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Reminder: When The MTA Screws Up, Ask For A Courtesy Pass



The MTA experienced a citywide breakdown of MetroCard machines during rush hour this morning, sending sweat-drenched customers into a tizzy for about an hour as they scrounged up cash to pay a station agent or just abandoned their commutes altogether.

The issue seems to be fixed now. A spokesperson for the authority says the culprit was a software problem with the mainframe computer that prevented credit and debit transactions from being communicated with banks. Such glitches happen from time to time, and the MTA at least bothered to inform customers this time around.

Safely assuming this is not the MTA’s last-ever screw-up, we figure this is a good time to remind you, ever-suffering transit rider, about the relatively new system in place for when this sort of thing happens.

Since December, the authority has been issuing “courtesy passes” to riders dealing with major MTA headaches, as part of an effort to “acknowledge and apologize.” Eligible benefactors include straphangers dealing with excessive delays, customers with strollers or disabilities faced with busted elevators/escalators, and yes, those who encounter a broken MetroCard machine. (It’s unclear whether the MTA will do you a courtesy for getting stuck in a hot car, but they should.)

While an MTA spokesperson told Gothamist that anyone who needed to get onto a platform this morning would receive pass, a lot of people are apparently unaware of the benefit.

Gothamist editor Liz Kim said she was in line to refill her MetroCard on the Upper West Side this morning, when she noticed the station’s lone machine was down. After trying three different cards, the woman in front of her threw up her arms and left the station—possibly leaving a free ride on the table without even knowing!

Kim, meanwhile, approached the station agent and was told that someone was coming to fix the machine. Instead of being given a “courtesy pass,” however, she was told the subway would be cash-only until then: “So I paid cash, but oddly enough she handed me a MetroCard that didn’t work—it said ‘see agent,'” Kim recalled. “So I went back and got a new one.”

The MTA is currently rolling out a new tap-to-pay fare system, and will be retiring the MetroCard for good by 2023. Good riddance.

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