The MTA reports it’s nearly 15 months behind schedule to fully convert subways, buses, and commuter railroads to the tap-and-go OMNY fare payment system. The agency is almost halfway done with the project but hit various delays related to Covid and software issues.
“Substantial completion for the project has slipped,” Amy Linden, acting lead, MTA Fare Payment Programs, which oversees the rollout of OMNY, said at a committee meeting Monday.
Still, despite delays in rolling out some features, Linden reported a quarter of subway and bus riders now pay for their trip with the contactless payment system. However, Long Island Railroad and Metro-North riders will have to wait until the end of next year to get OMNY.
The agency also finally revealed Monday that subway users who rely on auto gates to enter the system, such as wheelchair users, are expected to be able to use OMNY starting November 1st.
The MTA expects to have the OMNY system ready for fare capping sometime in February. That would allow users who spend $33 in a week to automatically get an unlimited pass for the rest of that week. Adding features like this is one of the contributing factors that delayed the entire rollout and could end up costing the MTA more money in change orders.
The MTA had previously said a fare capping pilot would begin in March this year.
Paratransit users, half-priced MetroCard users including students, and retirees are expected to be able to use OMNY by March as well, according to Linden.
Linden noted that the schedule for implementation of OMNY was “overly aggressive from the very beginning, with no space to address unforeseen needs or circumstances, creating a high degree of risk to the delivery schedule.”
The entire project, converting all railroads and buses to OMNY, is expected to cost at least $772 million, with the cost of additional change orders from the MTA still being negotiated. The original contract with Cubic Corporation was for $573 million.
Long Island Railroad and Metro-North riders though won’t be able to use OMNY until the MTA installs OMNY card vending machines, as well as new readers for conductors to check the digital tickets. The final design for that part of the project is still under review but is expected to be ready for the public by the end of 2023 or early 2024.
The MTA also hopes to install OMNY vending machines in stations by 2023 so riders can purchase cards there if they don’t want to use a smartphone or watch. OMNY cards are now sold for $5 at various pharmacies and other stores around the city.
BY STEPHEN NESSEN/Gothamist