Article Highlights

Key Takeaway:

MTA has recorded the 50 million open-loop transactions since May of 2019, when it launched OMNY as a large pilot. MTA, the largest transit authority in the U.S., had rolled out 15,000 contactless terminals at all 472 subway stations in New York City proper and all 5,800 of the city’s buses by the end of 2020. And for the first time, MTA broke down the share of open-loop transactions compared with total transactions on the subway versus buses.

Key Data:

Those figures show that taps at subway gates accounted for a much higher percentage of total taps, at 12.4%, compared with buses, at 4.5%, as of March 8. Combined, open-loop fare payments made up nearly 10% of all fare transactions for the subway and buses, up from around 4% a year earlier.

Organizations Mentioned:

• MTA
Cubic

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, says it continues to see steady growth of its open-loop fare payments service, OMNY, announcing 50 million taps by customers using NFC wallets and bank cards to ride the massive New York City Subway and the city’s buses.

MTA has recorded the 50 million open-loop transactions since May of 2019, when it launched OMNY as a large pilot. MTA, the largest transit authority in the U.S., had rolled out 15,000 contactless terminals at all 472 subway stations in New York City proper and all 5,800 of the city’s buses by the end of 2020. And for the first time, MTA broke down the share of open-loop transactions compared with total transactions on the subway versus buses. 

Those figures show that taps at subway gates accounted for a much higher percentage of total taps, at 12.4%, compared with buses, at 4.5%, as of March 8. Combined, open-loop fare payments made up nearly 10% of all fare transactions for the subway and buses, up from around 4% a year earlier. And the figure is expected to increase considerably over the next year, said MTA.

In terms of absolute numbers, on an average weekday, customers tap for 307,000 open-loop transactions, a large majority of them–at 79%–on the subway, compared with 21% on buses. In addition to the higher percentage of contactless EMV taps from total fare transactions on the subway, total ridership on the subway also accounts for nearly double the number of transactions on an average weekday as do rides on the city’s buses. Ridership is just over 3.8 million combined on the New York City subway and buses on an average weekday. 

While it didn’t release a breakdown for the share of open-loop payments from EMV card credentials stored in NFC wallets as compared with physical contactless EMV cards in its recent announcement, March 8, OMNY chief Al Putre said last fall that the share of contactless EMV payments from wallets remained high, at 73%. That is likely to change, however. According to Visa, more than 70% of Visa-branded cards in New York were contactless-enabled as of the end of 2020, up from 5% when the MTA rollout began in May 2019.

Overall, MTA’s figures show total open-loop fare transactions are growing steadily. Taps with contactless EMV credit, debit and prepaid card credentials on NFC devices, such as those used by Apple Pay and Google Pay–as well as physical contactless EMV bank cards–grew by nearly 43% in a little more than nine weeks from Jan. 1, 2021 until March 8. The transactions increased from 35 million to 50 million. The open-loop transactions had grown from 21 million to 35 million in the final three months of 2020, an increase of 66%. And as of the end of last year, OMNY users had tapped bank cards–either loaded in NFC wallets or with plastic cards–issued in 137 countries. All told, there were 2.4 million unique payment credentials used by customers.

Rollout Continues
Putre has boasted that the OMNY project hit its 2020 deadlines for enabling contactless EMV payments at all subway stations and on board all buses serving the city’s five boroughs. That is despite missing more than 40 work days in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The OMNY project, which is being implemented by U.S.-based Cubic Transportation Systems, will continue to roll out over the next two to three years, including to MTA’s two commuter rail services, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad next year.

Before that, MTA plans to launch its contactless closed-loop OMNY card this year, giving customers who don’t have open-loop credit, debit or prepaid cards–or who don’t want to use them to pay fares–an option other than the agency’s aging MetroCard. (An estimated 12% of MTA customers are unbanked.) Plans call for MTA to fully retire the more than 25-year-old mag-stripe MetroCard in 2023.

Well before the MetroCard finally rides into the sunset, the agency, using the new closed-loop OMNY card, plans to offer the same discount fares for seniors and disabled customers, as well as weekly and monthly passes, as it does with the MetroCard.  

Customers will be able to purchase the closed-loop OMNY card in more than 4,000 retail outlets, mainly drugstore chains in New York City and, later, in vending machines. The latter will enable customers to purchase and reload their cards at New York City subway stations. MTA will work with prepaid payments service provider InComm to distribute and manage closed-loop OMNY as reloadable gift cards.  

MTA will also debut its OMNY mobile app in 2021 and this would eventually support a virtual OMNY card, which users could tap to pay.  

Putre has said the MTA board has not decided whether OMNY–either closed loop or open loop–would support fare capping. Since OMNY is an account-based ticketing system, the OMNY terminals also could accept a range of other fare media. 

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