Why NYC's MetroCard Should Be More Like Tokyo's Suica

If you live in the New York area and you ride the subway on a regular basis, chances are you own a MetroCard. It’s convenient and refillable – if you have an Unlimited Ride MetroCard, that is – and you can use it on the buses.

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The MetroCard

Tokyo’s version of the MetroCard is called Suica, which means “watermelon” in Japanese, although I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. Anyway, I’m in love with Suica – the card, but I’m fond of watermelon, too. As invaluable as my MetroCard is, I’m here to say that Suica is better. Way better. Let me count the ways.

  • No Swiping
    The Suica readers require a simple touch rather than the Metrocard’s swipe that invariably results in a message screaming, “SWIPE AGAIN AT THIS TURNSTILE,” especially if you’re a tourist who has just attended a Yankees game and is frantically trying to return to the city. In some cases commuters in Tokyo don’t even take their cards out; they just touch their wallets to the Suica readers.
  • Accessibility
    Tokyo has an extensive subway and rail system that looks like a frightening and intimidating tangle of multi-colored spaghetti. But Suica is there to support you! Suica is accepted at all of the lines, excluding the Shinkansen (bullet train). You can use Suica in select cities outside of Tokyo as well. The MetroCard is for MTA use only. No LIRR. No New Jersey Transit. (But you can use it on the PATH, so that’s cool.)
  • Flexibility
    Suica is money in your pocket. The card is accepted at vending machines throughout the greater Tokyo area – newer models, of course – and at many konbini (convenience stores) and anywhere the Suica card is displayed. Think of it as another form of currency in Japan. You have yen, and you have Suica.
NYC, Tokyo, subway, MetroCard, Suica
Vending machine that accepts Suica
NYC, Tokyo, subway, MetroCard, Suica
Suica reader on vending machine
NYC, Tokyo, subway, MetroCard, Suica
Restaurant ticket machine that accepts Suica
  • Cute Mascot
    The Suica mascot is a penguin. Enough said.
  • NYC, Tokyo, subway, MetroCard, Suica

2 thoughts on “Why NYC's MetroCard Should Be More Like Tokyo's Suica

  1. I’ve been saying this for a long time. Furthermore, the fact that Boston’s got the Charlie Card means we’re behind Boston on that, and the very idea of New York being “behind” Boston on anything is an embarrassment.

    That said, I remember they were doing a trial run of a RFID swipe card on the 6 train a few years ago. I wonder what became of that.