By 2023, the MTA plans to replace MetroCard machines with OMNY vending machines. Launched in May 2019, OMNY is a method of contactless payment via credit or debit card. This change will affect all public transit options across the five boroughs. The change will affect NICE buses in Long Island as well. MetroCard funds cannot be transferred to the OMNY system.
In the OMNY system, commuters tap their smartphone or credit card on the reader. The “Go” screen verifies successful fare payment. Currently, OMNY only offers a pay-per-ride and free transfer options. There are no reduced fare options at this time. After the twelfth ride, all future trips are free for the week’s remainder. Ads for the system proclaim that thirteen is a commuter’s new lucky number.
The MTA site promotes optional online OMNY accounts in which commuters can manage the details of their trips in one place. Features include viewing transportation history and managing bank cards. The MTA claims that an account allows for easier customer service access. Commuters can use email, Google, and Apple accounts to sign up. Signing up through Facebook is temporarily unavailable.
MTA and credit card executives note a successful implementation of OMNY machines. MTA OMNY Fare Payments Executive Director Al Putre remains “proud of the MTA team responsible for bringing a truly modern fare payment system to all of our 5,800 buses and all 472 subway stations.” New York City Transit Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer praised the ease, speed, and safety that OMNY presents. Many other MTA executives issued similar sentiments.
Some New Yorkers agree with the MTA executives. Under #OMNY on Twitter, one user celebrated her first contactless fare purchase. She tweeted that she truly felt like she was part of the MTA transition. Another user described how giddy she felt after using Apple Pay to pay her subway fare. A third user said that OMNY represents equity in the transportation sector.
In the Reddit community r/OMNY, users have been troubleshooting the new payment system. One user has said that commuters must register for an account to receive the fare cap. Another user argued that no registration is required. A third user reported kiosk errors that occurred on an express bus. Other questions posted include “account repeatedly activated/suspended” and “can’t register for account.”
The NY Daily News reports the financial strain that commuters may feel from the payment method. An editor from their paper did not receive the promised fare cap after their twelfth ride.
Instead, the editor was charged an extra $5.50 for multiple rides. With both rent and inflation on the rise, this can affect New Yorkers who rely on public transit.
In #OMNY, Twitter users are reporting similar difficulties. One user reported that they are having a challenging time disputing fare overcharges. Another user declared that the OMNY system is broken after her payments kept bouncing back. She mentioned failed attempts to receive customer service help. Yet a third user wishes that OMNY included multiple-door bus boarding to prevent long lines on Select Bus Service transportation.
Many Queens College students commute to campus. Senior Double Math and Physics Major Juan Javier Arcenas said, “There’s an issue that comes from escalating to a system that facilitates even easier tracking of private data.” Junior Psychology Major David Meron expressed, “This is going to make it even harder for people without means to get from place to place.” Junior Math Major Khalil Allwood asked, “why must there be one or the other?”