MTA officials unveiled OMNY vending machines at six subway stations Monday, marking the latest step in the agency’s delayed push to phase out MetroCards as the fare payment system for subways and buses.
Riders who prefer to pay with cash or don’t have a credit card or smartphone with tap-to-pay technology can buy or load up a plastic OMNY card at the vending machines.
The machines sell the reusable OMNY cards for $1, which can only be loaded up with single rides.
Unlimited seven- or 30-day passes are still only available for MetroCard users. But MTA officials said OMNY card holders can still benefit from the agency’s “fare-capping system,” where riders only pay for their first 12 rides in a seven-day period — equal to $34 — before getting the rest for free.
The MTA wrote in a press release the $1 surcharge for the reusable cards is a “temporary introductory offer.” The agency in 2021 began selling the cards at retail stores with a $5 surcharge.
The OMNY vending machines also sell disposable single ride tickets printed on paper. Those tickets cost 35 cents on top of the cost of a single ride, for a total price of $3.25.
“Installing OMNY vending machines in subway stations makes it easier than ever for transit customers to leave MetroCard in the past and embrace the convenience of tapping, especially those who pay with cash to ride,” NYC Transit President Richard Davey said during a news conference.
The new vending machines are at Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, Bowling Green, Junction Boulevard on the 7 line, the Fordham Road stations on the 4 and the B and D lines and at 86th Street on the Lexington Avenue line.
The MTA board in 2017 approved a contract with Cubic — the same company behind the MetroCard — to roll out the new tap-to-pay system. Then-MTA Chair Joseph Lhota said at the time the modern fare system would be “transformative” and help bring New York’s mass transit in line with cities like London, which has had a tap card system for years.
The MTA previously hoped to fully phase out the MetroCard in 2023, but officials said software issues, as well as delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushed back the timeline.
Davey said the MetroCard will still be in use for at least another 18 months.
The MTA did not release a timeline for rolling out OMNY vending machines throughout the entire system. But officials said they were looking to bring the tap technology to the agency’s commuter railroads.
The agency has also not yet made good on a promise from Lhota in 2017 that the technology would enable all-door bus boarding, speeding up service.
Every one of the MTA’s buses is equipped with an OMNY reader at its rear doors — but officials have still yet to allow riders to use them to pay their fares.