Apple’s decision to offer Apple Pay EMV style Express Transit as a default iOS 13 feature on the work-in-progress that is MTA OMNY may not have been a smart idea after all. Those manual swipe MetroCards will be around for a few years, and with Cubic Transportation running the show it is anybody’s guess when OMNY, the system and the MIFARE MetroCard replacement, will completely in place and running smoothly.
For every tweet saying Express Transit is great, there are plenty of complaints of unwanted OMNY charges because iPhone users didn’t know Express Transit was turned on. The thing is iPhone and Apple Watch have to be damn close for a read. Unless the device is in a pants or coat pocket that brushes on the OMNY reader, I don’t see how accidental reads can happen. Nevertheless Apple would have happier New York City customers leaving Express Transit off by default…at least until OMNY is completed and running smoothly everywhere…whenever that is.
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.