This week the city’s transport authority, the MTA, took the decision to go contactless, meaning passengers will be able to wave their smartphones or credit and debit cards at the turnstiles and gain access to the city’s much-maligned transport system. The contactless payment method is already in use in London on the Underground.
“It’s the next step in bringing us into the 21st century, which we need to do,” said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the transit authority told The New York Times. “It’s going to be transformative.”
The change won’t be instant, and those who really like their MetroCards will be able to use them until 2023, by which time they’ll have been phased out. The MTA plans to install new readers for contactless payments in 500 subway turnstiles and on 6,000 buses starting in late 2018, and fit them on the rest of the subway stations and buses by 2020.
Almost every New Yorker has a tale of frustration about the current MetroCards. They’re far too bendable, easy to lose, and sometimes stop working for no apparent reason. A contactless payment system will make them a thing of the past, and will also make the clunky card machines seen at stations redundant at the same time. There’s nothing more exasperating than standing in a long line to renew your card while you helplessly watch your train leave.
The new system will also make it easier for tourists to get around the city. The MetroCard can be a confusing thing for those people new to New York, and if they’re able to use universal methods like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, the levels of confusion at the turnstiles should be reduced dramatically.
This update may bring some satisfaction to New York commuters who have had their patience tested over the past year. There have been delays on every line, malfunctions during rush hours, a derailed train in June, and other issues that can make traveling on the subway an enraging experience. The subway service got so bad this summer, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency. Those problems will take considerable more time and effort to fix than the MetroCard system, but for beleaguered New York commuters, at least it’s a start.