The MTA introduced OMNY — an acronym for One Metro...

The MTA introduced OMNY — an acronym for One Metro New York — in 2019, and since has completed installation of the new fare technology on all subways and buses. The technology allows riders to pay their fares by tapping a bank card, smartphone, or watch. Credit: Jeff Bachner

The MTA’s new OMNY contactless fare payment system may not be available on the Long Island Rail Road until 2025 — four years later than originally planned, according to project officials.

The delays continue to mount as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the private contractor developing the new fare system work through the complexities of bringing OMNY to the MTA’s two commuter railroads — the LIRR and Metro-North. Those and other issues in the rollout of the new fare system could drive up the project’s budget by $127 million, to $772 million.

The MTA introduced OMNY in 2019, and since has completed installation of the new fare technology on all subways and buses. The technology, which aims to eventually replace the 20-year-old MetroCard, allows riders to pay their fares by tapping a bank card, smartphone or watch. OMNY fares already account for more than one-third of all bus and subway rides, according to the MTA.

Transit officials have envisioned OMNY — an acronym for One Metro New York — being used across different transit agencies and modes in the region, allowing a traveler to use the same fare system to ride the LIRR, Metro-North, subways and buses.

The MTA originally projected that OMNY would be available on the LIRR by February 2021. Late in 2020, that date was pushed back to sometime in 2022. Then in January of this year, officials said the rollout wouldn’t begin until 2023.

At a meeting on Oct. 24, MTA officials said they now hope to roll out OMNY on the LIRR sometime in mid-2024, after completing a design in 2023 and conducting testing in early 2024.

But that schedule is more optimistic than that projected by its contractor, Cubic, or by an independent engineer hired by the MTA to review the project. Both predict it will take until the second quarter of 2025 to bring OMNY to the LIRR and Metro-North.

Amy Linden, who is heading the project for the MTA, said the authority has “not accepted” the contractor’s proposed timeline, and is “working with the vendor to understand the basis for changes in the forecast and what is required to improve it.”

In its latest progress report, MTA officials said Cubic’s “quality control is lacking in several areas,” leading to various delays, and the potential for the project’s price tag to grow from the original $645 million.

The MTA also has yet to roll out OMNY on “affiliate” transit systems that use the MetroCard, including Nassau’s NICE Bus. The MTA is expected to officially update its timeline and budget for the remainder of the OMNY project by the end of this year.

Asked for a comment, a Cubic spokesperson referred to the progress report recently issued by the MTA, which she said included "the current status of the system rollout."

The commuter railroads have fallen behind other MTA agencies in developing software for the new fare technology because they “joined the contract somewhat at the last minute,” according to Linden.

“Their requirements weren’t spelled out in great detail, so time has been spent in the last year and a half to spell them out in much greater detail and make them feasible to be implemented,” Linden said.

It remains unclear how OMNY would work on the LIRR, which, unlike subways and buses, charge different fares depending on distance traveled and time of day.

Linden said the MTA intends to initially test the new technology using LIRR employees, and then expand testing to LIRR mobile ticket users, before completing a rollout that would include OMNY card vending machines at railroad stations.

“It’s a different kind of a rollout than New York City Transit,” Linden said. “It’s just completely different.”

MTA officials have said there is less urgency to rolling out OMNY on the LIRR, because railroad riders already can use their mobile phones to pay fares. MTA officials noted that 8.3 million LIRR tickets have been sold through the authority’s new TrainTime app since it was released in August.

Peter Haynes, a former LIRR systems project specialist who now leads the LIRR Commuters Campaign, an advocacy group, said that while bringing OMNY to the LIRR would allow the MTA to gather “comprehensive stats” about ridership patterns, “commuters really couldn’t care too much about it.”

“They would much rather have East Side Access … and more trains showing up on time,” Haynes said. “To a certain degree, they don’t really care how they pay for it.”

