If you been to New York City in the past 30 years or so and have used public transportation, chances are you’ve used MetroCards, those yellow and blue swipe cards. Part NYC staple and part annoyance (Any other tourists ever deal with these? You swiped too fast. You swiped too slow. You can’t top your card off so it ends up “even” by the time you go home. And heaven forbid you have several cards that’ve expired – why the hell do they expire??? – and you want to combine them all into one new card), they’ve been around since the early 1990s. But now, it seems, they’re going away in favor of (gasp!) 21st century technology.
The NY Mass Transit Association (MTA) announced in 2017 that the Metrocard’s days were numbered. And now the MTA has made it publicly known that MetroCards are finally going to be replaced by a tap and pay system at all stations and buses citywide. If you’ve used public transit in London, San Francisco or Boston, you’ll be familiar with the system.
To board a NYC subway or bus, MTA riders will eventually have the option of tapping their phone, using a smart card, bank card or mobile wallet from Google, Samsung or Apple against a new fare reader, called a “validator.”
Of course, nothing happens quickly in New York (except how fast they speak. I can say that; I may live in FL now, but I’m a native New Yorker. Brooklyn & Staten island…represent!) so it’s going to take about five years for all stations to make the transition. But they’re starting this up soon – in May 2019, the first station changes will be on the 4, 5 and 6 lines between Grand Central-42nd Street and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as well as on all express and local bus routes on Staten Island.
The authority plans to launch the contactless system citywide by October 2020, but MetroCards will still be accepted until 2023. The smart cards (which, of course, will be proprietary) should be available at drugstores and other retailers in February 2021 and the cards will be stocked in MTA vending machines beginning in March 2022.
The new system does not have a name yet. In the spirit of Australia’s doomed “name that ferry” contest, I suggest Subwayfare McSubwayfareface. 😉
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary