Tickets. Tokens. MetroCards. Soon, iPhones?
Cubic Transportation Systems has been awarded a $573 million contract by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York to implement a payment mode replacement for the New York City region’s transit systems.
By the end of the year, 14 subway stations will be equipped with readers that will interact with NFC-embedded bank cards and dedicated transit cards as well as smartphones with Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. In the next 18 months, those readers will come to about 500 turnstiles and 600 buses — readers can be equipped at all doors of a bus, reducing boarding times. At some point, the city’s two commuter rail systems — the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Rail Road — will also accept payment through this method through the eTix app.
The entire network of subway stations and buses is expected to be modified by late 2020. The MetroCard will then be phased out in 2023.
Cubic also provides the payment infrastructure for Transport for London, which allows for Android Pay users to tap in and out of the region’s nebulous network.
Since the MTA’s inception in 1904, paper tickets and US currency were used for admission. In 1953, passengers began purchasing tokens from stationmasters to hitch a ride across the city. Those coins lasted through 1997, when the MetroCard debuted and people started swiping magnetically-striped cards at turnstiles. A pilot program to test a MetroCard replacement in 2006, back when contactless credit and debit cards were just being introduced to the United States, fruited no change to payment options.
The agency’s buses and trains served more than 8.5 million passengers per weekday in 2015, the latest year for when information is available.