In 1992 the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) moved from the decades old token system for fares to the MetroCard system. The MetroCard improved the process of fare collection for the MTA by improving ease of access, the elimination of paper transfers, payment flexibility at booths and kiosks, long with unburdening commuters from the pocket weight of multiple tokens.
In 2017 the MTA announced that they are looking to implement a new system that will move away from the MetroCard to a “smart system”. Under this new plan, the MetroCard will be replaced with the fare being processed at the turnstile/terminal via your smart phone/watch, chip enabled debit/credit card, or MTA issued “Smart Cards”. This system has started to be rolled out at a few select stations in June 2018 and progressing as the year goes on.
When looking at this from a process standpoint, not that there aren’t positives, but this system appears to open new and vast arrays of problems. In the current “simpler times” MTA riders can purchase/refill MetroCards from station kiosks or on duty station booths, creating a singular, streamlined point of sale (POS) and a uniform product/system. Moving to the “smart system” will create new processes in areas such as:
Quality Assurance/Testing (QA):
- Testing the app on mobile platforms (iOS/Android) and devices (phones/smartwatches/tablets) and ensure there is a consistent process and results.
- Testing alternative payment systems (chip enabled debit/credit cards, MTA issued Smart Cards) at entry points
- How do I purchase my fare in this new system?
- What procedures are different/same relative to the previous MetroCard system?
- What are my POS alternatives if I don’t have a smart device, how will this impact overall use?
- Underground stations with limited to no cell service, will this impact my smart device?
- How do I pay/enter if all I have is cash?
As America’s oldest and largest public transportation system that faces several challenges, this one will add to an already growing pile. As a daily straphanger in the Big Apple , I hope the city planners and engineers will develop these processes to be able to manage the complications that have been created from a once simple system.