The New York MTA will soon be testing some new payment options for the city’s subway. Rather than swiping the notoriously finicky MetroCards, riders will be able to use devices enabled with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay or Fitbit Pay to purchase tickets. WIRED’s Aarian Marshall writes:
As any New Yorker knows, the proper way to swipe a MetroCard to get into the subway system—the timing, the speed, the downward pressure—is tricky, but possible to master. The successful MetroCard swipe separates the tourist from the hardened commuter, the New Yorkers of taxicabs and Ubers from the New Yorkers who descend underground daily.
But in the next half-decade or so, those distinctions will vanish, along with the now 26-year-old MetroCard pass. On Friday, New Yorkers get a peek at the future: paying for a transit ride not with a swipe, but just by holding a smartphone or smartwatch near a turnstile.
Starting at noon, contactless fare readers from Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new OMNY system will go into operation at 16 subway stations and on Staten Island buses. To use one, riders with contactless credit or debit cards, or smartphones or smartwatches equipped with mobile wallets, can tap or wave them in the direction of a reader, which will glow blue when they’re ready to use. (You can tell if your credit card is contactless if it has a sort of sideways Wi-Fi symbol on it).
Riders will also be able to use Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay to purchase single tickets. And they’ll be able to create and log on to their own MTA payment accounts, so they can keep track of their rides and add money to their passes from afar. The system—and the ability to use it for monthly or weekly transit passes—should roll out MTA-wide by late 2020. By 2021, riders should also be able to purchase OMNY cards, which they can load with cash and use like today’s MetroCards. OMNY apps for iOS and Android are in production.
Despite New Yorkers’ insistence that they have the best of everything first, the idea of using contactless and mobile payments in a public transit system isn’t new. London, Tokyo, Sydney, Beijing, and Shanghai have had the tech for years. The US has lagged, in part, because contactless credit cards have not taken off here as they did in Europe and Asia. But even Portland, Oregon, beat New York to the transit punch, launching a full-scale Apple Pay integration this month.
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