The MTA is piloting a dozen new vending machines at major transit hubs starting today, the agency announced.
At 10 stations, including Atlantic Avenue – Barclays Center in Brooklyn, credit card-carrying travelers will be able to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) that will enable them to comply with regulations in place regarding COVID-19 precautions – reusable face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes.
“The national increase in Covid-19 cases shows how important it is for us to maintain vigilance on use of masks and other PPE,” said Sarah Feinberg, Interim President of MTA New York City Transit said in a statement. “We want to make it as easy as possible for customers who may not have masks to get them so they can ride the subway. Wearing a mask is the single most important thing our customers can do to protect themselves and those around them – and more than that, it’s absolutely required to ride the system.”
MTA is piloting machines supplied by two companies – eight are by Canteen, a division of the Compass Group, who will service the machines built by Vengo who manufactures retail vending machines. Four machines branded as “Simply” have been installed and stocked by vending machine company Swyft. MTA spokesperson Kayla Shults tells us this is an extension of a two-year pilot that began last year with CVS vending machines at Chambers St and Union Square.
The MTA did not respond to our inquiry about the plans for rollout across the system. When asked about machines accepting cards only excluding unbanked New Yorkers, and whether this undertaking is primarily a public health initiative or another revenue stream for the MTA as $11.99 for a 3.4oz hand sanitizer is at least twice the rate of what one could procure it on say Amazon, MTA had this to say:
“The vending machines are in addition to other ways we’ve made PPE available. The MTA is offering hand sanitizers in bird cages throughout stations, along with free masks, hand sanitizer and gloves in station booths. We hope these machines, and the steps we have already taken, will be useful and can reach as many people as possible so that all of our riders are protected,” Kayla Shults emailed.
“The MTA is not competing with Amazon, because Amazon cannot deliver PPE to stations immediately. The vending machines are meant to be a way for customers to get the best possible PPE they can whenever they need it. The MTA is predicting a $10B deficit, which will not be solved by the minimal rent the agency is receiving from the vending machines. This is a health and safety initiative in addition to the other safety initiatives the MTA has taken ahead of agencies across the world including rear-door boarding and cashless transactions.”MTA also shared a list of prices for items sold in the vending machines:
- 10-pack of disposable masks for $12.49
- Reusable cloth masks, $5.99
- KN95 masks $9.99
- Wipes $2.25
- Single use hand sanitizer 75 cents
- 2-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer $4.99
- Kits including a mask, wipes and gloves are $6.49
It is also unclear if the prices for products sold will vary between the companies – Simply does seem to offer more expensive products.
For those without $11.99 for hand sanitizer, the MTA is also distributing hand sanitizer made in NY state prisons at every station as well as 2 million single-use surgical masks to customers at station booths for free.
UPDATED at 8:59 pm to reflect MTA’s response to our questions.