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MetroCard Information

This page contains basic policy and technical information on the MTA's MetroCard Automated Fare Collection system. The cards are presently being used on MTA New York City Transit's Subways and Buses. Card readers will eventually be placed in buses contracted by NYC DOT. Specially printed MetroCards will also be used as monthly flash passes on the MTA's commuter rail lines.

Table of Contents:

What is MetroCard?

MetroCard is the method of Automated Fare Collection used by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York (MTA). The fare medium is a plastic card about the same width and height as a credit card, though thinner.

The system is presently being used to pay fares on New York City Transit subways and buses. The MTA has hopes of the card eventually being used as electronic cash at retail establishments throughout the city.

MetroCards now work everywhere on NYC Transit!

As of 16 May 1997, MetroCards are operational in every subway station and NYC Transit bus! And, AHEM!... cynics... may I have your attention please..., this was completed ahead of schedule.

Free Transfers are coming soon

Starting 4 July 1997, MetroCard users will be given one free transfer. Here's how the logic works:

How MetroCards Work

Information is stored on the card's readable/writeable magnetic stripe. The process by which the card works each time it is used to pay a fare, in approximated order:

The transaction is then stored in the turnstile and relayed to the central computer at a convenient time. The main computer occasionally sends each turnstile a list of card serial numbers that should be locked out of the system.

On buses, the communications are done via radio links.

Regional Integration

What a concept.

At the July 1994 Transit Authority Committee Meeting, they were asked to approve the concept of selling the cards to persons buying Long Island RR and/or Metro North monthly passes. Under this arrangement, the specially printed MetroCard would be the monthly pass for the RR and have either $25 or $50 worth of subway trips on them. As of October 1996, sales of these passes are to begin in December for use during January 1997.

If I understand this correctly, the monthly pass will be printed on the card, not the magnetic stripe.

Eventually, the subway trips may be provided on a timed basis, meaning unlimited rides for a month.

Perhaps, in the long run, RR conductors will get magnetic stripe readers/writers.

Now, I hope NJ Transit and PATH get on board.

They are Shareable Again!

As many of you may know, during the summer of 1995 the MTA changed MetroCards policy, requiring each person to have their own card. Well, due to consumer complaints, this policy has been REVERSED! MetroCards can, once again, be shared. Who says complaining doesn't work.

The MTA made the initial restriction in anticipation for bus transfers. If two people used the card to board a bus, when they went to transfer, the card would only admit one person to the next bus.

The MTA decided to pursue a hardware solution. I assume the card will detect how many times it was read at the initial farebox and then admit the same number of people on transfers.

I learned this when I called the MTA today, 11 August 95, to voice my concern with the initial restriction. The reversal took effect last night at midnight.


Daily/Weekly/Monthly Passes and Volume Discounts

In the early 90's, there were plans to have discounted time based passes. Considering how heavily each person uses the transit system, the MTA would loose money on such a system. A financial plan was lined up with the City and State to make up for this shortfall. Since that time, the City and State has balked.

The State supplies NYC Transit riders with the lowest per capita subsidy, resulting in NYC having the highest cost recovery ratio in the state, if not the nation. This financial squeeze makes every dollar important, so the MTA can't give discounts.

You want discount fares? Bug Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani.

By the way, two fare zones will be eliminated in July 1997 for MetroCard users. You'll be able to transfer between buses and subways, no sweat.

Quit Ragging on MetroCard Already!

In newsposting <48diui$h1n@news2.ios.com> Alexander Medwedew
<compvent@tribeca.ios.com> writes:
>I suspect that the scheduling and method of the installation of the fare 
>card turnstiles and support facilities is at fault for the delay in all 
>stations receiving the capability.

Please, everyone, please note, as I've mentioned in many posts there is no delay. The installation of the MetroCard system is ahead of schedule. The initial 73 core stations received MetroCard system as a test to make sure the system works. It does. The MTA began installing the MetroCard system at additional stations in July of 1995.

For your information, the installation of MetroCard has been a pretty smart, multi staged process. First, the new gates were installed, you know, the black ones with the curves in them. Second, the new turnstiles (though with only token capabilities) and electrical upgrades were done. Third, the MetroCard readers and token booth terminals are installed, making the station MetroCard capable. Then the communications network is installed.

The first and second stages of installation have been going on around the system during the testing in the initial 73 stations. Now that the system works, the MTA is just popping in the readers and token booth terminals.

Basically, this is a good system and the MTA is implementing it well. So, please, find something else to pick on.

