I read the article "On sure track for retirement" [News, Jan. 7] about plans to phase out the MetroCard. While I'm all for the introduction of more-efficient technology, the proposal to bring in outside companies to collect fares for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is a worrying proposition.
I spent the last four years in Evanston, Ill., where I attended Northwestern University. I rode Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses. The CTA used a system similar to the MetroCard, and the cards worked just fine. There was also an additional Chicago Card option for contactless (tap-and-go) fare payment.
Just after I moved back to New York, the CTA phased out this system and turned fare collection over to a private company, Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., which introduced a new, exclusively contactless fare payment method called Ventra. The results were disastrous.
Friends in Chicago told me stories of not receiving their new Ventra Cards, or being unable to use them because of technical issues with the readers. News reports out of Chicago showed Ventra fare boxes on many buses malfunctioning, resulting in increased loading times at bus stops, and ultimately, many passengers being unable to pay their fares. The free rides were good for passengers, but represented lost revenue for the CTA.
My takeaway from Chicago's experience is that there's nothing wrong with new technology, but it's better to keep it in-house.
Zach Wichter, Bethpage