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  • Thierry Spanjaard

NY MetroCard is gone, here comes OMNY!

The times when mass transit operators could set up their own proprietary independent fare system are soon to be over. Now, mass transit is evolving towards open-sourcing, dematerializing and multiplying fare media, leading to opportunities for new entrants.

OMNY is coming

New York is one of the last major city mass-transit network still using magstripe cards for users to pay for their journeys. This is soon to be a thing of the past as the MTA (New York Metropolitan Transit Authority) has announced plans to replace this outdated technology by contactless payments. However, given the network size and its complexity, the phase out of MetroCard will last until 2023.

OMNY, which stands for “One Metro New York,” will be deployed by Cubic, the incumbent which started the MetroCard system in 1994. Cubic is a major systems integrator specializing in mass transit, with an impressive list of references including London, Singapore, Vancouver, Chicago, … New Yorkers will be able to use OMNY in the form of a contactless card or a mobile wallet. Of course, payment by Apple Pay, Android Pay and others will be supported too, but communication is unclear as whether any credit and debit cards will be directly usable as a fare media as is the case in London. Omny will be first tested by MTA staff, on lines 4, 5 and 6. When opened to the public, in May 2019, it will support pay per ride at first, and then include prepaid purse, subscriptions, reduced fares, etc.

Door is open to new entrants

As mass transit payment evolves more and more from secure hardware to software, we are witnessing the arrival of new entrants in this business. Also, technologies which were once reserved to a few R&D-intensive companies are increasingly available from a larger number of sources, while big data and AI are stepping in too.

Now, Citymapper, which is known for its route finding app is coming into the picture and introducing Citymapper Pay, a card dedicated to mass transit payment in London, including not only the Tube and double decker buses, but also the city’s bike scheme. It also includes Citymapper’s own bus network, which has been designed based on transportation needs revealed by huge amount of data Citymapper Is collecting through its app. Positioning itself as a mobility provider, Citymapper includes shared cars, cycles and cabs in its payment system. The card is based on a Mastercard prepaid card, issued by Prepaid Financial Services (PFS), a London-based Fintech.

Citymapper Pay is ready to include additional payment schemes, and the company ambitions to make it as universal as possible, aiming at becoming a single fare media usable in cities worldwide.

While India sets up its own standard

The Indian government is launching the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) that will enable people to pay multiple kinds of transport charges, including metro services and tolls across the country. The card, called “One Nation, One Card,” will be based on the Indian payment domestic card scheme RuPay. The card will allow pay-as-you-go payment, as it will be seen as a regular prepaid, debit or credit card, and also support operator specific apps such as monthly passes or season tickets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted the card, as well as the RuPay card scheme, is made in India, and not dependent on foreign technology. EMV-compatible RuPay has been developed by a National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to reduce transaction fees and dependence on Visa and MasterCard. Now, an objective of the NCMC is to become more independent from international players in automated fare collection and to develop an Indian national offer.

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