The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has taken a giant leap forward in modernizing the way New Yorkers and visitors pay for their daily commutes with the introduction of OMNY (One Metro New York). OMNY, a contactless fare payment system, is not just another technological upgrade; it’s a game-changer that promises to revolutionize the way people travel in the Big Apple. OMNY was officially launched in May 2019, starting with a limited pilot program of the Open Payments system to accept physical bank cards and bank cards on mobile Pays on select subway lines and buses. The system’s initial introduction was met with anticipation and excitement, as commuters eagerly embraced the prospect of a more convenient and efficient payment method. Since then, the adoption of Open Payments has been nothing short of impressive.

The system had been deployed on all subway lines and buses in New York City. Commuters across the five boroughs now have easy access to the OMNY readers, ensuring a seamless travel experience, and the MTA has been working on expanding the reach of OMNY as it has started to distribute its closed-loop OMNY cards in retail locations. Just last month, the Roosevelt Island Tramway joined the tap-and-go system and became the first non-MTA operated entity to participate in OMNY. AirTrain JFK will start accepting OMNY’s contactless payments starting 10 October.

The MTA recently reported that approximately 67% of full-fare riders have made the switch from MetroCard to OMNY. Considering the delay in rolling out the OMNY Vending Machines, this figure appears to indicate that overall, the Open Payments system is a big hit. Evidence of this can be seen in OMNY reaching its 1-billion-tap milestone this summer. This is even more impressive considering they reached this milestone five months quicker than the TfL did (in spite of the ridership impacts brought on by the pandemic).

Why is Open Payments so successful for the MTA? Is it just because of the Wall Street executives who ride MTA? Or is it because the agency made a choice to offer Open Payments as the first phase of their new fare payment system, have been marketing it on every bus, subway car and vending machine and have been enhancing the offering with features like fare capping?

If you’re attending the APTA TRANSform conference in Orlando, find Lawrence and Simon who both worked on the OMNY project, and ask us for our thoughts. We would love to chat with you about it!

Cover art: Marc A. Hermann / MTA

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