Will fare finally be fair to the environment and its riders?

Metrocards are trash. Literally. 

Between refilling and losing cards, a lot of customers can agree that the 27-year old transit fare system should be updated to prioritize New Yorkers’ convenience.

Patrick Foye, the CEO of the MTA, has decided to transition to OMNY by 2023. OMNY – One Metro New York – is a contactless card fare payment system, according to its website, omny.info. 

This new fare payment system claims to be more efficient because of its flexibility. No additional card is required with OMNY making the system more environmentally friendly. New Yorkers can use a contactless credit or debit cards available at most of New York’s major banks–Chase, HSBC, Santander, and Capital One–or they can opt for using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay, or they can use the MTA OMNY app which will launch later this year.

When New Yorkers in Madison Square Park were asked how they felt about the MTA’s plans to update the fare system, responses were initially mixed.

“I like the Metrocard,” said Anne, who recently moved to the city. 

Andrew Introna, a college freshman and New York native, agreed, claiming he liked the convenience of the unlimited card. 

Anne and Andrew had a change of heart when they found out that the plastic used to make metrocards cannot be recycled. The MTA has tried combatting this by adding a $1 charge to newly purchased Metrocards to encourage riders to refill their existing cards. This had little success as Metrocards continue to scatter the floors of subway stations and transit centers.

Apart from the environmental aspect, Metrocards are also a huge waste of money. In 2011, WNYC reported that lost and unused Metrocards across the city add up to $52 million yearly. This is wasted money coming straight out of commuters’ pockets.  

OMNY claims it will improve the efficiency of the MTA, changing the daily commutes of millions of New Yorkers. 

One New Yorker, Victor, was concerned that people without existing credit and debit cards would not be able to use the city’s metro. To address this, OMNY will release its own card by 2021, which will work like a Metrocard. It is still unknown as to whether this OMNY card will be recyclable. 

AM New York reports the new fare system could also make fare more equitable. The MTA has faced backlash because not all New Yorkers can afford the monthly savings pass, despite the fact that New Yorkers of all socioeconomic backgrounds use transit daily. 

David Jones, an MTA board member, told AM New York, “With the [new] technology, if you in fact swipe through enough times in a month you could automatically be given the 30-day benefit,” which would create a more equitable fare system. 

Some New Yorkers were concerned about OMNY’s potential for security risks.“I prefer using a Metrocard because I’m used to it and I feel like using a credit or debit card can be more of a security risk,” said Julia Finnegan, who uses a Metrocard for her daily commute to school. 

Mastercard, which is one of the first companies to release a contactless card, is addressing these concerns by assuring users that the only thing transmitted on a contactless payment is a one-time code from the card to the reader that identifies the transaction. This makes fraud possible, but highly unlikely.

Systems like these have been implemented in cities all over the world. London updated its Oyster fare system in 2019 to ease the commute. Mastercard found that in London the cost to collect fares was reduced by 6% and that it took an average of 500 milliseconds to walk through the turnstile and onto the train platform. 

OMNY is still in its trial phase, but hopefully the MTA will work to smooth out some of the inconveniences the system has been causing in its early launch. Just last week, I tried the system on a Staten Island bound express bus. I tapped my card and found a seat. All was well until I opened my bank account to find that I had been charged $6.75 – the cost of fare – and an additional charge of $2.75 from the MTA. I was confused as to what this second charge was, so I called my bank.They refunded the money and are currently running an investigation to figure out what happened. This seemingly hassle free system ended up wasting more time and energy then it claimed to save. 

I have used OMNY everyday since last week’s incident and have not run into any more issues. 

OMNY is currently available on Staten Island buses and stops on the 4, 5, and 6 lines between Grand Central-42 St and Atlantic Ave -Barclays Center. By late 2020, OMNY will be available across the entire city, adding the Long Island Railroad and Metro North early in 2021. 

Leave a Reply