Subway tokens were done away with 14 years ago. And the ubiquitous MetroCard, modern when swipes started in 1993, is on its way out.
The MTA says a replacement to the MetroCard will hopefully be in use next year and fully implemented by 2022.
The transit agency announced last year that it was planning to replace the MetroCard with “contactless media” used in London and other cities. This week, the agency said it hopes to start implementing the system soon, a move that comes as it looks to modernize its aging trains and stations.
Matthew Hudson of Transport for London told an NYU transit summit this week that using bank cards or smartphones is the fastest way to get through a turnstile.
“If you do get it right, it’s amazing what other good things also come your way,” Hudson said.
“The major benefit is customers love it. They make their journeys easy,” he told NBC 4 New York.
This past summer, Mark Wild, executive director of the London Underground, told NBC 4 that London “probably [has] the most advanced contactless system in the world.”
Metro-North and LIRR already use electronic smartphone tickets, but replacing the MetroCard will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take years.
The MTA estimates that while it will implement the new fare payment system soon and start using it next year, it won’t eliminate MetroCards for another five years. (It took eight years to phase out the old token system.)
In a statement on Friday, MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said: "The MTA is moving aggressively to develop and implement a new contactless fare payment system with an experienced provider that will incorporate best practices from across the world and the newest state-of-the-art technology to deliver a first-rate system for our customers.”
NYU professor Mitchell Moss, who advises MTA’s leadership as it undergoes Chairman Joseph Lhota's newly unveiled NYC Subway Action Plan, said implementing a contactless system will be worth the wait.
“Anytime you’re making a decision for a system that has six million riders a day, you want to take time, you want to do it right,” Moss said.