Dozens of subway passengers in New York City have been charged extra for taking the subway, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) suspects Apple may be partly to blame. The MTA doesn’t explicitly point the finger at Apple, but it looks like some passengers accidentally put their iPhones too close to the system’s newly installed tap-to-pay card reader when they swipe their cards with a subway card (which leads to a second payment).
Last spring, the MTA began installing point-to-pay readers as part of its new fare payment system called One Metro New York. Soon after, Apple announced a new feature called Express Transit that allows customers to pay for subway rides without opening an app or unlocking their phone. All they need to do is put the iPhone on the pay-per-view card reader to get in easily.
The problem is that some people have enabled rapid transit, but still use subway cards to pay for rides. The MTA suspects that when passengers swipe their subway cards, their iPhones accidentally get too close to the pay-as-you-go card, either because they’re holding an iPhone in their pocket or wallet, leading to their double-pay tragedy. Gothamist first reported the incidents, citing tweets from some of the double-charged people:
#当我在UES86街刷地铁卡时, OMNY managed to scan the credit card in my wallet. Thank you for your enthusiasm for my swipe card, but I want to say no to this! @2AvSagas – Marie Dugo (@MarieDugo) January 3, 2020.
Ah! I’ve just been charged an extra $2.75 by MTA OMNY, and although I only swiped my subway monthly card, my phone was also swiped in my pocket. It’s crazy@NYCTSubway too? pic.twitter.com/Xnb4MBCbXa – McCartney (@Macartney) January 7, 2020.
@NYCTSubway — My Apple Pay has now been accidentally swiped several times by your OMNY machine, even though I only use a subway card every time I take the subway. My bank says many customers have called to challenge these fees. When are you going to fix this problem??? @NYCMayor #mtastealing – Libby S. (@Libbeck) December 27, 2019.
Many people think the problem is with the MTA. But the MTA insists it is not to be blamed and it is working with Apple to address the issue.
“We have more than 50,000 pay-as-you-go readers, and we have recently received complaints from about 30 passengers,” Al Putre, head of MTA OMNY, said in a statement. These passengers’ iPhones’ “fast bus” feature is on and they are subject to unexpected charges. THE OMNY SYSTEM IS A POPULAR PAYMENT SYSTEM THAT WORKS WELL FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE. We are currently in touch with Apple to resolve this unexpected charge as soon as possible. ”
The Rapid Transit feature was first introduced with Apple’s iOS 12.3 and Watch OS 5.2.1 system updates. Apple says it’s a quick and easy way to pay for a bus without the need for touch or facial recognition to unlock the phone. The MTA wants to install OMNY readers on every metro station and all bus lines by the end of 2020, when they will add more fare options.
Initially, Apple users had to use the settings on their iPhone to enable the Rapid Transit feature. People living in New York City are asked if they want to use Rapid Transit when they add a credit or debit card to an iPhone. Some of them may have clicked “Yes” without realizing the effect of the feature, and then when they used a subway card to pay for the subway, the tragedy happened.
In addition to New York, passengers in Portland, London, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo can also use Apple’s Rapid Transit feature.