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Queens Chronicle

MTA 'working to fix' Forest Hills MetroCard machines

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2019 2:09 pm | Updated: 1:53 pm, Mon Oct 21, 2019.

A MetroCard sales van was positioned on the street outside the 71st-Continental Avenue subway station in time for the Friday morning rush hours at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority scrambled to repair problems with station vending machines that have not been able to accept credit or debit cards since at least last Tuesday night.

“We are aware of the issues with the machines at this location and have technicians on site working to fix it,” MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels said Thursday evening in an emailed response to a Chronicle inquiry.

“We apologize for the inconvenience to our customers and appreciate their patience. We will make a Metrocard van available at the station tomorrow [Friday] starting at 7 a.m. for customers who are still having trouble using the machines. Station agents are still available to help customers purchase Metrocards with cash and will direct debit/credit card customers to the van for those transactions.”

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 on Friday morning for anything but checking balances.

Full-service machines and the clerks in the station booth can process cash transactions, though some machines since Tuesday have been designated as taking coins only.

While passengers approaching the booth through Thursday night were told there was nothing that could be done unless they had cash, Friday morning saw a flood of uniformed MTA personnel in orange vests at the mezzenanine-level turnstiles and the clerk’s booth.

The Chronicle, in its email, 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 when the email was sent.

While the problem first came to the Chronicle’s attention Tuesday night, 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 is limited to the Forest Hills station; and if it involves a known, suspected or possible breach of card users’ data security.

Jaqi Cohen of the Straphangers Campaign said Thursday afternoon that the group had caught wind of a 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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