New York's MetroCard Turns 20

Monday, January 06, 2014 - 04:52 PM

It's one year away from legal drinking age, but New York's MetroCard won't last much longer.

On January 6, 1994, the MetroCard debuted at two subway stations in lower Manhattan. 

The MTA credits the MetroCard with some huge transit successes  -- like the monthly unlimited pass, and the ability to transfer between buses and subways, both of which have boosted ridership tremendously -- but it only has a few more years left in it.

"This is equipment that is reaching the end of its useful life," says MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, "almost to the point of becoming obsolete. And it's becoming increasingly expensive to maintain."

Later this year, the MTA will issue a request for proposals. The goal is to have a new fare payment system in place by 2019. What it will look like yet the agency can't quite say, but it will have interoperability (meaning it will work on subways, buses, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, and maybe even other regional transit systems like the PATH) and customers will likely be able to use their cell phones to pay fares. It won't involve another MetroCard-like device, as the MTA wants to get out of the business of producing fare cards.

The unlimited MetroCard debuted in 1998, after a protracted battle with the state over the MTA's finances.   The token was phased out in 2004.

Fun fact: the original MetroCard was blue (see an image here). "We changed it to MetroCard gold when we rolled out the combination of free transfers as well as the bonus and unlimited cards," said Ortiz.



Comments [7]



Jan. 14 2014 03:42 PM
MRF from Jackson Heights

A sensible idea especially for people who do not have cell phones the a RFID key fob like those used at chain stores or some gas stations. They can be refilled at any station kiosk.

Jan. 07 2014 10:40 PM

MTA needs to employ thicker, reusable cards with RFID or similar technology that can be topped up with on-site machines in Subway stations or online. People's wallets are still going to be the same size in 2019, y'all.

Implementing a system that relies on users to have a cell phone or other mobile device would be completely ludicrous.

Look at what Montreal is doing with their OPUS card.

Jan. 07 2014 08:25 PM

What about the elderly and the disabled people who choose to ride the subways and buses to get around town, is there going to be a separate type of half fare type of metro card for them? For people like myself who are out on disability due to health problems and are on fixed incomes, are we due to get a new half fare card or, do we count with the M.T.A anymore?

Jan. 07 2014 02:00 PM
DWBrooklyn from Brooklyn

And when your cellphone battery goes dead?
Bad idea!

Jan. 07 2014 01:21 PM

You know, I don't mind having to pay $1 for a thin piece of plastic that costs $.0001 to make. But I DO mind paying $1 to carry around stupid advertising for the NFL or some other (obnoxious tax-evading non-profit) organization. If we have to pay for them, we should be able to choose a generic card. If we're forced to carry billboards for organizations, it should be free.

Jan. 07 2014 11:54 AM

& for those who choose NOT to have cell phones??? What's the MTA's workaround???

Jan. 07 2014 10:14 AM

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