The MTA announced the first step to make MetroCards go the way of the token.

The agency launched a request for ideas Tuesday for the next generation of subway and bus payments that would use near-field communication technology for fares starting at 2018 at the earliest. Straphangers would just have to tap a smart card, smartphone or similar device on a reader to go past a turnstile or pay for a bus ride.

“The main goal is to establish the foundation for interoperability of purchasing for various agencies and provide customers with a range of options as available,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said of the $619 million upgrade.

The RFP, which has a due date of June 23, is seeking designers who can create a system that would create, install and test the system. Once selected, the winner will have a 69 month contract for “substantial completion” and the first readers would be out around 2018.

LIRR and MetroNorth users will have the new devices as an option later this year. Ortiz said there is no timetable as to when MetroCards will be phased out.

“It will take several years and be very similar to the phase out to the token to MetroCard,” he said.