MTA

The MTA’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week

The agency faces a lawsuit, faulty subway cars and OMNY issues.

The MTA has experienced a handful of setbacks in the past week.

The MTA has experienced a handful of setbacks in the past week. Olga Listopad/Shutterstock

After a week full of blunders, we imagine Metropolitan Transportation Authority president Andy Byford is going to need a nice warm pint of bitter come Friday. 

Within the past four days, the MTA has been slapped with a lawsuit and forced to remove brand new subway cars from its tracks and its new OMNY contactless payment system has reportedly charged some Apple Pay users who had already paid by Metrocard. Oh, and its trains have been experiencing a high number of delays.

Here’s what you need to know about the MTA-related news this week:

300 new train cars were removed from service

The MTA was forced to pull 300 of its new cars out of service on Tuesday and Wednesday, due to a safety issue involving the cars’ doors. Older train car models, that date back to the 1960s, have replaced the new cars.

The cars, which were ordered from Canadian company Bombardier Inc., cost the transit authority $600 million and arrived three years past their expected arrival. The MTA has defended itself, saying that it effectively oversaw the order and demanded that Bombardier provide it with 16 new cars free of charge for holding up its delivery. A spokeswoman for Bombardier told The Wall Street Journal that the company is examining all of the pulled cars’ doors but Byford said that the MTA will be hiring an outside contractor to examine them. 

An Apple Pay update charged some unwitting OMNY users

On Wednesday, it was reported that the MTA’s new automated tap-and-go system, OMNY, has been charging some riders using a passcode-skipping Apply Pay service – which allows users to scan their phone over an OMNY reader and pay their fare without unlocking their phone – a subway fare, unbeknownst to them, when they had already used a MetroCard. It’s apparently an unintended consequence of a recent iPhone update. “Customers can easily turn off the feature in Settings on their iPhone at anytime and use Face ID or Touch ID to ride transit,” a rep for Apple said in a statement sent to the Post.

MTA Chief Revenue Officer Al Putre has confirmed to the New York Post that the MTA has received about 30 complaints from people who say they have been charged by OMNY when they separately paid with a Metrocard. The MTA has said that it’s discussing these issues with Apple and hopes to resolve them soon. 

The OMNY service has been slowly rolling out in the city, since May, in an attempt to modernize the city’s transit system. This comes at a particularly bad time for the MTA, which announced plans to launch a new marketing campaign for OMNY on Wednesday and is expected to expand the system to 60 stations by the end of 2020.

The MTA is being sued for allegedly trying to block a FOIL request

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project group, an advocacy group focused on fighting state and city surveillance, filed a lawsuit against the MTA on Monday, alleging that it did not comply with its Freedom of Information Law request. 

In April, a reporter for The New York Times shared a photo of a subway monitor that said it was recording riders and also instructed them to pay the fare. The photo sparked concerns that the MTA was using facial recognition technology to catch fare beaters but the MTA denied using facial recognition cameras in the subway. 

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project filed a FOIL request to gain access to all documents and communication pertaining to the camera photographed, from Jan 2014 to April 2019, to assess whether or not the MTA was telling the truth. However, the MTA said that it didn’t have any communication regarding the camera and told the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project to seek out information from New York City Transit. But New York City Transit said it would be unable to complete the advocacy group’s request for four months. The group claimed that stalling tactics were being used to avoid providing its requested information.

The MTA maintains that no facial recognition technology has been used in the subways. Though its past testing of the technology on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge – unbeknownst to commuters – has left some feeling suspicious of the agency. 

Correction: This article originally misstated the nature of the payment issue with iPhones on OMNY. 

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