New York's MTA to test cell phone 'farecard'

Consortium of credit card and wireless providers will test "tap-and-go" technology in cell phones to pay subway fare in NYC

December 22, 2006

New Yorkers may soon be "phoning in" their subway fare, the am New York recently reported.

A consortium of credit card and wireless providers will test "tap-and-go" technology in cell phones along the Lexington Line starting Jan. 10.

A select group of riders will be able to pay the fare by holding specially designed phones to PayPass sensors already installed along the No. 4, 5 and 6 subway stations in Manhattan.

"It will work like the PayPass payment tag," said Jeff Semenchuk, an executive vice president with Citigroup, a sponsor of the trial. "Whenever you use it at the turnstile it will directly charge your credit card. If customers choose to prepay for 10 rides they can receive the 20% discount."

The three-to-six-month trial is limited to people who are both existing Citi MasterCard holders and Cingular Wireless subscribers, according to the am New York.

Several hundred people will get a free Nokia 613X, a prototype phone embedded with a radio chip that will communicate with the turnstile. The phone will work as a "mobile wallet" and can be used as a regular phone as well as for credit-card purchases at 30,000 participating vendors nationwide. But testers will have to give the phone back at the end of the trial, Semenchuk warned.

MasterCard began testing its PayPass smart card system along the Lexington Line in July. Eligible cardholders received special key chains. The companies, not the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), are funding the trial phase, the am New York reported.

Similar mobile phone technology has been in use in Asia and Europe for several years.

While the PayPass subway program has been expanded beyond its original six months period, the MTA is far from deciding if it will adopt the PayPass technology at all 468 subway stations.

"We haven't made any decision," said New York City Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges.