MTA envisions MetroCard-free future

metrocard mta
Credit: Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Most veteran subway riders swipe their MetroCards with expertise perfected only through years of practice.

But, after the card’s 20th anniversary last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority envisions a city where straphangers tap and scan their way across the five boroughs.

“The MetroCard system is nearing the end of its useful life,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said, “almost to the point of really becoming obsolete.”

The MTA hopes to replace the MetroCard — considered a revolutionary replacement for the subway token in 1994 — with an inclusive system allowing for multiple methods of payment. These might include bank-issued tap-and-go smartcards, scannable smartphone apps or some other future technology that would ease commutes and operational costs.

The MetroCard costs the MTA roughly $6 million annually, Ortiz said, as older equipment becomes more expensive to keep operational.

“It’s almost like trying to maintain your 8-track music collection on tapes,” said Bill Henderson, executive director of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.

The MTA has been moving toward an alternative since 2006, when contactless payment methods were first researched, but plans have stalled in recent years.

Now, the authority aims to have a MetroCard replacement fully implemented by 2019, Ortiz said, when the current system becomes too costly to maintain.

The MTA plans to file a request for proposals this year, and to award a contract by 2015.

Ortiz said the MTA hopes to let riders scan their phones at the turnstile with the new system. The MetroCard’s replacement might also permit riders to pay fares directly using debit or credit cards enabled with RFID or NFC, which allows for contactless transactions. Chicago’s Ventra Card and London’s Oyster Card use this technology.

“Transit systems are moving from storing the fare value on the physical card to having the card be an identifier that processes the payment through a computer system,” explained Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, a nonprofit that works with agencies like the MTA to increase understanding of smartcard technology.

The MTA hopes the update will allow riders to transfer more easily between bus, subway and rail lines. In the future, the same device might be used to pay within other agencies, like PATH or NJ Transit.

Advocates said the updates would be a boon for riders.

“There would be less maintenance to it,” Henderson said. “At the end of the day, after heavy usage, you have to swipe the MetroCard two or three times to get through.”

Straphangers Campaign spokesman Gene Russianoff said the MTA’s proposals are more convenient for everyday life.

“A ton of people have smartphones,” he said.

The MTA would also sell a physical device of some kind for riders without access to bank-issued cards or smartphones, Ortiz said.

Here lies potentially the only cause for complaint, Russianoff said. It’s likely that device would cost more than the $1 MetroCard fee.

“I don’t think there’s strong arguments against doing it,” he said. “But this is New York — I’m not going to say no one will be grumbling.”

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.