The MTA OMNY EMV Launch

The most surprising thing about the new OMNY system service start on May 31 isn’t that it’s EMV contactless credit/debit card only, or that Cubic is working with Apple to bring Apple Pay EMV support, or even that mag strip MetroCard is hanging around until “at least” 2022.

The most surprising thing is that MetroCard is manually swiped on the new OMNY contactless fare gates (YouTube video 1:25 mark).

Dear lord, have MTA commuters really been manually swiping MetroCards all these years? Living in Japan since the 1980s, I have never manually swiped a mag strip card at a transit gate ever. Some people may not like Trump, but let’s make America great again by not manually swiping MetroCards anymore.

It’s very interesting that MTA and Cubic decided to launch OMNY with standard fare only, slower EMV contactless cards for those who have them, and leave the majority of transit users with MetroCard, which has all the fare options (student fares, discount fares, etc.), until the real MetroCard replacement, OMNY transit card, arrives in late 2021.

Usually it’s the other way around, the fast new transit smartcard card comes first, slower EMV support comes much later after the system kinks are worked out. My theory is that MTA did it the other way around to road test the system with a smaller group of transit users, while pushing out the expense of installing all that OMNY card issue related hardware (kiosks, recharge stations, etc.) in the hope that lots of transit users will happily end up using only EMV, thus magically reducing said OMNY card related hardware investments. It’s wishful thinking, like Transport for London wishing that Oyster cards go away.

Once the real OMNY card appears is when things get interesting. All the different fare types will be supported on a smartcard, real MIFARE cards will be faster than EMV at the gate, smartphone apps from Cubic will be there for credit card linking and recharging OMNY plastic cards on the fly. Last but not least, native OMNY cards can finally be hosted on Apple Pay with faster secure native Express Transit, just like Chicago Ventra and Portland HOP. New York is a great city that deserves a great transit system. Here’s hoping OMNY helps make that happen.

UPDATE
TechCrunch reported that Apple Pay EMV Express Transit would be available at launch but this did not entirely mesh with earlier statements from Tim Cook and MTA OMNY transit fare system developer/operator Cubic. NYCT Omny support clarified Tim’s earlier statement and confirms Apple Pay EMV Express Transit bank card support at launch for iOS 12.3 users. The Apple Pay Transit support page has also been updated to show EMV Express Transit “at select stations.” Last but not least here are some Express Transit tips.

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