Autmoated Vending Machines
and New Station Initiatives

The original contract for the AFC program, let in 1991, contained an option for the purchase of 500 automated vending machines (AVM's) and 200 high entry/exit turnstiles (HEET's). Since that time NYC Transit has decided to phase out railroad clerks, better known as token booth attendants, moving them into a new position of customer service agents. This requires a significantly larger out-of-system sales network and more AVM's and HEET's. NYC Transit now has initial plans to install 1,000 AVM's and 400 HEET's at 140 stations. These stations accounting for nearly 60% of passenger registrations.

These measures are coupled with the Station of the Future Program, or New Station Initiatives. Stations will be upgraded with help kiosks, enhanced lighting, as well as security and communication systems. The goal of this project is to improve customer service, station monitoring, and operational cost. Franklin St in Manhattan was chosen in November 1995 as the pilot station for this program.

In May 1995 the Board approved a $3m pilot program to foster competition for the AVM purchase. The intent was to buy AVM's from various vendors, test them out in revenue service and assess the market place at that point. After extensive discussions, new vendors declined participation because they did not want to sign non-disclosure agreements necessary to protect Cubic's proprietary interests. NYC Transit even offered to provide the vendors with a black box interface, but they refused, demanding access to Cubic's proprietary software. As a result the pilot program was terminated without any purchases.

The initial contract options stipulate prices for the equipment, engineering, warranty maintenance, spare parts, documentation and training. The AVM's were to cost $45,000 each, plus escalation. In April 1996, Cubic and NYC Transit reached agreements on prices and specifications. One thousand AVM's would be purchased at $48,200/unit and 400 HEET's at $23,500/unit. This new cost includes a price reduction for the increased volume but a higher cost for installation and several new features. Yet another set of specifications and prices were agreed to for the actual contract which the Board approved in July 1996. These terms specify a final price of $47,220, including upgrades such as touch screens, ADA requirements, recirculating coin hoppers, dispensing single ride cards and an external electronic sign board, though leaving the credit/debit/smart card functions as options at specified additional costs. NYC Transit employees will perform the installation work.

MetroCards as Electronic Cash

The MTA has envisioned MetroCards as being both a fare medium and a means of electronic cash. The plans to turn MetroCards into debit cards was brought public in 1996. The MTA Card Corporation was negotiating with Chase to form a joint venture. The venture would buy MetroCard readers which would be placed in shops and then charge merchants a $0.0075 fee per transaction. The venture's profits, which would eventually be earned from the fees and the float on the money sitting on the cards, would be split between Chase and the MTA Card Corporation. Chase would have gotten slightly more than half the profits. This deal was very close to being finalized.

A bit later in 1996, the deal fell through, probably due to two concerns. NYC Transit and other MTA agencies would be charged the same $0.0075 transaction fee each time someone used the card to pay for a subway or bus ride, resulting in an expense to the TA of about $12m per year. In addition, Chase was getting more than half the profits.

While it is true the MTA would end up paying to use the system it devised, NYC Transit would no longer have to pay for back office expenses such as operating the computer system or handling customer inquiries about the card. Chase felt it deserved more than half the profit since it was taking the financial risk and putting up the capital.

The MTA Card Company has since been dissolved and its responsibilities handed over to NYC Transit.

There are hopes of reviving the plan. Unfortunately, the MTA will have lost significant time and there is fierce competition for the market place. MetroCard's biggest asset is the guaranteed high level of card ownership. Once MetroCards become the single means of accessing the city's transit system, just about every citizen will have one.

By the way, if you're uncomfortable with the thought of people being able to track your movements and purchasing patterns when you use the card, there is a solution. Get lots of them. Use them randomly. No one will be able to discern a pattern.

October 1995 Agenda

from the October 1995 Agenda

New York City Department of Transportation is going to purchase similar fare boxes for the franchised/private bus fleet.

Phase II of the Accounting controls application will be delivered to NYCT in the second quarter of 1996, along with the Unified Ticket Format. This portion was negotiated with Cubic along with the enhancements to the transfer logic, split fare, and time stamps. The Unified Ticket Format provides the capability of offering value and time-based cards, as well as providing discounts.

The Disabled Fare Access System is being put to the Board in October. DAFS will be available at 64 accessible locations to give autonomous access to the disabled utilizing wheelchairs. This system will have fare card readers near service gates and motors on the gates. When someone swipes their card in the entry or exit reader, the gate will automatically open. The system will only work with the special fare cards issued to disabled people.

November 1995 Agenda

Integrated Farebox Units (IFU) installation has been performed in 16 of the 19 bus depots. All of Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and a portion of Manhattan fleets have been competed. It is anticipated that installation at the last depot in Manhattan will be completed in late December.

