Ask the MTA: About station cleanliness and OMNY payment system

An E train at the Forest Hills-71st Avenue station. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Every week, amNewYork Metro presents “Ask the MTA”, where you can seek out answers to your common questions about public transportation in New York City. Send us your questions for the MTA, and we’ll make sure you get an answer! Email us at askthemta[@]amny.com.

Q: A year ago I moved to live in Forest Hills – and after using public transportation day in and day out, I noticed that the train station is not well maintained, and Forest Hills – 71 Continental train station is not the train station it was to be in the past.

The number of homeless has increased, and we don’t see the workers at the station are paying much attention to this situation. Since early in the morning, every day, we cannot use some cars of the train because homeless are still sleeping in, and of course we, the commuters are very concerned of this situation.

What’s being done to improve the Forest Hills subway station?

A: We’ve made station cleanliness and maintenance a priority with our Group Station Manager program, which is meant to bring more accountability and better customer service at all 472 of our subway stations, Forest Hills-71st Avenue included.

When the GSM program was started in 2019, Forest Hills-71st Avenue was a focus station – meaning it got some extra attention, including scraping and painting work. Benches on the platform were also refurbished, bathrooms were repaired, and vandal-proof fixtures were installed. 

Additionally, cleaners work at the station every day – removing garbage, sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms. The MetroCard vending machines and handrails are also wiped down once a week, or as needed, and the station booth gets a heavy-duty cleaning once a week as well. We’re expecting the entire station will get a deep cleaning sometime in the second half of this year. 

We encourage customers to reach out at any time with complaints and concerns about their home stations. They can report any issues to us by calling 511, or emailing the group station manager directly at [email protected]. A response is always sent within five days, but we usually get back to customers even sooner than that.  

Steven Carson, Acting District Customer Service Manager

Q: I hear that the MetroCards will soon be phased out to make way for the contactless OMNY payment system. Will the MTA be introducing cards that aren’t linked to bank accounts? Also, what will students be offered instead of MetroCards to get to and from class every day without having to pay a fare (or pay a reduced fare)?

A: While OMNY is initially relying on contactless cards and digital wallet apps, we’ll be expanding our reach starting in 2021. That’s when the MTA will begin issuing contactless transit cards that will be available for purchase at retailers like CVS and Rite Aid. Eventually, you’ll be able to get them at OMNY vending machines installed across the system. 

Students, like everyone else, can use their MetroCards until they’re phased out in 2023. But starting in 2022, we’re expecting to issue a student OMNY card that will carry the same benefits as the existing student MetroCard. 

Al Putre, Executive Director, OMNY Fare Payment Program