Op-ed | Upcoming new MTA app will be game-changer for NYC commuters

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber
MTA chief Janno Lieber and fellow transit leaders celebrated new pandemic-era record ridership numbers at Grand Central Terminal on Sept. 15.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

How can we make transit more convenient and more accessible? It’s a question my team and I keep coming back to as the MTA and region continue to bounce back from the pandemic.

Enter the new MTA app, which launched in beta last week, as the new one-stop shop for all things transit. 

Riders can now access service alerts, schedules, crowding conditions, elevator status updates and more for all MTA agencies – including paratransit – in one place. In just one or two taps, you’ll have everything you need to plan your trip, whether you’re riding the subway, bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North or Access-A-Ride. 

Customers can even opt into sharing anonymized location data to get real-time, location-based notifications for their individual journey — which benefits not just riders but the MTA also. We’re going to be able to use that data to better understand ridership and mobility patterns around the system. That’s hugely helpful for service planning, especially as we prepare to deliver on the service enhancements made possible by Governor Hochul’s State budget. 

Phase two of the planned subway service increases we announced back in May took effect this month, starting with shorter midday headways during the week on the C, N and R lines. Weekends are also getting a boost with increased frequencies on the 1 and 6 lines. Instead of coming every eight minutes, trains will now arrive every six. It might not seem like much, but waiting on a hot platform, those precious minutes add up. And there’s more to come over the next year. 

After all the uncertainty since COVID, I’m thrilled to be in the ‘more service’ business. New Yorkers tell us over and over again in surveys that the way to get them back to using transit on weekends and for discretionary travel is to shorten the amount of time they spend waiting around. That takes investment, which, as I said, we got this year from Governor Hochul and the State Legislature. Before the budget deal, we were looking at the possibility of big fare increases and much less service. Now we’re able to minimize the burden on riders while providing them with more service and more affordability.

The advent of OMNY really allowed us to get creative with fare promotions. The Lucky 13 program has been helping riders get the best deal for more than a year – now it’s expanding on a rolling basis. Instead of starting every Monday by default, a new seven-day cap starts with your first OMNY tap – no matter when it takes place. We hope the added convenience will accelerate the transition to OMNY for New Yorkers. It’s no secret that ridership exploded when the MTA switched from tokens to the MetroCard, and OMNY is the next step to make it easier to pay for all your travel.

So long as I’m Chair and CEO, this MTA won’t stop looking for opportunities to make the transit system more attractive. Customer appeal is our number one priority.