Subway and bus commuters received an unwanted Monday morning surprise in the form of a fare increase that arrived three weeks earlier than expected.
The 15-cent fare hike was supposed to kick in Aug. 20 but arrived early, the MTA said, because of “prematurely implemented software changes” by Cubic Transportation Systems, the contractor that developed the OMNY fare-payment system.
Express bus riders who use the tap-and-go system were charged $7 per ride instead of $6.75, while subway and local bus trips went for $2.90. Seniors and riders with disabilities also noticed they were charged $2.90 for reduced-fare trips that were supposed to cost $1.35.
“I went and checked my bank and sure enough it was the $7 charge,” said Rose Gangi, who took the X38 express bus from Dyker Heights in Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan at around 7:40 a.m. “I’m already not happy with that fare hike as it is, but it’s really unacceptable for it to kick in in late July.”
An MTA spokesperson said Cubic was “immediately directed to rectify the problem, which was resolved at approximately 9 a.m.” Riders will automatically see the money put back into their accounts.
“Anyone who was charged $2.90 will be reimbursed 15 cents per transaction,” spokesperson Aaron Donovan said in a statement. “The MTA thanks our customers for bringing this to our attention quickly and apologizes for the inconvenience.”
The MTA awarded Cubic a $554 million contract in November 2017, with plans to complete the rollout by this month.
But the full launch of OMNY — which allows riders to pay fares by tapping phones, debit cards or OMNY cards at turnstiles, has faced repeated hurdles and cost increases and won’t be available on the MTA’s commuter railroads until 2025 — two years later than had been forecast.
“This is not the first glitch — there have been times when I’ve had random charges on days when I wasn’t even traveling,” Vittorio Bugatti, head of the Express Bus Advocacy Group and a Riverdale, Bronx resident, told THE CITY. “It’s one reason why people are skeptical of using OMNY, even if it is a much better system.”
The MTA could not say how many OMNY users were hit with the early fare increase.
“I saw the alert pop up that I was charged $2.90 and I said ‘What the heck?’” said Janelle Fox, who boarded a local B31 bus in Brooklyn around 7:20 a.m. Monday. “I was shocked, so I went to the MTA website, thinking, ‘Wait, when are these charges going into effect?’”
Donna Yuszkiewicz, who takes $1.35 reduced-fare rides because of a disability, said she noticed an even bigger increase after taking the A train from Inwood to 59th Street-Columbus Circle.
“I’m disabled so my ride should be $1.35, but they charged me $2.90,” Yuszkiewicz told THE CITY. “They’re saying it was a mistake, that they cut over too early, but why aren’t the disabled people getting their proper rate?”
The MTA board earlier this month approved the first fare hike since 2019. It will take effect two weeks after tolls rise 5% on Aug. 6 on vehicles using MTA bridges and tunnels.
As part of the increase, the seven-day unlimited MetroCard will go up a buck to $34, while the 30-day unlimited will increase from $127 to $132. Seven-day unlimited express bus passes will go from $62 to $64.
The MTA now expects to return to its pre-pandemic pattern of increasing fares and tolls every other year.
Danielle Senatore, who took the 8:10 a.m. SIM2 express bus from Staten Island to Manhattan, said she didn’t expect to see the fare increase to $7 per trip so soon.
“I typically like OMNY — it needs some work but not having to remember to refill a MetroCard is great,” she said. “I just wish the tap system worked better.”