Bye, bye plastic? Subway is finally going digital

Bye, bye plastic? Subway is finally going digital

MTA comes aboard the e-wallet technology train.

An OMNY tap-in screen taken on June 2, 2019, at the 14th Street-Union Square subway station.
An OMNY tap-in screen taken on June 2, 2019, at the 14th Street-Union Square subway station.


The time to say goodbye to that familiar little yellow card is drawing near. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has begun the subway system’s digital transformation and is the latest mass transit organization to come aboard the e-wallet technology train (pun fully intended and I am not sorry).

Partnering with Cubic, the company that installed the original MetroCard system in 1995 when it was considered an innovative novelty, the MTA launched its mobile payment system called One Metro New York, or OMNY.

The MTA, which is rolling out this system in phases, introduced its first OMNY turnstiles at the end of May.

Gone are the wasted seconds of commuting time spent behind a tourist struggling to figure out which direction the MetroCard magnetic strip swipes.

OMNY will allow riders to finally ditch the plastic card in favor of an app that provides maximum convenience and minimum headache. All they need to do is wave their phones over the turnstile readers and the fares are instantly deducted through Near Field Communication connectivity technology.

NFC allows for communication between devices at a short range. Uses of this technology include Bluetooth and contactless payment systems like OMNY.

Coming from a more traditional, set-in-its-ways organization like the MTA, the movement to a digital system signals a major step forward in the digital age as more of these systems become commonplace in America.

In the last five years, U.S. consumers’ use of e-wallets has greatly increased, although still trailing behind the rest of the globe. In countries like China and India, digital wallets are the norm, ostensibly replacing the use of plastic cards entirely.

As the United States finally adopts e-wallet technology, corporations like Apple and Google and others are tapping into its transformational potential.

Picture, if you will, the new reality fast approaching us: Not only can you start your commute with ease, you also can send money to friends and family, purchase thousands of items, apply for a debit card, and much more, all without even an ounce of plastic in your hand.

 Matthew Szulman works with Passfeed, a social shopping network.

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