‘It’s OMNY time’: MTA wraps up installation of contactless fare payment system

The OMNY contactless fare-payment system is now fully installed at all subway stations and buses, the MTA announced on Dec. 31, 2020.
Photo courtesy of MTA

Every subway turnstile and MTA bus in New York City now has the contactless OMNY fare payment system — giving all customers the ability to pay for a ride with their smartphone or bank card, rather than coins or a MetroCard.

The MTA celebrated the accomplishment on the final day of 2020 Thursday, with MTA OMNY Fare Payment Programs Executive Director Al Putre and Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer making the first OMNY tap on the fully-installed system at the Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum station on the 2/3 lines.

Putre, who’s retiring from the MTA after a lengthy career, said that the authority was able to complete the rollout on time even as the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York. The peak of the first wave, which sunk ridership into the abyss and plunged the MTA into a financial crisis, also caused a 43-day pause in the OMNY installation effort.

In the end, Putre noted, they got the job done anyway.

“Well, we did it. We told you we would. It’s OMNY time at every station and on every bus systemwide, on schedule and on budget,” he said. 

Acting MTA New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg called the full installation of OMNY in the subway and bus system “an extraordinary accomplishment that will transform the way that people pay their fare.” Since OMNY first went online at select stations in 2019, the system has recorded 35 million taps from paying customers.

“[OMNY is] fundamentally also about bringing a critical part of our system into the 21st century,” she said. “No more failed swipes, no more losing your MetroCard. Just bring your own device and you can enter the system with ease.”

Now that the entire New York City Transit system has OMNY online, the MTA will proceed with the next phase in 2021 in rolling out the OMNY Card for customers who wish to pay their fares with cash, or independently from their bank or credit cards.

Like the MetroCard, the OMNY Card will be available for purchase through vending machines to be installed in the new year at subway stations. The cards will also be sold at “drug retail chains” citywide, Putre added. 

Reduced-fare OMNY Cards will also be provided to eligible riders in 2021, he noted. The MTA will also install OMNY readers at stations on the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rail systems.

If you still have MetroCards, not to worry — they’re not yet as obsolete as the token.

According to Putre, you’ll still be able to purchase and use MetroCards at all MTA subways and buses until the OMNY Card has all the same functionalities. The MTA projects it will phase out the MetroCard in 2023. 

In the meantime, Meyer said the authority’s embarking on a new “Tap On, Get On” publicity campaign encouraging riders to abandon the MetroCard and get used to a brand new way of paying for their subway or bus rides.

“Many aspects of our lives have become more difficult this year,” Meyer said. “But OMNY makes at least one process easier, faster and safer than ever for New Yorkers. I’m thrilled that subway and bus riders everywhere now have a chance to experience the simplicity of a tap and go technology that allows people to spend less time waiting at MetroCard Vending Machines and more time at home with their families.”