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MetroCard as we know it will be going away

NEW YORK — The end is near for the MetroCard.

Instead of swiping the bright yellow piece of cardboard, MTA users will instead be able to use a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or tap a contactless bank card at turnstiles and on buses across the city.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board voted Wednesday to approve a contract to phase in this new system that will ease travel across all MTA transit and commuter rail systems.

The moves help officially mark the formal transition away from the MetroCard, which was first introduced in 1994.

The design-build contract by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc., is modeled after London’s public transit system.

The shift away from the MetroCard and other existing ticketing systems will take place in a series of phases over a period of more than five years, with customers first being able to use contactless open payment options as soon as midway through 2019. The MetroCard, in its current form, will be in use through 2023.

The new system will test payment options for all-door boarding on SBS buses, a critical measure for reducing the time it takes for customers to board and travel. Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad customers will also be able to merge their subway, bus and rail tickets into one integrated form of payment as well.

The new account-based system will allow customers a variety of convenient self-service options to manage their account, including via the web and on mobile devices.

An additional critical component of the program will provide benefits to customers who do not have, or want to use, smartphones or contactless bank cards by enabling them to purchase and reload contactless transit cards from new vending machines and through an out-of-system retail network.

The new system is expected to have lower maintenance costs than the current systems, and the vendor will be able to adapt to new technologies as they emerge during the course of the contract.

"The move to a truly 21st century method of payment represents a critical step in our overall efforts at modernizing the subway system and improving service for all our customers," said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota. "The subway, bus and commuter rail network is the lifeblood of our regional economy and major upgrades like this help make the system more convenient and efficient for the millions of New Yorkers who use it every day.”

By 2019, a total of 500 subway turnstiles and 600 buses are set to receive the necessary technology upgrades.

Customers will still be able to use MetroCard until 2023. MetroCard will not be retired until the new system is fully tested and operational.