New York City’s Metro Transit Authority (MTA) is planning to replace its MetroCard payment system with a new one that includes contactless payments, according to minutes from a capital program oversight committee meeting on Tuesday.
The minutes outline a system that would extend beyond the MTA to other New York transit agencies.
The agency has pegged the total cost of replacing the MetroCard with contactless payments at $US450 million.
The plan would bring contactless payments to buses first, followed by subways, and would include vending machines by 2022.
An MTA spokesperson told Business Insider that a request for proposal (RFP) for a contactless payment system would be made public sometime in February or March.
The MTA doesn’t point to a particular technology in its plans, but whatever it decides on will almost certainly have a mobile component and a dedicated app.
The transit agency has envisioned a system where “customers pay fares by tapping a contactless bankcard, smartphone, or an MTA-issued smartcard against an electronic reader,” according to the minutes.
Part of the reason the MTA’s plans remain vague has to do with timing. The organisation plans to let companies bid on the project until mid-2016. Assuming the MTA sticks to its current plans, the new system won’t be ready for New Yorkers until early 2020. By 2022, New York subways may not accept MetroCards.
It’s too early to tell which companies will bid on the MTA’s project, but it’s possible the transit agency could decide to adopt the near-field communication (NFC) platform that Apple and Google use for their mobile wallets.
Whether NFC catches on with consumers remains to be seen. A lot can happen in five years and there’s no reason to think a company couldn’t come up with a new, amazingly convenient platform by 2020.
Next for the MTA is a vendor forum in February, where officials could meet with potential vendors to discuss the project.