Public transport is ditching cash—but here’s why that’s ok

As bus systems experiment with the removal of on-board fare boxes, for example, operators will need to expand their fare sales networks, which include street-level vending machines as well as chains. national such as CVS and local companies such as check collection centers. This is already happening in New York City, which has the largest public transportation system in the country.

The city is moving from its magnetic and thin-band MetroCards like paper to OMNY, a contactless system that uses near-field communication. OMNY supports “open loop payments”: you don’t need a card or special application to join. Instead, you can just swipe your existing contactless credit or debit card or move a device equipped with a digital wallet. OMNY also offers a “closed loop” option in the form of a physical card that can be recharged with cash.

In a statement, the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it has “greatly expanded” its retail network since OMNY cards were available for purchase last fall, citing nearly 1,000 partners who sell them and they recharge them. It aims to quadruple this number once the system is fully activated.

It is easy to see the growing use of mobile payments as contrary to the egalitarian ethos of public transport. But technology can open up access to systems that would otherwise be difficult to navigate. “I find it hard to think of a product that is harder to acquire when you get to a new city than public transportation,” says Joshua Schank, managing director of InfraStrategies and a senior member of the UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies. .

Schank, who created the Office of Extraordinary Innovation at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2015 and headed it until last January, believes the ultimate goal is to integrate payments between mobility (shared bicycles, scooters, buses, trains) through cities. as well as within them. But one way or another, contactless and open-loop payment will probably play the role that cash did in the early days of public transportation – it will be accepted everywhere.

Rachel del Valle is a freelance writer based in New York.

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