Goodbye MetroCard, hello Oyster

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

It has been about 20 years since MTA New York City Transit phased out tokens for the now-iconic MetroCard farecard used on the system’s subways and buses. Now, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be phasing in a new system similar to Transport for London’s Oyster open-payment, contactless-based fare collection system.

The MTA on Oct. 25 awarded a $539.5 million contract with options worth $33.9 million to Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS) to replace the MetroCard, which CTS supplied in the mid-1990s. The new system will provide customers with the ability to:

• Use credit/debit cards and mobile phones at the turnstile or on the bus, instead of purchasing and adding value to a separate fare card, “offering a retail payment experience to transit.” For those customers without a bank card or who prefer not to use one, a contactless card option will still be available with the same account management convenience features.

• Create personalized transit accounts to see ride history, check balances, add value, as well as report lost or stolen cards to protect funds.

• Use mobile phones as they would ticket vending machines to check account balances and recharge fare accounts from any location with cellular data or WiFi access. “As a result, customers will experience greater convenience and shorter lines, allowing them to move faster through the transit system,” CTS noted.

Replacing the MetroCard “will reduce costs for the MTA by significantly reducing the dispensing of fare media, streamlining fare calculation and phasing out 20-year-old equipment that is more costly to maintain each year,” CTS said. “Ultimately, the new system will provide an enhanced and integrated travel experience across the region including seamless access to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North.”

CTS will be responsible for the design, integration, supply and implementation of the new fare payment system; associated services for platform hosting, hardware and software maintenance; and transition services including supplemental call center support. Equipment will include fare validators and new configurable ticket vending machines in the MTA’s 472 subway stations and 6,000 buses. The contract’s option will support LIRR and Metro-North with purchase of additional validation and vending equipment.

CTS subcontractors in New York State will provide manufacturing, call center and marketing services to the MTA. Transport for London and Mastercard are also Cubic partners in the contract.

New York MTA customers will be able to use MetroCards during the transition.








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