Say goodbye to New York’s yellow, bendable, unmistakable MetroCard, which riders have used to swipe through subway turnstiles and board buses for over 20 years. First introduced in the 1990s, the antiquated MetroCard system will be replaced by a more modern, integrated, contactless system that leverages new technologies and offers more flexible payment options.
On Wednesday, October 25th, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board voted to award a roughly $573 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems for the design/build, furnishing, installation, testing, integration, and implementation of the new fare payment system. The integrated system—which will include MTA New York City Transit, MTA Bus Company, the Metro-North Railroad, and the Long Island Rail Road—is expected to facilitate payment, promote more seamless travel, and as a result, boost ridership.
Under the new system, MTA riders will have the option to use contactless debit or credit cards, in addition to mobile devices equipped with programs like Apple Pay, to pay fares. Users will also be able to monitor and manage their transit activity, including payment details and ride history, through personal online transit accounts. Contactless cards will be available for those without a bank card or mobile payment device.
Although Cubic’s new system is expected to boost ridership, some have expressed concerns about the aging New York transportation infrastructure’s ability to absorb and accommodate a swell of users. Nevertheless, MTA leaders remain confident in and excited about the overdue modernization: “today’s vote is a tremendous win for New Yorkers, paving the way for flexible payment options, a streamlined trip through the region’s public transit, and updated equipment that will help save money in operating costs. Together with Cubic, we look forward to building the MTA of tomorrow,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota.
MTA and Cubic, who designed the original MetroCard in the 1990s and London’s contemporary payment program, hope to introduce the new and improved system beginning in early 2019. However, the MetroCard will not be fully phased out until 2023.