High-tech turnstiles: MTA testing smartphone tickets at Downtown subway stations

Photo by Joseph M. Calisi
The MTA is testing a new cardless, smartphone-based fare system at turnstiles at Bowling Green and Wall Street 4 and 5 train stations.


The days of swiping a MetroCard may soon be a thing of the past as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began to take its first steps toward a post-card era with tests of smartphone-based ticket-reading equipment at two Downtown subway stations.

The MTA has begun a pilot program among its employees that allows for mobile phone payments, where users scan a barcode on their phones before entering the subway at specially equipped turnstiles recently installed at the Bowling Green and Wall Street 4 and 5 train stations.

Though the new technology is being tested by employees at subway stations, the first customer rollout of the MTA’s eTix app will be for Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad riders, according to a spokesman, as a way to unify the MTA’s fare systems.

“The program allows for Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad customers to purchase a joint railroad and subway ticket using their mobile phone,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. “Tickets today in the eTix app have a unique bar-coded screen that allows conductors to scan and electronically validate a customer’s ticket.”

The eTix app is marketed as a way for riders of the rail lines to never have to use a vending machine or wait in line again when purchasing a rail ticket.

“For the subway, ticket readers able to read a bar-coded screen will be installed at specific, identifiable turnstiles. This will enable customers to scan and validate their tickets, granting them access to the subway,” said Ortiz.

In addition to the two stations in Lower Manhattan, Grand Central and Penn Station have also installed the new readers, and 10 other stations are slated to get the new gear by the end of this year.

“It’s part of our efforts to create a 21st-century transit system that embraces innovation to improve the customer experience,” said Ortiz.