MTA Switches Its Payment System… Debrief

New York, NY–On April 26, 2022, a class of Pace University students gathered to discuss the new tap-and-go payment method, OMNY, recently implemented by New York City’s MTA. After going around the room and sharing ridership habits and preferred payment methods, a discussion began on the several benefits OMNY has to offer, including fare caps, user friendly interface and quick, contactless payments. This shift to digital wallets, however, leave many concerned for those with less accessible resources, including the homeless population in NYC. Questions also arose on the state’s budget and allocation of funds towards projects for the MTA.

Many students admitted they use OMNY as their main source of payment for train/bus fare, either using Apple Pay on their phone or tapping an electronic chipped card–from time to time, MetroCards are purchased (single rides and unlimited passes), while only one person in the class has purchased a physical OMNY card in the past.

Still, the group highlighted the long history behind the MetroCard and its representation of the foot traffic of the busy, bustling city nearly three decades ago. All age groups are familiar with the flimsy, reloadable card that swipes people into the stations; they are used to standing in line and loading their balance with physical money, keeping track of the time or amount left on their card. Considering the switch to OMNY is already more than a year behind schedule, it’s safe to say the MTA’s change in payment methods won’t be easy.

The cost behind this transition is a whopping $772 million, according to MTA Head of Fares Systems, Amy Linden, which Pace students believe should be used in other ways to benefit the city. Some suggestions around the room included more public libraries, faster wait times for buses/trains, more cleaning services across the city and in stations, larger homeless shelters/outreach facilities, proper NYPD training for deescalation tactics and handling the mentally unstable.

Ultimately, the consensus among the class was while OMNY is undoubtedly convenient in this contactless era (post-quarantine), the gradual phasing out of MetroCards may leave the less fortunate at yet anotherdisadvantage in the state of New York. 

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MTA Switches Its Payment System After Nearly 30 Years—Is OMNY The End of The MetroCard? 

By: Nataly Aviles    April 26, 2022


NEW YORK, NY—With over 1 million taps recorded by the MTA system every day, as of April 8, 2022, the new tap-and-go payment method, OMNY, is proving successful in the contactless era of New York. According to MTA Head of Fares Systems, Amy Linden, the $772 million dollar project is expected to be fully implemented by late 2024, allowing city transit riders to tap with any smart device or microchipped card to pay the $2.75 fare. Prepaid, tappable OMNY cards will also be available for purchase at subway stations and select retailers across New York City.

OMNY, or “One Metro New York,” is one of the many ways the MTA is trying to revive rider membership post-quarantine; the contactless method is connected to an individual’s digital wallet and is meant to be a quick and easy way to enter the subway system. Riders no longer need to wait in line to refill their MetroCard or worry about broken turnstiles with OMNY; just tap your device at an OMNY reader, and go. Currently, all MTA train stations and buses have functional OMNY card readers. If a reader is not properly functioning, however, MTA employees are instructed to allow riders through to ease the transition to OMNY. This virtual method of payment is also meant to reduce the tedious task of handling paper money—according to the American Public Transportation Association, the MTA collected over $1.5 billion in cash in 2019, spending 13% of the funds just to process it.

For those still seeking to purchase physical OMNY cards with cash, plastic cards will be available for $5 at vending machines inside of subway stations and over 2,000 retail/drug stores across NYC—such as 7-11, CVS and Walgreens. In comparison to the current MetroCard, the OMNY card is made of a thick plastic, expires after 7 years and functions with the tap of an electronic chip instead of a magnetic bar that swipes.

Price is another difference between the two payment methods. Currently, MetroCard users have the option to purchase $2.75 single ride passes, $33 7-day unlimited passes and $127 30-day unlimited passes. Select riders, such as students and senior citizens, are also granted fare reductions and other deals. To compete, OMNY is running a four month-long fare cap; the “Best Fare” program grants any rider who taps at least 12 times with the same device unlimited rides for the rest of the week, Monday through Sunday, according to the MTA Board of NYC. While similar to the $33 7-day unlimited pass, the cost through OMNY is split up throughout the week as you ride, instead of upfront in a single amount. OMNY also plans to eventually honor the same fare reductions as MetroCard, as stated by the MTA.

In order to carry out the switch to OMNY, an additional 1,600 vending machines will be installed at all subway stations over the span of 13 months, starting late 2022. A mobile app is currently under work and is planned to launch in 2023. By 2024, the MetroCard may be a relic of the past.

According to Linden, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has not made this process easy. A delay in the production of reusable OMNY cards is due to the global shortage of plastic and electronic chips. There are still technical issues and security risks to be addressed. Many critique and question the gradual pull away from paper money. For these reasons, the initial plan to implement OMNY is more than a year behind schedule.

“We will make sure this system is fully operational before we retire anything,” said MTA Chief Customer Officer, Sarah Meyer.

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