The MTA’s new OMNY contactless fare payment system may not be available on the Long Island Rail Road until 2025 — four years later than originally planned, according to project officials.

The delays continue to mount as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the private contractor developing the new fare system work through the complexities of bringing OMNY to the MTA’s two commuter railroads — the LIRR and Metro-North. Those and other issues in the rollout of the new fare system could drive up the project’s budget by $127 million, to $772 million.

The MTA introduced OMNY in 2019, and since has completed installation of the new fare technology on all subways and buses. The technology, which aims to eventually replace the 20-year-old MetroCard, allows riders to pay their fares by tapping a bank card, smartphone or watch. OMNY fares already account for more than one-third of all bus and subway rides, according to the MTA.

Transit officials have envisioned OMNY — an acronym for One Metro New York — being used across different transit agencies and modes in the region, allowing a traveler to use the same fare system to ride the LIRR, Metro-North, subways and buses.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The MTA’s OMNY contactless fare payment system may not be available on the Long Island Rail Road until 2025 — four years later than originally planned.
  • Issues with the rollout of the fare system could drive up the project’s budget by $127 million, to $772 million.
  • The MTA introduced OMNY — an acronym for One Metro New York — in 2019. The technology allows riders to pay their fares by tapping a bank card, smartphone, or watch.

The MTA originally projected that OMNY would be available on the LIRR by February 2021. Late in 2020, that date was pushed back to sometime in 2022. Then in January of this year, officials said the rollout wouldn’t begin until 2023.

At a meeting on Oct. 24, MTA officials said they now hope to roll out OMNY on the LIRR sometime in mid-2024, after completing a design in 2023 and conducting testing in early 2024.

But that schedule is more optimistic than that projected by its contractor, Cubic, or by an independent engineer hired by the MTA to review the project. Both predict it will take until the second quarter of 2025 to bring OMNY to the LIRR and Metro-North.

Amy Linden, who is heading the project for the MTA, said the authority has “not accepted” the contractor’s proposed timeline, and is “working with the vendor to understand the basis for changes in the forecast and what is required to improve it.”

In its latest progress report, MTA officials said Cubic’s “quality control is lacking in several areas,” leading to various delays, and the potential for the project’s price tag to grow from the original $645 million.

The MTA also has yet to roll out OMNY on “affiliate” transit systems that use the MetroCard, including Nassau’s NICE Bus. The MTA is expected to officially update its timeline and budget for the remainder of the OMNY project by the end of this year.

Asked for a comment, a Cubic spokesperson referred to the progress report recently issued by the MTA, which she said included "the current status of the system rollout."

The commuter railroads have fallen behind other MTA agencies in developing software for the new fare technology because they “joined the contract somewhat at the last minute,” according to Linden.

“Their requirements weren’t spelled out in great detail, so time has been spent in the last year and a half to spell them out in much greater detail and make them feasible to be implemented,” Linden said.

It remains unclear how OMNY would work on the LIRR, which, unlike subways and buses, charge different fares depending on distance traveled and time of day.

Linden said the MTA intends to initially test the new technology using LIRR employees, and then expand testing to LIRR mobile ticket users, before completing a rollout that would include OMNY card vending machines at railroad stations.

“It’s a different kind of a rollout than New York City Transit,” Linden said. “It’s just completely different.”

MTA officials have said there is less urgency to rolling out OMNY on the LIRR, because railroad riders already can use their mobile phones to pay fares. MTA officials noted that 8.3 million LIRR tickets have been sold through the authority’s new TrainTime app since it was released in August.

Peter Haynes, a former LIRR systems project specialist who now leads the LIRR Commuters Campaign, an advocacy group, said that while bringing OMNY to the LIRR would allow the MTA to gather “comprehensive stats” about ridership patterns, “commuters really couldn’t care too much about it.”

“They would much rather have East Side Access … and more trains showing up on time,” Haynes said. “To a certain degree, they don’t really care how they pay for it.”

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