A Guide to New York City’s Apple Pay-Friendly OMNY Fare System

New York City's new OMNY contactless fare collection system

By Jesse Sokolow on 17 January 2020
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New York City’s transit system is the largest in North America and its metro system has the most stops in the world.  Now, using it has become a tap simpler.

OMNY, which is short for One Metro New York, features a contactless fare collection system similar to those in use in other major cities.  It supports contactless systems such as Apple Pay and Android Pay as well as the city’s MetroCard replacement, OMNY, and was introduced in a limited fashion last May.

“It’s the next step in bringing us into the 21st century, which we need to do,” said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the MTA, in 2017 when OMNY was first announced.

Last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s buses and trains, announced a major milestone for OMNY, namely its 5 millionth tap.

“The rate at which New Yorkers and visitors are using OMNY has surpassed our most ambitious estimates, and that’s a testament to the system’s popularity,” said MTA NYC Transit president Andy Byford.

Currently,OMNY will only support pay-per-ride fares and no advance purchase is required. The MTA plans to add support for reduced fares and time-based passes by the end of the year.

The MTA added 60 subway stations to those where OMNY is supported in early January, including major transit hubs such as Herald Square, 47-50 Streets-Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, West 4 Street-Washington Square, World Trade Center, and Jay Street-MetroTech.

This will make multiple new subway lines available to OMNY users including the B and D lines from 145 Street to West 4 Street-Washington Square, the F and M lines between 47-50 Streets-Rockefeller Center and West 4 Street-Washington Square, and A and C on 8th Avenue to Jay Street-MetroTech in Brooklyn, and the E line from 50 Street to the end of the line at World Trade Center.

This brings the total number of stations to 150, and brings the city closer to its goal of having completing the system’s rollout by the end of 2020.   OMNY will also be rolled out to the city’s two commuter railroads, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North.

Apple has made it easy to use OMNY and other contactless fare systems around the world with the introduction of a feature called Express Transit.  With Express Transit turned on, it is not necessary to authenticate using Face ID or Touch ID when transiting a turnstile.

The move to OMNY hasn’t happened without some controversy: dozens of subway riders are complaining that they are being charged double for some trips when using an unlimited MetroCard and their Apple iPhone is too close to the OMNY reader

When the first subway began operations in New York, paper tickets cost five cents. The city discontinued paper tickets with the introduction of the turnstile, which required the insertion of a nickel and, starting in 1948, a dime. The once ubiquitous subway token was introduced in 1953, when fares rose to 15 cents. Tokens were phased out in 2003 in favor of the MetroCard, which had been introduced in 1994. The city plans to eliminate the MetroCard by 2023.

Today, in addition to Apple Pay and Android Pay, travelers can use Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay as well as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover cards that support contactless payment.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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