The MTA will launch a four-month long fare-capping pilot as it hopes to lure riders back after two years of pandemic-related losses, the authority announced Monday.
Starting Feb. 28, from Monday to Sunday during each week of the pilot, any subway or bus rider who uses the OMNY contactless payment system and takes 12 trips within that week will automatically be upgraded to an unlimited pass for the rest of the week. Currently, there are no discounts when using OMNY.
The MTA announced that if enough people participate in the pilot, and it isn’t overly expensive to the agency or its operations, the pilot could become permanent.
“In these times, if you’re not really sure you’re going to work or if you’re the essential worker who needs to go into work everyday, use OMNY, it’s the way to get the cheapest rate for the subway,” MTA Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer said at the press conference, held at the Fulton Transit Center.
Users can still purchase monthly unlimited passes with a MetroCard, but the agency wants to continue to convert subway riders to the new fare payment system. Using OMNY still allows riders to have free transfers between the subway and bus for two hours.
“If you buy and purchase these tickets, and engage in fare-capping, this is how we’re going to expand and continue these discount programs,” Meyer said.
The MTA wouldn’t say exactly how many riders need to participate in the OMNY fare-capping pilot for it to be deemed a success, but that it will study how people use it and perhaps offer other fare-capping options in the future.
The agency is also rolling out discounts for commuter rail riders later this month. Monthly Long Island Railroad and Metro-North passes are being sold for 10% off, and users who purchase 20 peak-hour tickets will get 20% off as well.
The agency will soon be offering $5 passes, called CityTicket, for people who take a commuter train within New York City during off-peak hours.
While the MTA board has been supportive of the idea of fare-capping, it would need to vote on it to make it permanent.
The MTA is running more than a year behind its own schedule to phase out the MetroCard, with OMNY as the replacement, but the agency currently expects that by early 2024 the MetroCard will no longer be around.
The agency noted that it will be installing all new vending machines to sell OMNY cards. (Currently, OMNY can be used by purchasing cards at stores like Target or using a credit card linked to a smartphone.) The new OMNY vending machine was tested at a factory in Tennessee last week, and MTA chairman Janno Lieber said it went well.