Wireless Payments Will Finally Come to the NYC Subway By 2021

Illustration for article titled Wireless Payments Will Finally Come to the NYC Subway By 2021

The MTA’s MetroCard system is a source of frustration for regular commuters and presidential hopefuls alike. A plan to replace the magnetic cards with a modern contactless system has been in the works forever, and now the MTA is finally taking bids on the project.

The public bid details a system that would let bus and train users tap a “contactless bank card, smartphone or any mobile device, or MTA-issued smart card against an electronic reader”. It sounds like the system will use a NFC-type communication, rather than the QR-code-scanning systems previously proposed, as seen in the image above.

It’s far from a novel idea: London has had a contactless Oyster system in place since 2003, and these days it also accepts NFC mobile devices and contactless payment cards. Contactless has obvious benefits: it’s faster for users, normally more reliable, and far more secure than magstripe cards.


Unfortunately, retrofitting such a payment system to the behemoth that is the MTA network will take time. The first readers would go into place on some lines and buses in 2018, but full rollout isn’t targeted until 2021—and remember, that’s an MTA schedule.

[MTA via The Verge]

Contributing Editor

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I’ve been using the Metrocard since it was introduced and find it works very well. I can have both an unlimited and pay-per-ride for guests in my wallet. Based on the article it seems the cards will be replaced with wireless. What happens if my smartphone’s battery is dead or I forgot it at home, or elsewhere? Also using it, especially at busy stations, means more chances of dropping it. If there’s a choice then I’m fine with the change.