Transit advocates call on MTA to add digital receipts for bus fares to MetroCard replacement plan

Advocates say paperless boarding access is a necessary part of the MTA's new payment technology.
Advocates say paperless boarding access is a necessary part of the MTA’s new payment technology. Photo Credit: MTA

When the MTA begins phasing out the MetroCard, transit experts hope that smartphone or credit card payments will help improve the city’s failing bus service — dipping MetroCards at one payment box wastes a good deal of time, slowing rides.

But advocates say paperless boarding access, a key component of faster, new tech, is missing from the MTA’s stipulations in its Request For Proposals on the MetroCard’s replacement.

The Riders Alliance, TransitCenter, Straphangers Campaign and Tri-State Transportation Campaign penned a joint letter to the MTA, dated June 9, 2016, calling for the MTA to ensure that the agency will incorporate paperless, all-door boarding on bus routes citywide.

“We urge the MTA to add an addendum to the existing RFP for the new fare payment system, requiring bidders to include technology that would allow for fare sensors at every bus door and mobile on-board validation of payment,” the groups wrote.

Think Select Bus Service, but instead of receiving a paper receipt, a proof of purchase would be scannable directly on the new fare technology, like smart phones or credit cards. Advocates say this would allow for the MTA to install fare boxes at each bus door to theoretically allow for quicker boarding.

“Bus service in New York is notoriously slow and unreliable,” said John Raskin, executive director at the Riders Alliance. “We should be doing everything possible to make buses faster and more efficient and we want to make sure that, as we move to a new fare payment system, it can accommodate the most current and up-to-date thinking about how to speed bus travel.”

Bids on new technology are due on July 13. The MTA plans to being phasing out MetroCards in 2018.

“One of the major goals of the new fare payment system is customer convenience and the current RFP includes language for a potential pilot to look at ‘electronic proof of payment’ technology,” said MTA Spokesman Kevin Ortiz in an email. “However, we must balance convenience against the very real threat of fare evasion if “electronic proof of payment” technology is ever to be viable.”