NYC RFID Subway Turnstiles Spread

New RFID turnstiles mean Citibank customers with enabled cards or credit wands need never fumble for a Metrocard again.

Reader C-side spotted this one at at the Broadway/Lafayette subway station in Manhattan.

Eventually, RFID will spread to ever every transaction point. They’re already at McDonald’s. Forward-thinking churches will use RFID collection plates.

Good thing the security of broadcasting one’s credit card information via transponder is completely worked out… — BEN POPKEN

Another picture, inside.


Edit Your Comment

  1. c0nsumer says:

    The UK has had RFID-based subway passes for The Tube in the form of the Oyster Card for years now.

  2. zl9600 says:

    Ah another US-invented technology we’re too afraid to use but the UK makes it work.

    Reminds me of that new Lexus that parks itself. Guess where that technology came from? Yup, right here.

    I’m sure someone freaked out that it could be used by nefarious people to park cars illegally.

  3. spinachdip says:

    Yeah, that tap card thing’s been on the Lex Ave lines and the Court Square station on the 7 for the a few months. It makes sense with the Citi Corp buildings in Midtown and Long Island City.

    It’s about time though. RFID was already available when the MTA made the switch to Metrocards, and I have no idea why they didn’t go with the newer/easier technology in the first place. In Tokyo (and I’m sure in other cities too), you can use your mobile phone in addition to the tap cards.

    Apparently, Citi gives you free rides for using RFID. I have a Citi credit card and a checking account and I’d be part of the experiment too, but they’ve only given me the keyring for my credit card, which I’d rather not use, and not for my check card, which I get AA miles on.

  4. mrmcd says:

    Yeah, these have been on the 4/5/6 stations for something like 6 months now. It would be pretty cool except you can only do a pay-per-ride, no monthly passes. They do let you setup the “buy $10, get $12 credit” deal you get with regular metro cards, but Citibank will always bill you for more rides every time you drop below $4 or so, and you have to go through a bunch of hoops to get the auto-billing to stop again.

  5. martyz says:

    DC has had RFID “SmarTrip” cards in all DC area metro stations since 2004:

    Check it

  6. weave says:

    Is this limited to just Citibank? Seems a bit bizarre to lock a public system into one card issuer. I have been using an ExxonMobil Speedpass for years and really like it, but now fear I’ll eventually have a pocket full of fobs.

    By the way, I saw the Oyster card used in London on the bendy bus to Ilford. People could board through the back of the bus and just tap a terminal. Something would beep in the driver’s area. Problem is, that bus is so busy that I only saw about half the people getting on actually pay a fare that way. The others just ignored it. I had a day pass so I was legal, but the driver never asked to see it.

  7. Law-Vol says:

    I spent the summer in the UK where almost all subway turnstiles, buses and other means of public transport use RFID. They issue a separate (non-creditcard) “Oyster” card for transit use. Greatest invention ever!

    Yes, we need to work out the security, but that’s more a matter of bothering to apply existing encryption technology than ditching the concept altogether.

  8. Chairman-Meow says:


    I sort of work in the business of RFID and let me tell you that most of the companies who sell these systems wouldn’t know security if it walked right up to them and stole their wallet.

    If you see someone standing near the turnstile wire a wire in their hand, congratulations! you’ve just been sniffed. Identity theft will soon follow.

  9. sock puppeteer says:

    Every bus & L station in Chicago has had this for at least five years, as that’s how long I’ve had a smart card.

  10. Pelagius says:

    Interesting. My DC Metro “SmarTrip” (they saved a lot of money by dropping that extra ‘t’) card is also my Citbank credit card. Has been since early 2005. It was offered as a pilot program and I took the bait. There’s no advertising pimping Citicard at the turnstiles, though.

  11. Gari N. Corp says:

    The Citibank thing has been going on a trial basis for a few months now, so it’s not really an exclusive deal. Not sure how successful it has been, security-wise, although I’d be curious to see how many of those RFD enabled systems in McDonald’s and Duane Reades have been hacked too.

    London was very aggressive in driving riders to Oyster, partly by jacking up fares for paper tickets, but also by allowing users to upgrade to unlimited cards from pay per use automatically. I’m only back in London now and then, but I keep a pay-per-use Oyster card (£3 deposit) handy.

    I’m not convinced that the asshats that run the MTA are even close to getting their act together to this degree. London has a terrible subway system run by reasonably competent managers, while NY has a great system run whichever clown gave Pataki the most campaign contributions.

  12. cynon says:

    Beware of the cost of your convenience. RFID is about as secure as writing down your SSN, credit card number, address and birthdate and passing out flyers with the info. Sometimes convenience is NOT the best way to go.

  13. any such name says:

    sock above has it right. Chicago has this and it’s so much quicker than the damn paper cards. i’ve had the same card for over two years now with no problems.

    i’m just glad i can have it paid for out of my paycheck pre-tax with my employer.

  14. scudsone says:

    does this mean i need to wear my aluminum foil hat under ground too?
    damn you major league baseball