Tappin’ away the fares: MTA says 76,000 riders hit ‘lucky 13’ fare cap with OMNY

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A rider uses an OMNY payment system.
Photo by Mark Hallum

In the first two weeks of the MTA’s so-called fare capping for OMNY, giving subway and bus passengers unlimited rides within a week after 12 taps, 76,000 people have unlocked the free trips, the agency’s chief said Wednesday.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled, that’s why we created the ‘lucky 13’ program to give our riders a break through OMNY,” MTA Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber said at Grand Central Terminal on March 16.

That amounts to about 228,000 free rides that straphangers unlocked in the first 14 days after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rolled out its fare promotion on Feb. 28.

Fare capping automatically switches fare payments with OMNY to free rides after 12 taps within a Monday-Sunday period, meaning riders pay no more than $33 in that seven-day timeframe — in other words, the price of an unlimited weekly MetroCard.

Last week, 27% of rides were paid for using OMNY, which requires a smart device, contactless bank card, or the MTA’s own OMNY card available for $5 at some businesses like bodegas and pharmacies.

The MTA plans to phase out the good old MetroCard by 2024.

The capping program is a four-month pilot as part of a package of fare deals the MTA launched at the end of last month to lure back riders.

On the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, the agency expanded a flat $5 fare known as City Ticket for commuter railroad trips within the city limits during off-peak hours, along with a 20-trip pass targeting suburban commuters that are working on a hybrid schedule.

Passengers have bought some 473,000 rides with the 20-trip pass, Lieber said.

The MTA boss celebrated transit workers keeping the system going through the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the two-year anniversary of New York City’s disastrous first wave of the virus that brought public transportation to its knees.

A busy Grand Central on the early Wednesday afternoon was a positive sign, according to Lieber. 

“Can you hear the buzzing Grand Central? This is different, this is back in action, the way Grand Central always used to be and always will be,” Lieber said.

After a slump in ridership over the new year due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant, daily trip numbers have returned to routinely topping 3 million on subways in recent weeks.

March 10 set a new post-Omicron record of 4.8 million riders on subways and buses, surpassing the last milestone on Dec. 10, according to the MTA. 

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