New-York News

MTA drops OMNY contractor for commuter rail rollout after costs, timeline spike

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The OMNY tap-and-go fare system is coming to the region’s commuter rails next year, but the contractor launching the years-delayed network is no longer running the show.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board voted Wednesday to drop Manhattan-based Cubic from the process of integrating OMNY, which stands for One Metro New York, into the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North’s popular ticketing app MTA TrainTime. Instead, the London-based firm Masabi will do the work.

The MTA dropped Cubic in part because it’s three years behind schedule on the commuter rail integration, and the contract has ballooned $200 million past its original budget. MTA Chair and Chief Executive Janno Lieber conceded Wednesday that the problems trace to “gaps” in the 2017 contract negotiated with Cubic.

“[The contract] really didn’t clearly figure out the cost and the process for bringing the railroads into contactless fare payment,” Lieber said. “All projects have risks but there were some serious ones here with respect to our contractor performance and software integration.”

The integration of trains, buses and subways with OMNY and the TrainTime app has been touted by transit officials as a way to create more seamless connections for travelers. But the process has been rife with dysfunction owing to missed deadlines, buggy software and management challenges at both the authority and Cubic, according to MTA documents and people familiar with the project. The Covid-19 pandemic also caused delays to mount.

Cubic initially inked a $573 million contract in 2017 with the MTA, with an October 2020 deadline to launch OMNY on the city’s subway and buses; that expected date now is August 2024.

The company’s contract with the MTA has since grown to $772 million, including $85 million in change orders from Cubic, and more than $100 million in added costs by the MTA.

The original deal envisioned Cubic finishing the commuter rail work by roughly 2021, but Cubic recently gave the MTA the updated timeline of 2027. At that point, transit officials said they decided it would be “more expedient and cost-effective” to replace Cubic with Masabi, according to contract documents.

Under the new arrangement, the MTA will shrink its contract with Cubic by roughly $36 million and pay Masabi $97 million over seven years to operate and expand the TrainTime app and to support the use of OMNY features, such as automatic discounts based on ridership history.

Masabi said it can integrate the commuter rails, OMNY and TrainTime by the end of 2025. However, new fare gates with the tapless tech, similar to what’s currently in the city’s subway system, are not planned for commuter rail stations, said MTA Construction and Development President Jamie Torres-Springer.

“I just want to be clear that it was not anticipated in our scope that we were going to gate every one of the railroad stations — it’s simply not practically possible, wouldn’t make sense for the riders.” Torres-Springer said. “What we have here is a contactless system that is integrated and that’s the real value.

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Caroline Spivack , 2024-05-22 23:00:34

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