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Farewell MetroCards, Hello...OMNY?

The logo for OMNY, the updated transit card system
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The logo for OMNY, the updated transit card system Handout

This spring, the MTA will take its long-awaited first step in retiring the New York City subway system's MetroCards, and their capricious magnetic strips, for good.

Starting in March, MTA employees will be testing out the new payment program called OMNY, or One Metro New York, at 16 subway stations on the 4, 5, and 6 lines from Grand Central-42nd St. to Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center. The test also includes the SIM30 express bus route on Staten Island.

With OMNY, riders can wave or tap their smartphones, or apps connected to their bank accounts, such as Apple Pay, to get through the turnstile. The MTA is aiming to have the contactless pay system available for straphangers at those same initial stations and all Staten Island buses by May 2019. In the coming months, they'll gradually install the technology in other subway stations and on buses, but the entire system won't be online until 2023, according to an MTA release.

The MTA has been working with Cubic, the same company that installed MetroCard readers throughout the subway system, and that helped develop the likes of London's tap-as-you-go Oyster card.

While the new system could help with bottlenecking at turnstiles, it introduces a new set of challenges. OMNY's rollout excludes passengers without smartphones, for instance (though MTA says that they will still accept cash, and, starting in 2021, they plan to offer a "contactless OMNY" that people can purchase). Online, riders have also thrown shade on the name itself (which the MTA says is a play off of "omni," meaning "all").

Either way, good riddance to the swipe.

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