The MTA wants the MetroCard to go the way of the token in 2019, but it may end up sticking around a little longer, according to officials.

The search for a new way to pay fares is pegged for 2019 because by then the MetroCard system will be more difficult and costly to keep in a state of good repair. Though the MTA has budgeted to keep it in working order through 2020, an independent engineering consultant suggested that it would be "prudent" for the MetroCard system to be able to stick around for several years in case of delays.

"It will give the program the flexibility they need to turn off the MetroCard at appropriate steps in accord with the actual implementation of the new fare payment program," said the consultant, Kent Haggas.

The new system being developed could include bank-issued or transit-only smart cards and phones for contactless payment. The MTA will put out a bid for a contract for a system supplier toward the end of the year. The beginning of a three-year window to phase in the new technology could begin as early as late 2016.

"We know this is an aggressive schedule" said Michael DeVitto, MTA vice president and program executive for the fare payment programs. "But at this point, we believe it is achievable and we want to hold ourselves to this as a reachable goal."

But the independent engineer cited the aggressive schedule as a challenge to the fare payment program, noting the MTA's timeline is shorter than other North American cities that had installed new technology,

"The bottom line is that MTA's peers in North America have taken from roughly five to 10 years to implement a system like this," Haggas, the independent consultant, said.