Ready To Say Goodbye To Your MetroCard?


MetroCard Vending Machines

Don’t worry if the answer is no, because you’ve still got at least five years to get used to the idea. This week is the MetroCard’s 20th birthday, but MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz told Fast Company that the card may not make it to age 30.

The MTA is hoping to replace the cards — which are expensive to produce and are easy to damage and lose — with smartphone and debit card-enabled technology instead. The idea is still rough, but NYC wouldn’t be the first place to look beyond a disposable card or ticketing system.

The article says the MTA could take a hint from the Washington, D.C. Metro or Boston Commuter Rail, which offer durable plastic cards and smartphone-based ticketing, respectively (although due to the volume of subway ridership in New York, the Boston model would have to be tweaked at least a little). And of course, London has the Oyster card.

We’re all for reducing costs and waste (for instance, the $1 fee for new MetroCards is a bummer when we forget ours, but we acknowledge ultimately a good thing), and the material in cards now is awfully easy to bend, so in some ways the idea sounds like a good one. In addition, the article says, the MTA aims to make the future system seamlessly usable for any mode of regional commuting, and it would save us much of the grief associated with traditional MetroCard vending machines.

In other ways we wonder — and it’s tough to imagine how things might change between now and 2019 — will a smartphone or debit card-based system cut off certain age groups, or commuters in a certain income bracket? What if you lose or forget your phone or permanent card — how simply, affordably, and quickly can you obtain a new one? And given our current smartphone theft issues, how will a new system affect crime rates in NYC?

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  1. We should look at the technology being used in South Korea. A buddy of mine just got back and he said they don’t need to swipe their cards through a reader (which, as we all know, can occasionally be quirky), they quickly pass their card over a card reader at the gate and voila- much more efficient tech.

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