Straphangers holding reduced-fare MetroCards will finally be able to ride trains and buses at half-price using OMNY, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced on Monday.
The over 1 million transit riders holding a reduced-fare MetroCard, which enables seniors and people with disabilities to pay $1.35 to ride a train or bus instead of $2.75, can finally pay the reduced fee using the contactless fare system.
“After months of testing, piloting, and training, we are proud to announce that OMNY is here for reduced-fare customers,” said Quemuel Arroyo, the MTA’s Chief Accessibility Officer, at the MTA’s NYC Transit Committee Monday. “Seniors and persons with disabilities who have reduced fare MetroCards today can now apply for that half fare benefit on any payment device that can be used with OMNY.”
Still out of luck, though, are those using half-price Student MetroCards or Fair Fares for low-income New Yorkers; those riders still cannot transfer their benefits from a MetroCard to OMNY.
Beneficiaries can apply to switch their MetroCard benefits to OMNY by using the “digital assistant” on OMNY’s website, and begin using contactless payment using a digital wallet on a smartphone or a credit or debit card.
Over 1,400 straphangers had already switched their benefits over to OMNY by the time the authority announced the expansion at its monthly committee meetings Monday. Physical reduced-fare OMNY cards will not be available until 2023.
The MTA plans to fully phase out the MetroCard by the end of 2023, at which point tap-to-pay will become the only way to ride. But until now, those using paying a reduced fare had to continue using a MetroCard even as the authority phases out the 30-year-old yellow card.
Transit honchos say that migrating over to OMNY will promote accessibility for those that need it.
“Contactless payment is more accessible for many riders,” Arroyo said. “Having the option to use your card or device means one less card to keep track of or need to replace, fewer visits to our customer service centers for card help, and more seamless experience in our system. Using a personal payment device can also mean no more pre-loading value onto a card to travel.”
Switching to OMNY also means that reduced-fare customers can take advantage of OMNY’s fare-capping system, which allows for unlimited rides after twelve taps in a single week. Fare-capping, meant to incentivize switching to OMNY, has put millions of dollars back in riders’ pockets, the MTA says.
About 40% of subway riders and 20% of bus riders use OMNY on a given weekday, said NYC Transit President Richard Davey.
The authority says it is testing for integrating OMNY for Access-a-Ride, Arroyo said.
But one board member appealed to the MTA to expand OMNY to include students and Fair Fares cardholders soon.
“There’s another bigger population out there, student MetroCards and those that use Fair Fares,” said board member Midori Valdivia. “And getting them into the OMNY system is great.”
An MTA spokesperson said that students should not expect $1.35 OMNY until next school year, as half-price MetroCards have already been distributed for this school year. Contactless student OMNY cards are scheduled to be distributed starting in the 2023-24 school year. The spokesperson declined to comment regarding Fair Fares, noting that it’s a city program.