NYC Finishes Rollout of Contactless Subway Fare System

The new OMNY card will debut this year and replace the city's metro card by 2023.

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Need to Know

  • New York City’s Metro Transit Authority (MTA) will completely phase out its Metrocard by 2023.
  • The MTA’s OMNY payment system will accept contactless payment via smartphones or smartwatches, or from the new OMNY Card, which will begin its rollout in 2021.
  • The MTA announced it had completed the installation of its contactless fare readers on the last day of 2020.

Analysis

New York City is set to go contact-free on public transit, as the city’s Metro Transit Authority announced on December 31 that it had finished installing its contactless fare readers at every stop throughout the city’s five boroughs.

The MTA’s new payment system, OMNY, is a tap-and-go system that will accept payment from mobile payment systems and digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as from credit, debit, and prepaid cards that are tap-enabled. The new readers will also work with a brand new OMNY Card, which will replace the Metrocard. The MTA plans to begin the rollout of a reduced-fare version of the OMNY Card this year and aims to completely phase out the Metrocard by 2023.

The MTA’s new payment systems.

The MTA first launched OMNY in May 2019 and had planned to finish the implementation of the system by October 2020, but experienced delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since its launch, the system has seen approximately 34 million swipes. The final OMNY tap-and-go readers, installed at the end of the month, were installed at the last subway stop in Brooklyn.

“Everything that Metrocard does today, OMNY will do in the future, but better,” OMNY executive director Al Putre said in an interview last month, adding that the cards will be available at major retailers — such as drugstores, just as the Metrocard is. Putre added that the MTA will continue to accept cash, but is hoping users will migrate towards contactless payment options instead.

Contactless payment has spiked in popularity over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Acting MTA New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg, meanwhile, said in a statement that OMNY is “fundamentally … about bringing a critical part of our system into the 21st century.”

“No more failed swipes, no more losing your MetroCard. Just bring your own device and you can enter the system with ease,” she said.

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