New York City’s subway system is getting a big upgrade that will allow passengers to pay for subway fare with a simple tap rather than a swipe.
On May 31, patrons taking the 4, 5, and 6 trains — a popular subway line that stops at busy stations like Grand Central Terminal, Wall Street, and Barclays Center — will be able to enter the subway by holding their smartphone or wearable device near a reader rather than swiping a Metro Card.
It’s the beginning of a pilot program for the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s new OMNY contactless fare system, which will accept digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay as well as contactless credit cards from major companies such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.
For Apple device users, that means you’ll be able to board the subway by holding your iPhone or Apple Watch near the reader, similar to the way you can digitally scan your boarding pass for a flight through Apple’s Wallet app. The feature, which Apple is calling Apple Pay Express Transit, works very much like the standard version of Apple Pay.
Just choose the card you’d like to use to pay for subway fare, and your Apple device will know to charge that card specifically when your phone or Apple Watch is held near one of the MTA’s contactless readers. You don’t have to wake your phone or watch in order for this to work, just holding it near the reader will do the trick.
The launch comes after Apple announced in March that it will soon make its Apple Pay service compatible with public transit systems in New York, Chicago, and Portland.
As part of this pilot program, the service will be available at 16 stops along the 4,5,6 line between Grand Central terminal in Manhattan and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It will also be present on all Staten Island buses.
The new fare system currently only supports single fare tickets, but will eventually support other options as well. After the public pilot ends, the MTA is aiming to roll out the new readers to the rest of the 4,5,6 line and additional buses in 2020.
It’s a notable step forward for New York’s public transit system, which will join other major cities such as London and Sydney that already offer contactless payments for their respective transit systems.
Here’s a look at what Apple device users should do to get started.