The new IFUs are operating in revenue in Queens and Brooklyn in the coin/token acceptance mode so that initial burn-in problems can be eliminated and bus operators can become familiar with this new equipment. AFC operations using the MetroCard system began on Staten Island buses on September 28. MetroCard usage at Staten Island has increased to 8%. Brooklyn and Queens will open in November, Manhattan and the Bronx will open in December. All boroughs will be fully AFC operational by the end of 1995.

Installation of Token-Only Turnstiles (TOTs) began in July. There are currently 2,418 turnstiles installed system wide with 928 remaining to be done.

AFC implementation support work is proceeding on schedule. Railings and gates have been installed at 663 control areas throughout the subway system. Power is available at 212 stations, with AFC power to be available at the next 125 stations during 1995. The remaining 132 stations will then be energized for AFC by the end of 1996. Data communications for AFC is also on schedule, with data lines now available at the 73 post-core stations.

There are currently three MetroCard formats: full fare, senior/disabled [half fare] and employee/student [free passes]. To enhance customer convenience in purchasing AFC fare media and to limit media distribution costs, NYC Transit had Cubic combine the three farecard types into a singe Unified Ticket Format (UTF). If UTF had not been implemented, the additional operating expenses needed to cover system distribution would have been in the range of $1.7m to $2.3m per year. Other customer benefits include changes to transfer logic which will allow up to four individuals to use a single MetroCard while keeping track of the transfers and provide the ability for customers to augment undervalued cards with coins.

December 1995 Agenda

AVM specifications were finalized with Cubic and the Franklin St Station in Manhattan on the 1/9 line was selected as the pilot for the Station of the Future program. Anticipated opening is during the Second Quarter of 1996. (See above for more info on both these two points.)

The NYC Department of Transportation is obtaining MetroCard fare boxes for their approximately 1,139 privately contracted buses. NYC Transit will provide program management and technical support for the NYC DOT's purchase, installation, test, review and initial accuracy monitoring of the Integrated Farebox Units (IFU's) and associated depot equipment.

AFC Turnstiles are now being fully assembled in CARCG's Tullahoma, TN facility, due to the closing of their Happauge plant.

March 1996 Agenda

The minutes of the meeting indicate that Mr Forman, Vice President for Capital Program Management, explained that the AFC Power Upgrades include revising all electrical services in the stations. Additions for future structures, except anticipated new escalators or elevators, are not included.

April 1996 Agenda

New software will be implemented in April to improve the operation of the Token Booth Terminal. New software was installed to enhance station controller functionality.

STV Group will engineer mechanical kits needed to upgrade NYCDOT buses for MetroCards.

Revenue Audit scripts were successfully executed in the test facility for the six token booth terminal modifications. The software is being piloted at selected subway stations before it is implemented system wide.

A back office disaster recovery plan has been documented for use in the May 1996 disaster recovery test.

NYCT and Cubic reached agreement on pricing for the new AVM's. (See above for more info.)

May 1996 Agenda

The Unified Ticket Format final design review was completed on Marcy 29. Cubic has begun design work on this software. This software will proved the capability for transfers, split fares and increased class codes needed for NYCDOT.

Preliminary design review on the ADA Farecard Access System commenced on April 30. As a result of the meeting an itemized open issues list was generated which consisted of a number of Cubic and NYCT deliverables along with due dates.

June 1996 Agenda

Enhancements to the bus fareboxes will allow the use of half fare student MetroCards starting in September.

NYC Transit is working with Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad to develop a plasticized paper MetroCard to be used in the Joint Railroad Project thus providing a seamless transportation plan.

July 1996 Agenda

Due to the internal cleaning of buses, some fareboxes have shown signs of water damage. Covers are being placed over the boxes during cleanings as a temporary measure and a new lens is being sought as a permanent fix.

The mockup unit for the NYC DOT buses has been created and will be tested starting in June 96. Installation is scheduled for the second quarter of 1997.

NYC Transit plans to extend Electronic Data Systems (EDS), of Long Island City, contract for oversight and quality assurance of the Automated Fare Collection program. In addition, EDS would given responsibility of designing and delivering a turnkey system to support out-of-system sales of MetroCards.

The sole source contract with Cubic for 1,000 AVM's and 400 HEET's was put before the committee. Several representatives of two firms, Scheidt & Bachmann and GFI Genfare, were public speakers at the beginning of the committee meeting. They asked for the AVM contracts be competitively let rather than given to Cubic in a non-competitive process. The committee approved the Cubic AVM contract. (See above for more info.)

