The MTA last month officially began a long process of phasing out the MetroCard and the debate about its successor’s name has begun.
When the MTA began moving ahead with its new system, it hadn’t yet given the branding question much thought.
“We’re not there yet. I’m not going to be able to answer on that,” MTA chairman Joe Lhota said after last month’s board meetings, quipping, “I know it’s not going to be the Joe Card.”
Some New Yorkers are mixed as to whether the MTA should stick with the name MetroCard, or opt for something entirely new. MTA board member Andrew Albert believes a rebranding is in order — at least to avoid confusion. The MetroCard will remain in use through 2023, as its successor is incrementally phased in.
“It’ll have to have a different name because there will be times when both systems will be around at the same time — both can’t be called the same thing, I wouldn’t think,” Albert said. “That could be confusing.”
Albert said he was trying to cook up his own catchy name for the new system, but he had “nothing for publication” as of yet.
Over the next six years, the MTA will be phasing out its magnetic strip fare card for a contactless system that will let commuters pay through a wave of a smartphone screen, bank card or plastic proprietary card — not unlike how customers buy coffee at Starbucks. London has the Oyster Card; Boston, the CharlieCard — complete with a Charlie mascot — and the San Fransico Bay Area has the Clipper Card.
The global branding firm Siegel+Gale helped name and design the MetroCard, first launched in 1993. It is responsible for designing the MTA’s current logo and unifying each of the agency’s services under the brand. Howard Belk, Siegel+Gale’s co-CEO and chief creative officer, said he felt the bold font of the MetroCard — and the MTA logo itself — helped the look age well.
“If you look at new identities right now, the big bold sans-serif thing, it’s almost like it came in cycles because I feel like it’s back,” Belk said. “Though the card could be refreshed, I love the color of it. It’s very iconic — the name and the simplicity of the design. It’s one of the emblems of New York. And that’s really the opportunity here.”
As much has he likes the design, Belk said the new technology heralds a perfect renaming opportunity.
“It’s a great time to think about that name and get a lot less literal with it,” he continued, “something more benefits-oriented, around access, freedom or lifestyle.”
While out commuting, Maria Delgado, 50, Bensonhurst, offered her own idea: The Tapcard
“That’s what we’ll be doing, it will be easy,” she said. “What is it? The Tapcard.”
Anna Potapova, 26, of Sheepshead Bay went for the straightforward name Empire Card, “because we’re the Empire State,” she said.
A few comedians who performed in this year’s New York Comedy Festival took a more sardonic approach. Comedian Erica Spera pitched the Late Key — a faster way to make you late. Then there’s the Shuttlebus Expresspass, from comedian Jordan Temple and the NYC SubDelay Card, from Khalid A. Rahmaan.
“If you’ve been on the subway lately, you know that getting to your destination anywhere from 15 minutes to two days late is pretty standard,” Rahmaan said. “Instead of getting mad at the MTA, let’s embrace it.”
Judah Friedlander, who recently released a new Netflix special, was also willing to embrace change.
“Well, the current MetroCard should just be called ‘Crappy Piece of Plastic’ cause if you go to other cities, you go to DC, London, you get a card that’s thick,” he said. “It doesn’t get kinked and bent after a week and have to trade it in to get a new one. You get a card that’s the thickness of a credit card, so it lasts. I think they should go to something like that.”
“I’m all for re-naming the current card. I tell ya, I’m still a token guy,” added Friedlander, a New York City resident of 30 years. “I love the tokens. I say we bring back tokens.”
With Meghan Giannotta