The MTA originally expected to roll out OMNY on the...

The MTA originally expected to roll out OMNY on the LIRR by 2021, but the project has been plagued by delays. Credit: Linda Rosier

The MTA's OMNY fare payment system won't arrive at the LIRR for another two years, and won't look all that different from the railroad's existing electronic ticketing system, officials said Monday. 

Already in place throughout the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's bus and subway system, OMNY — One Metro New York — allows riders to pay for their trips with a tap of a phone, or a credit, bank or fare card. The MTA originally expected to roll out OMNY on the LIRR by 2021, but the project has been plagued by delays.

At a Manhattan meeting of the MTA board Monday, agency officials detailed their overhauled plan to bring a scaled-down version of the OMNY contactless fare payment system to its two commuter railroads, the LIRR and Metro-North, by 2026.

MTA officials announced that Cubic, the firm hired by the MTA in 2017 to develop OMNY, would no longer be involved in efforts to integrate the fare payment system into the commuter railroads. Instead, the transit authority is extending an existing contract with LIRR fare app developer Masabi to incorporate OMNY's functionality into the railroads' existing app, TrainTime. The MTA's total budget for OMNY will remain at $772 million.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The MTA is moving ahead with a scaled-down plan to bring its contactless fare payment system, OMNY, to the Long Island Rail Road by 2026 — five years later than originally planned.
  • The MTA is pulling OMNY developer Cubic off the effort to integrate the system into the LIRR, and will instead incorporate some of OMNY's functionality into the railroads' existing electronic fare app, TrainTime, as part of a $97 million plan.
  • The MTA is also spending $134 million to replace and upgrade outdated ticket vending machines at the LIRR and Metro-North.

Jamie Torres-Springer, president of construction and development for the MTA, said the decision to move ahead without Cubic was made after it became apparent that the company was “not sufficiently staffed to get this work done.”

“We’re not going to attack our principal contractor. But we saw, consistently, that there was … a lot of confusion on [rolling out OMNY] on the railroads,” added MTA chairman and CEO Janno Lieber. “That’s why it was right to make this move.”

In a statement, Cubic vice president Cory Shields said the company is “proud to have built our contactless payment technology in a way that has helped the MTA unlock critical improvements for riders eligible for reduced fares.” Under the arrangement, the MTA will reduce its $638 million contract with Cubic by around $36 million, and pay Masabi $97 million over seven years to continue administering TrainTime, and expand the app's functionality to allow riders to use some of OMNY's features.

Those include automatic discounts based on riding history, and the ability to pay fares on various MTA modes, including buses, subways and railroads, in one transaction. The functionality also would allow for the MTA to create discounted, joint fare options in the future.

Under the deal, which will go before the full MTA board for approval Wednesday, Masabi also would develop a tap-and-go “onboard sales and validation device” that conductors would carry with them. Customers buying tickets on trains are subject to a surcharge of between $5.75 and $6.50.

The modified plans dashed some riders' hopes that they would one day be able to pay for their LIRR trips by tapping their phones at their origin and destination stations. Torres-Springer said setting up fare gates throughout the LIRR's 126 stations is “simply not practically possible.”

Speaking during a public comment period before the meeting, commuter Cameron Best expressed disappointment that the MTA was settling for a subpar OMNY system on the railroads.

“A full tap-on, tap-off system would have been a big change from the current ticketing system, but if that's what the MTA was pursuing, I think it would have been worth the wait,” Best said.

MTA board member Sammy Chu, of Lindenhurst, disputed that take, saying that by sticking with the railroads' popular TrainTime app, the MTA's modified plan prioritizes “the best customer experience.”

“That should always take precedence over any sort of dogmatic loyalty to a concept of a homogenous OMNY system,” Chu said.  

MTA officials assured board members — including one representing the LIRR conductors' union — that paper tickets would always remain an option on the railroads. To that end, the MTA board also advanced a $134 million contract with Scheidt & Bachmann USA to replace and upgrade 471 ticket vending machines across the two railroads, and make other improvements to paper ticketing software.

The new machines will come online beginning next year, and replace machines introduced about 25 years ago and nearing obsolescence, officials said.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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