Another work order for Cubic was placed before the Committee covering three points:

  1. training Revenue Equipment Maintainers how to repair Token Booth Terminals
  2. production of 860,000 student pass MetroCards for the Spring school semester which opens January 1997
  3. increase the time interval for the operator display interface and install the ability for the bus operators screen to scroll three lines of text

595,000 student pass MetroCards for the Fall semester, beginning September 1996, were purchased from Cubic.

The Committee approved a measure to purchase three additional high production encoding machines from Cubic.

Retroactive approval was sought to pay for a change order covering a modification, modularizing the Token Booth Terminals to facilitate easier installation.

Commissions for out-of-system token and MetroCard sales agents were modified. Maximum token commissions were reduced from 2% to 1% while the maximum MetroCard commissions were increased from 1.67% to 2.5%. A 0.5% volume based bonus was also instituted for MetroCards. In addition, a temporary 1% bonus on MetroCard sales were instituted for the next six months. All these measures are aimed to increase the volume of orders by each agent and to increase overall sales, thus reducing NYC Transit's long term expenses.

Two decommissioned buses are being converted into MetroBuses, which will be mobile customer service centers, selling and promoting MetroCards.

September 1996 Agenda

NYC Transit has received 90% of the parts for prototype installations for the NYC DOT buses, which is slated to occur in early September. NYCDOT is considering the addition of a dollar bill acceptor to Cubic's farebox. This move would both increase costs and delay implementation up to two years.

Installation of cables required for the Jay Street Money Room will begin during the first week of September.

A new, more powerful, mainframe computer is in the works. All applications have bee migrated to the new ES9000/620 machine. The next step is to move the AFC production system over as well.

Some NYC Transit employees are going to Cubic's San Diego facility to verify and test the software for the upcoming Unified Ticket Format.

A contract modification was approved, covering four issues:

  1. New ink jet printers were ordered for the existing three High Production Encoding Machines and the three which are on the way. These new printers will replace the old dot matrix printers.
  2. 87 spare turnstile barrier assemblies were ordered
  3. retroactive payment for additional parts for Token Booth Terminal (TBT) modifications
  4. covers retroactive claim for accelerated delivery of the TBT's

NYC Transit and TransitCheck will team up to provide employers the ability to directly give their employees MetroCards. For those employees who use TransitChecks to buy NYC Transit tokens and MetroCards, this change will save them the hassle of waiting on line. This move also saves NYC Transit money by reducing the need for Railroad Clerks and the $0.10 per voucher banking fee.

Reduced-fare MetroCard holders will soon be able to enroll in a post-payment program, entitled MetroMail. This program will allow seniors and disabled to get a monthly bill for their rides and then pay them at that time. The measure is intended to make it easier for seniors and disabled, who primarily use buses, to meet their mobility needs without having to go to a subway station to refill their MetroCards.

October 1996 Agenda

Retroactive approval was given for the purchase of 1.6 million MetroCards from Cubic to be used by Metro-North and the LIRR as monthly passes during the period of January through August 1997.

Hardware and software modifications are currently being installed in all AFC turnstiles to reduce data loss.

Final design and review of the ADA Farecard Access System was completed. The AFAS units will be installed at the first 22 stations beginning in the second quarter of 1997.

The 313 check cashers in the MetroCard sales program will be offered permission to accept TransitCheck on a trial basis.

November 1996 Agenda

For the first time, contracts were approved for independent production of MetroCards. Rand McNally won the first with a bid of $1.2m for 19.5m cards. Rand McNally gained the bid for they are an American firm whose bid was less than 25% greater than a foreign competitor's. Norprint, a foreign firm, won the second with a bid of $0.5m for 10.5m cards. Both contracts result in unit costs about one tenth those obtained from Cubic.

Installation of the Integrated Farebox Unit software upgrade version 2.01 will begin on November 8 and will be completed by the end of the year. This change will improve patron display regarding student passes, improve the table manager, time and date information for the Operator's Display Interface, memory initialization and transaction storage management.

NYCDOT has decided to add a bill acceptor to their fare boxes. As a result, delivery will be delayed by more than one year. Delivery is projected to start in December 1997.

A software licensing agreement was signed with USSI. This software will handle credit/debit card settlement and and authorization.

December 1996 Agenda

Unified Ticket Format software has finally begun after various design changes required by NYC Transit.

The board was asked to approve the purchase of 320 complete fare box units and 24 sets of spare internal modules. Most of these IFU's will be used on new buses NYCT will need to purchase in order to expand its bus fleet to meet increased demand once free intermodal transfers are provided in July 1997. The remaining IFU's will be kept as spares.

For More Information:

MetroCard Information Center
212-638-7622 (from inside NYC)
800-METROCARD (from outside NYC)

Visit Cubic Corporation's Web Page. Cubic is the company that produces the MetroCard system.


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