Why NYC's Public Transit System Is Ditching The Trusty MetroCard

Nyc metrocardspaulmmay / Creative CommonsThe 20-year-old MetroCard should be gone by the end of this decade.

After 20 years in service, New York’s MetroCard is being readied for retirement.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) hopes to have a new fare payment system in place by 2019.

It’s unclear what the new system will look like, but we know it will allow riders to pay using near-field communication or radio-frequency identification (RFID), so they can just tap their card as they move onto a bus or through a turnstile.

The introduction of the MetroCard, which replaced tokens, brought great improvements to the city’s bus and subway systems. Thanks to those changes, New Yorkers pay less now to ride the subway now than they did in 1996.

So what’s the upside of ditching the MetroCard?

In an October interview, MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan highlighted three potential benefits of an RFID-system.

First, it will be faster to get people onto buses. Now, each customer dips their MetroCard, and each person needs a few seconds. When ridership is high, that slows things down. With a tap card, each rider could board the bus at the speed it takes them to physically step aboard.

Secondly, the tap cards could eliminate swipe errors at subway turnstiles. That will save New Yorkers bruises on their thighs, and keep everyone moving through stations quickly.

Lastly, it could save the MTA some money. The new cards would be made and distributed by a third party. Without a fleet of card vending machines to maintain, the MTA would have more resources for other projects, or to keep fares down a bit.

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