Paying for a ride with New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) just became a little faster. Today, the MTA announced that, along with other payment methods, Apple Pay is coming to new York subways as part of the launch of the One Metro New York (OMNY) on May 31 — a tap-and-pay system that will allow riders to use Apple Pay and Google Pay on subways and buses. To start, the program will be only available to buses on Staten Island and 16 stops on subway lines 4, 5, and 6. There are plans for an expansion to the entire transit system by 2021.
The ultimate goal of OMNY is to phase out the MetroCard by 2023. The MetroCard has a somewhat infamous reputation as being rather unreliable. As one of Mashable's reporters explained, "Even if you're a veteran 'swiper,' the MetroCard often malfunctions if you don't swipe it with just the right amount of force and at an even speed. Yes, really." With OMNY's contactless payment system, the MTA seems to hope these little hiccups and issues — in addition to those caused by people fumbling in front of turnstiles for their MetroCard or long lines for MetroCard machines — will disappear.
Along with removing swiping problems, OMNY will speed up the payment process. Mic got a demonstration of the system that featured an Apple employee using her iPhone and Apple Watch to tap the screen, instantly pay, and unlock the turnstile — with none of the double-clicking or Face ID usually associated with using Apple Pay. Android users won't be left behind in this development, either. OMNY will allow Android riders to use Google Pay on their smartphones for tickets. Google also plans to add a real-time transit tracker on Google Maps, reported Android Central, that will show routes and an ETA for the next train.
According to BuzzFeed News, OMNY will also accept other digital wallets such as Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, and other credit cards with contactless payment functions.
In order for Apple riders to try out this new feature, you must first enable "Apple Wallet & Pay" in Settings and turn on "Express Transit" for the card you wish to use it with. Once you're set up, all you have to do is hold your device over the contactless reader until you get a confirmation. Neither the iPhone nor the Apple Watch needs to be 'awake' for the payment to go through.
For Android users, you will need to attach a credit card to Google Pay, wake up the phone at the entrance, and hold it to the card reader to confirm your payment.
At the moment, riders can only pay for single tickets using these contactless payment methods. Unlimited or reduced fare passes won't be considered, said an MTA spokesperson to Mashable, until the MetroCard is completely phased out. This is to prevent confusion and allow some time for the rollout on all subway lines. In another statement to BuzzFeed News, the MTA reassured cash-preferred riders that they will still be able to use paper money at retail locations and vending machines. However, once the MetroCard is gone, the transit system will switch to contactless payment only.
With OMNY, New York City joins other U.S. and international transit systems that utilize contactless payment such as Portland, Chicago, Japan, Sydney, South Korea, and Singapore.