Aria Bendix is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, and a former editorial fellow at CityLab. Her work has appeared on Bustle and The Harvard Crimson.
Wearable payment devices like wristbands and rings could streamline your daily commute.
It’s a routine familiar to most city dwellers: You stop at a metro station to refill your transit card or rummage through your wallet for a flimsy ticket, only to get jostled by a sea of busy travelers. The process can make the daily commute feel even more harried.
In a statement to Metro, Bill Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, equates the use of transit cards to “trying to maintain your 8-track music collection on tapes."
A smart phone app is the obvious next step for transit systems—one that’s already been adopted in cities like Boston and Portland. Unfortunately, it’s taken other cities a while to get on board. For now, New York is stuck with old-fashioned payment methods—though it has plans to institute mobile ticketing in 2019. And while Chicago’s Metra rail promised to release an app early this fall, the city is about five months behind schedule when it comes to replacing commuters' paper tickets.
Here are a few other recent innovations that could make your commute easier and more efficient:
A key fob may not prevent you from having to dig through your bag, but it has a distinctive feel and is easy to grab. In Austin, key fobs are only available to those with difficulty navigating public transit, such as the elderly or disabled, since they eliminate the added hassle of having to swipe a card. But cities like D.C. are also considering it among their plans to improve to their current transit systems.
Many tech companies have already developed wristbands that serve as wearable payment devices, but again, using them on U.S. subways or buses is only common among those with special transportation needs. In London, however, the city has welcomed the use of wearable technology, and has even banned the use of cash when buying a bus or train ticket.
Some London commuters have swapped their Oyster smart cards for other forms of contactless payment, such as the bPay band from Barclaycard (shown above). This wristband can be pre-loaded with money from your bank account, so you’re not forced to refill it at one of those crowded kiosks.
One of the newest innovations in transit tech—just launched last week—is a sleek ring designed by London-based company Kerv. Founder Philip Campbell said that he envisioned it as an alternative to “wearable payment devices [that] are either eye-wateringly expensive or thoroughly unattractive.”
The ring is waterproof and never runs out of charge. It’s currently being funded on Kickstarter. When produced, the commuter-friendly gadget can be used to enter the Underground or London buses.