clipper at New York Scale” is a terrifying idea.

SEAN June 3, 2019 - 8:05 pm

Please read the following, it should give some insight to what is in store with OMNY.

The future of Clipper

We’re taking the next step.

We’ve been working with Clipper customers and other transit riders to identify the key elements of a future Clipper system since 2014. The current system, originally launched in 2006 under the TransLink name, was designed in the late 1990s. Aging equipment and new technologies have made the current card-based system increasingly obsolete, lacking features, such as mobile phone integration or the ability to immediately use value purchased online or by phone.

We’re excited to announce that Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc., will take Clipper to the next generation by designing, developing and operating a state-of-the-art fare payment system for the Bay Area. Cubic will update the entire Clipper system with new equipment and back-end operations and will introduce:
?An account-based system that will let customers reload their Clipper cards through a variety of methods and allow them to use the value right away

?A new mobile app that lets customers to use their smart phones to reload their account and pay their fares

?The ability to integrate with other transportation providers, such as bike share and paratransit

?Better compatibility with transit programs operated by employers, colleges and universities

We are anticipating a seamless transition for Clipper customers, enabling continued use of their Clipper cards, as well as the opportunity to use new payment options. Customers can expect to see initial improvements as early as 2019, with the launch of the mobile app coming in 2020. And while fares are set by individual transit agencies, the new Clipper system will better accommodate agencies’ fare changes and ability to offer special fare promotions.

SEAN June 4, 2019 - 8:43 am

Doctor Memory says… “Clipper at New York Scale” is a terrifying idea. But is it really? Although the execution for clipper was bad & no one will argue with that point, the end result was a payment system that worked.

The initial problem with the early tap systems were grounded in the fact of being closed loop I,e each transit system required it’s own exclusive card & with few exceptions a card from one agency couldn’t be used on another.

Now that Cubic & TFL are jointly selling the same system globally, one single card could be used in various cities be it bank issued or from one of the participating transit systems. Of course we cant forget phone payment as well as many rather just tap their iPhone instead of a card to pay fares.

The Hunkster June 8, 2019 - 11:22 am

They shouldn’t implemented this several years ago.


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