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Queens Chronicle

MetroCard machines are back up in Forest Hills

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Posted: Monday, October 21, 2019 4:17 pm

All MetroCard vending machines at the 71st-Continental Avenue subway station in Forest Hills appeared to be in working order  for Monday morning’s rush hour following last week’s stretch of approximately three days without the ability to accept credit or debit cards.

The outage came to the Chronicle’s attention the night of Tuesday, Oct. 15, though the paper has been unable to confirm through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority just what happened and when it began. It was first reported by the Chronicle last Thursday afternoon when the condition persisted during Wednesday evening and Thursday morning rush hours.

While some machines and the clerk on duty could still conduct cash transactions, many riders who did not have cash were stuck.

By Thursday evening the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told the Chronicle via email that it would have a MetroCard van outside the station for Friday morning’s rush hour to take credit and debit card payments. There also was a conspicuous increase in uniformed personnel on the mezzanine level at the turnstiles directing card users to the van.

A check by the Chronicle during Friday evening’s rush found that all but one of the machines was back to full service.

The MetroCard van was still outside the station during Monday morning’s rush hour, and had a line of people waiting to use it..

The Chronicle on Thursday afternoon reported that the outage in Forest Hills was in at least its third day.

Credit and debit card-specific machines remained useless during the outage for anything but checking MetroCard balances.

During each visit by the Chronicle prior to restoration, one of the machines that accepted cash was taking only coins. Passengers approaching the booth through Thursday night were told there was nothing that could be done unless they had cash.

The Chronicle, in its email on Thursday, had questioned whether the MTA thought a single clerk was sufficient to handle the situation at a station as busy as 71st-Continental, which already had gone through at least three morning or evening rush hours — with another one still to come — when the email was sent.

The MTA did not directly reply to questions in the paper’s email regarding just when it started; the nature of the problem; whether it was limited to the Forest Hills station; and if it involved a known, suspected or possible breach of card users’ data security.

Jaqi Cohen of the Straphangers Campaign said last week that the group had caught wind of the problem.

“We haven’t heard any complaints, but there have been complaints about it on Twitter,” she said.

Cohen said it is disconcerting particularly at a time when the MTA is cracking down on fare beating, and that technological problems with the cards can be particularly troubling for riders of buses, where no machine takes bills.

“I don’t think a lot of New Yorkers are going around today with a change purse,” she said.

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