The subway system in New York has evolved multiple times since the public transportation was created. First passengers paid with paper tickets that cost a nickel, then there was the nickel itself just after World War II, then came the dime, followed by the token. Since the 1990s, the MetroCard has ruled the lives of working-class New York City, but they’re not always the most reliable method for storing a currency.
On Monday, New York City’s transit system took a huge step toward a more modern way for passengers to pay their subway fares. Starting late next year, New Yorkers will be able pay exactly how they already do in places like London–by waving cellphones or specific credit or debit cards at the turnstiles in the subway.
A committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a $573 million contract for a new fare payment system adapted from the one in use for several years on the London Underground and London’s commuter railroads. New electronic readers will be installed in 500 subway turnstiles and on 600 buses in New York beginning late next year, and will reach the rest of the city’s subway stations and buses by late 2020. Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the transit authority, said about the change, “It’s the next step in bringing us into the 21st century, which we need to do. It’s going to be transformative.”
The new system is going to replace the MetroCard, but MetroCards themselves will not be completely phased out until 2023 — exactly 30 years after they replaced tokens for subways and buses.