MetroCard facing extinction after 20 years

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

The MetroCard just turned 20 years old and it looks like it’s time for it to retire, according to the MTA.

By 2019, the transit agency is looking to fully replace the MetroCard with an account based, contactless card system, in an effort to save money.

Since the MetroCard was introduced two decades ago, it has been a “tremendous success,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. According to him, the new technology has contributed to increased ridership, going from 1 billion to 1.6 billion in the last 20 years.

But, “the MetroCard and its technology is nearing its end of its useful life,” he said.

The MTA spends about $6 million a year printing MetroCards, plus the cost of maintaining the MetroCard machines, according to Ortiz. The older technology is also costly to maintain because it can only be provided by one vendor, he added.

In March 2013, along with fare hikes, the transit agency introduced a “New Card Fee,” where riders need to pay $1 each time they buy a new MetroCard at a machine or station booth.

A new system could also allow riders to use the same ticketing method across more than just city subways and buses, including the MTA’s regional rails, and even New Jersey Transit and other local transportation systems, according to Ortiz.

Other major cities in the country have already adapted this type of ticketing system, as well cards that use contactless readers, and can automatically deduct money from a person’s bank account or credit card.

“We want to expand customer choice [and] customer convenience through technology,” Ortiz said.

The MTA is also thinking of offering a way riders can pay using their smartphones.

For customers who might not have a bank account or credit card, Ortiz said the MTA “would develop a system that would accommodate those customers.”