The new mobile phone scanner installed at a turnstile.
Subway tokens have been out of commission since 2003, and New Yorkers, visitors, and tourists alike have used yellow MetroCards to ride the subway ever since. The MetroCard, however, may soon be a thing of the past as well: the MTA has officially begun testing a mobile phone payment and scanning system.
Aimed for the moment at commuters riding the train and then transferring to the subway, the new mobile ticketing service is actually the expansion of one already in place for riders on the Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road who use the MTA’s eTix app. The MTA is testing out the expansion at specific stations where riders on the Metro-North and LIRR usually transfer with turnstiles now fitted with new scanners for commuters to swipe their phones past, instead of using their MetroCard.
According to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, turnstiles in Lower Manhattan’s Bowling Green and Wall Street Stations have already been installed with such a scanner for a period of testing.
The expansion serves as a pilot for what will eventually be a long phase-out of the MetroCard. Considered a novel innovation in the 1990s, the MetroCard is now a relic as more transit agencies are adopting modern payment options that allow riders to pay through apps, bank, or proprietary cards.
Speaking to am New York, Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, welcomed the testing and said it will be important for the MTA to consider technology that will expand options for riders. “The MetroCard has been a great tool, but it’s outlived its usefulness. Cities from London to Los Angeles are definitely, at this point, ahead of the MTA in terms of fare technology and it’s good that we’re thinking of how to catch up.”
According to NY1, MTA officials stress that this only a test, and that the fare payment method may look completely different in the future.
Subway tokens were used before being completely phased out in 2003 by the MetroCard.
MTA Board Member Andrew Albert agreed with Sifuentes, saying “There are a lot of issues with MetroCard — from the ‘please swipe again here’ message, the stripe wearing out.”
The new mobile scanners are slated to be installed in 14 key stations around the city before the end of the year, including Penn Station, Grand Central, the 14th St-7th Ave. Station, as well as the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center Station. See the scanners in action in a news report done by NY1.
Next, get A Sneak Peek at the MTA’s New Open Gangway Subway Car Prototype and check out The Top 10 Secrets of the NYC Subway.