17 years ago on April 13th, 2003
Subway tokens are phased out and replaced by the MetroCard
The transition had begun from 1993 to 1997, when MetroCard-compatible turnstiles were being installed citywide. Tokens had debuted in 1953 at a cost of 15¢ per ride (equivalent to $1.04 in 2003), but data showed only 9% of riders were using tokens by 2003. During the phase-out, no more tokens were sold from April 13 and could only be used until May 4, when new fares would go into effect. Bus riders could continue using tokens through December 31, but would require an extra 50¢ fee. See photos of all the tokens over the years.
The retirement of the MetroCard is quickly approaching, with the MTA planning to completely phase out the MetroCard by 2023 in favor of the new OMNY card, which stands for One Metro New York. The OMNY system will use cards with embedded chips or mobile phones with payment apps that only need to be waved over a card reader at the turnstile. The first card readers began testing on Staten Island buses and on the 4-5-6 between Grand Central and the Barclays Center, with the rollout slowly expanding across the MTA system through 2023.