MTA extends free transit to rival app’s users, now offering to ride free on Metrocard too

NEW YORK (AP) — A transit agency that provides its own e-hail app is giving its biggest customer — the roughly two million people who travel through the city’s subway system on an average…

MTA extends free transit to rival app's users, now offering to ride free on Metrocard too

NEW YORK (AP) — A transit agency that provides its own e-hail app is giving its biggest customer — the roughly two million people who travel through the city’s subway system on an average weekday — the same free rides that riders of rival services like Uber and Lyft receive.

MTA, which also runs New York City buses and commuter trains, said it plans to begin offering free rides to OMNY “Tap-and-Go” customers starting on Friday — the same day the short-lived A.P.C. app on which OMNY rides are paid for is removed from the mobile app market.

According to internal MTA documents obtained by The Associated Press, the agency says it plans to begin offering Free Transit Access through MBTA as well as M.T.A.’s own app and a similar app from the Long Island Rail Road.

“MTA is announcing today that starting Friday, March 22, an extension of the free transit options offered to A.P.C. Tap-and-Go customers at the MTA bus, subway and LIRR stops will begin,” acting MTA chief Maxyne Amani-Dove said in a statement. “Access to Free Transit will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone who wishes to use it.”

The announcement of the transit extension comes a day after the MTA revealed it would suspend its program to test fee-free A.P.C. rides, a move that had caused dismay among OMNY’s loyal fans who had been paying for rides they might not even need, resulting in mass waste of time and money on some trips.

On Tuesday morning, a drive-by reader named Jevaughn who didn’t want to give his last name called the MTA “a bunch of morons” for not waiting until the test program was over before dropping the necessary $7 from his weekly budget.

“These bus companies are a bunch of sons of bitches,” he said, hopping on the subway as soon as the subway doors closed for the last time this morning. “They’re robbing us with A.P.C. To have to pay money for A.P.C. is pretty bad. I can pay the $7, but that’s a lot.”

Vicente was less convinced: “I can make it. We have no choice.”

The MTA board approved the A.P.C. test program in December 2015, and it was set to launch in April 2016. But because of difficulty testing the system during summer high ridership, the program was put on hold until September 2017.

“After successfully operating the program for nearly a year in one of the world’s most congested cities, the MTA decided it was time to reevaluate the risk of continuing the free fare trial in the current framework,” MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein said in a statement on Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Uber and Washington, D.C.-based Lyft are not competitors to the MTA, but their apps are accessed on the MTA’s mobile app. Once in use, riders can use Uber or Lyft to pay OMNY fares or simply kick back and watch movies at 42nd Street.

Ridership for the service peaked in the summer of 2017, according to internal MTA documents, and the agency has not made any financial projections of the impact of the program’s suspension.

Amani-Dove said in an email that the MTA would not break out the cost of the OMNY system.

“The MTA has some of the most sophisticated and advanced mass transit systems in the world and our decision to offer OpenAir customers this option is a no-brainer,” she said.

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