MTA, New York City Department of Social Services launch Fair Fares pilot on OMNY

May 2, 2024
The pilot, which is scheduled to run for 90 days, allows customers to use OMNY cards to pay via tap-and-go on New York City subways and buses.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City (NYC) Department of Social Services (DSS) have launched the Fair Fares pilot on OMNY, the authority’s contactless fare payment system. Fair Fares customers registered for the pilot can now use OMNY cards to pay via tap-and-go on NYC subways and buses. The pilot is scheduled to run for 90 days, which will allow for the agency to collect feedback from participants, evaluate the pilot and finalize a plan for the full transition to OMNY across all Fair Fares customers at a later date. There are currently 50 Fair Fares members enrolled and already tapping into the subway system and on buses with OMNY cards as part of the pilot program. 

Following the NYC’s implementation of the first expansion of Fair Fares eligibility, extensive community outreach and numerous enrollment events held in partnership with the MTA, elected officials, agency partners and community-based organizations, more New Yorkers than ever – more than 330,000 – are currently enrolled in Fair Fares. The pilot comes after the MTA, NYC, DSS and the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement held the most expansive single day of action in all five boroughs of NYC to promote and enroll riders into the city’s half-priced Fair Fares program.  

Additionally on April 29, the MTA completed its OMNY Card Vending Machine rollout pilot program. To date, MTA crews have activated 39 machines at 25 stations with more activations scheduled – providing additional ways pilot participants can reload their cards. 

“Targeted affordability is key to not only growing ridership, but ensuring the most loyal transit riders, no pun intended, pay the fair fare,” said NYC Transit President Richard Davey. “Fair Fares reps have been great partners, joining our TransitTalks to help spread the word about this vital program. Fair Fares has serious potential to be a game-changer, and with OMNY now in the mix, the potential to substantially grow the program is highest it has ever been.”  

“New York City’s public transit system is one of our city’s greatest resources and it is critical that every New Yorker is able to afford to utilize it without sacrificing elsewhere,” said DSS Commissioner Molly Wasow Park. “As a result of our robust outreach efforts and program eligibility expansion, more low-income New Yorkers than ever are receiving half-priced fares through Fair Fares, and as we enroll even more eligible individuals, it is imperative that there is no disruption in service as we transition to OMNY. This pilot will ensure we have the necessary information and feedback to make the full transition smooth and painless for all Fair Fares enrollees.” 

Pilot participants attended an in-person orientation, where they were able to ask questions about the pilot, including how to reload the OMNY card, which, just like a MetroCard, must have money added to it before it can be used. The Fair Fares discount is added to the OMNY Cards when they are assigned to a participant and all participants will be able to continue using their OMNY card with the Fair Fares discount even after the pilot concludes. 

As outlined in the Blue-Ribbon Report on MTA Fare and Toll Evasion, MTA is aggressively expanding awareness around the Fair Fares program among the riding public to actively increase enrollment. City representatives and MTA staff informed and directed riders to the right resources and information while offering the opportunity to sign up on site. 

Reduced-Fare customers and select Fair Fares customers in the pilot program can now pay their fare with OMNY. In addition to being able to pay for the fare on subways and buses, customers taking the Roosevelt Island Tramway and AirTrain JFK can use OMNY to pay full fare. 

“Transit needs to work financially for all New Yorkers,” said MTA Chief Customer Officer and Senior Advisor Shanifah Rieara. “Last month, we held the most expansive Day of Action for Fair Fares because there are so many that rely on transit who do not realize they qualify for the discounted fare. This pilot is a major step in the right direction, and along with our city partners, we will continue outreach to riders in every borough so they know benefits available to them, including fare capping, which would give them an even better deal.”