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Smartphones Will Replace Subway Cards in New York

First came tokens. Then came reloadable, disposable cards. And in a few years, public-transportation riders in New York will pass through subway turnstiles with the tap of a smartphone.

After a 20-year-long reign, the MetroCard is going the way of the New York City subway token. Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials told amNew York that the MetroCard will be phased out, to be replaced with an electronic fare payment system that will allow riders to pay with smartphones or credit cards. Riders will tap an RFID- or NFC-enabled device as opposed to swiping magnetized MetroCards.

An MTA spokesperson told Fast Company, “MetroCard is a system that is reaching the end of its useful life. Its equipment is on the verge of becoming obsolete.”

The new system will save the MTA millions and help keep fares low. Fast Company reports that a single MetroCard machine can cost as much as $50,000. It’ll be a time saver too, since tapping or waving a card or device is much quicker than swiping a ticket through a card reader.

But the new technology will take some time to implement: New York’s MetroCard system isn’t slated to end until 2019.

The smartphone-as-payment trend is definitely a shift that will improve transit in coming years. Flyers are already accustomed to using electronic boarding passes stores on smartphones. Some U.S. cities, including Boston and Washington, D.C., employ seamless tap-and-go smartcards and smartphone ticket apps. And select stores have begun accepting payment via smartphone, by way of apps such as LevelUp.

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(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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