Home OMNY Second Ave. Sagas Podcast, Episode 5: OMNY with the MTA’s Al Putre

Second Ave. Sagas Podcast, Episode 5: OMNY with the MTA’s Al Putre

by Benjamin Kabak

This is the dawning of the age of OMNY and the end of the line for the MetroCard. As the MTA brings its new open-loop contactless tap-and-go fare payment system online, New Yorkers have seen readers pop up throughout the city, but most riders still have more questions than answers about this mysterious new system replacing the MetroCard.

I wrote up an overview of OMNY when I covered the launch at the end of May, and for this episode of the Second Ave. Sagas podcast, we’re talking all things OMNY. Joining me for the conversation is the MTA’s own Al Putre. He is the executive director of the New Fare Payment Program and has been in charge of revenue collection at New York City Transit for decades. In this week’s podcast, Putre and I talk all about OMNY — what it is, what it can do, when we’ll get unlimited ride cards and what the privacy concerns may be — as I ask your questions. Give it a listen.

You can learn even more about OMNY on the system’s official site, and you can catch my conversation with Putre via the player below at all the popular podcast spots — iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Pocket Casts and your favorite app. If you like what you hear and have been enjoying the podcasts, please consider leaving a review on your iTunes.

As always, thank you for listening and thanks as well to Joe Jakubowski for sound engineering. I’ve been enjoying producing these podcasts but they take a lot of time and effort. I can keep doing them only through the generous contributions of my listeners so please consider joining the Second Ave. Sagas Patreon. Since this site runs entirely on Patreon contributions, I can keep it going only with your help.

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Larry Penner June 21, 2019 - 7:36 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.

Fast forward to 2019. Both the budget and schedule may 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 final 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. There is no commitment that OMNY will be intergrated with NYC Economic Development Corporation’s Private Ferry System. The same holds true for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed $2.7 billion Brooklyn Queens Street Car Connector. (Assuming they can ever find $1.4 billion in Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding to build it). 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.

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 Federal Transit Administration 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. Time will tell if OMNY will suffer the same fate.

(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)

Michael Finfer June 21, 2019 - 11:44 am

What interests me, and I have not seen anything about this, is what will happen to Easy Pay MetroCard customers? Will they be getting OMNY cards?

meesalikeu July 2, 2019 - 10:18 am

i think many people are wondering about that. we were just switched over from wageworks to endred, but the new card is just a card. that is, you can still only use it to buy metrocards in the vending machines. strange they have a new contract and yet the provider does not support the tap system (as of yet anyway).

SEAN June 21, 2019 - 4:46 pm

At Michael Finfer,

Been wondering about that myself as easy pay is a form of what OMNY will be. I called easy pay customer service a few weeks ago & they currently have no information as of now, but I imagine they will need to find out soon as it would be impractical to release a type of fare media that won’t function in a few years.

The Hunkster June 22, 2019 - 11:04 am

It shouldn’t been done several years ago like any other developed major city of the world. W.A.S. – What a Shame!

SEAN June 24, 2019 - 6:33 pm

At Michael Finfer,

What interests me, and I have not seen anything about this, is what will happen to Easy Pay MetroCard customers? Will they be getting OMNY cards?

I just spoke to an agent at OMNY named Rhea & she told me that in 2021 the OMNY cards will be going out to replace the current Easy Pay cards. However when I pressed on further details such as tap readers at MNR & LIRR stations, she didn’t have any real answers beyond stock responces. So we’ll just need to wait & see & I know that sucks.

matthewgreen May 28, 2024 - 8:04 am

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