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What's Going To Replace New York's MetroCards?

By 2019 all New York City MetroCards will be dropped to the wayside and replaced with either smartphones, keychains, or credit cards.

What's Going To Replace New York's MetroCards?

[Image: Flickr user Marianne O'Leary]

Have you ever lost your subway pass? Or been forced to swipe again by a bleeping turnstile? Or maybe you've had to pay a whopping $1 fee to get a replacement card? Well, thanks to the MTA, the MetroCard's death is nigh. Okay, so the program is forecasted for induction in 2019, but still, five years isn't too far off.

Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesperson, explained to Fast Company that "MetroCards is a system that is reaching the end of its useful life. Its equipment is on the verge of becoming obsolete." The flimsy paper and plastic cards are reportedly used by over 5 million New York commuters daily and as the MTA celebrates the card's 20-year anniversary, plans for integrating smartphones or contactless cards as a replacement are being put into motion.

In 1994, the MTA enlisted Cubic to provide vending machines supplying the subway passes that currently inhabits all metro stops, replacing the bygone token. After 20 years the system is definitely in need of a major overhaul.

In spite of the desire for a subway pass evolution, Ortiz said that technological advancements don't presently fit the demands of NYC riders—that's why they are waiting until 2019. For instance, a smartphone app is a viable option where metro travelers could swipe their phones as payment, but not everyone has a smartphone yet. And the other idea of using NFC and RFID payments where people tap credit cards instead of swiping them, would require that all credit cards or debit cards adopt an NFD or RFID infrastructure, which is also not in place at present.

Boston was the first city in the U.S. to launch a smartphone commuter rail system in 2012, proving that a smartphone payment structure could work. Portland followed suit by introducing mobile ticketing last year.

It is likely that the MTA "will issue a request for proposal sometime this year and grant the most promising tech company a contract 'most likely in 2015.'" Last year, Control Group was awarded a contract to design and deploy On The Go Interactive Way-finding kiosks in the subway and rail system to radically improve the display maps, system alerts, and advertisements underground. 90 of these installations are set to hit heavy-trafficked stations soon in the hopes of improving New Yorkers' and visitors' overall commutes.