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The Cursed History of NYC MetroCards

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Troy Jones
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This can go on for hours, until you beg an MTA employee to let you through.

The three-decade-old system is to be replaced by new technology that will enable riders to tap their phones or debit cards at the turnstiles, doing away with the often frustrating swiping situation as well as the iconic but easily lost yellow cards that have dominated public transit in New York City since 1993.

Introduced in 1953, The tokens were an elegant solution to the dynamic problem of price increases, since riders exchanged the price of a fare for a token that handily unlocked the turnstile.

The system was not without its flaws—perhaps most dramatically illustrated by the disgusting “token sucking” scam or the Great Token War of 1985—although it endured.

While tokens were perfectly capable of providing a rough portrait of which stations were seeing the most traffic and which trains saw the most riders, it was hardly as granular as what a computer-powered system could offer.

Just imagine how much more efficient the train and bus schedules would be if the MTA knew the exact location and time that every rider entered the station or boarded a bus.

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