The Long Island Railroad is in the midst of fixing a huge billing snafu that occurred 5 days ago. On October 1st, a record of almost 30,000 tickets were sold via credit or debit cards at various ticket machines throughout New York City & Long Island. This does not come as a surprise considering it was the first day of the month (a Monday to boot) which is usually when many are buying their LIRR tickets for the week or month. Unfortunately the record use did not bring good results to those customers & the MTA.
Almost 2000 commuters were double billed for purchases they made with their credit or debit card. LIRR officials say the problem arose from a software glitch which affected all 269 automated ticket machines throughout the system. Officials say that most riders have already been reimbursed. According to spokesman Joe Calderone, commuters “should see a double charge on their statement and then a credit, without having to do anything.”
Unfortunately for the MTA, they seemed to be the last to know of the problem. They did not know about the issue until Thursday when they were flooded with complaints. As usual the MTA left customers in the dark about the issue as they did not inform everyone until Friday after being contacted by Newsday. It took almost 36 hours after learning about the problem for the MTA to alert commuters by e-mail & via a service alert on their website.
Spokesman Joe Calerdone commented on the issue by stating:
“We were trying to get a handle on the scope of the issue. We have a much better understanding of it and are making full notification now through both print and electronic media”
LIRR General Manager for Passenger Services Kevin Fehn commented about the glitch saying it was “not something we’ve ever had to deal with before.”
The glitch occurred due to the limitations in the billing software. It seems that the software has a transaction limited which was never surpassed before. When the limit was surpassed, the software billed some of the transactions on Monday which was followed up by those same transactions being billed again on Tuesday. Mr. Fehn said the LIRR had no idea that a transaction limit was in place. He said that the German company Scheidt & Bachmann are busy working on isolating & fixing the issue system wide.
One passenger came out & commented about his ordeal. 31 year old Bellmore resident Stephen Faulkner said he was billed twice for his $203 monthly pass. He contacted the LIRR immediately after noticing the billing error & was told he would be reimbursed. Since that phone call Mr. Faulkner has stated: “I just checked, and it hasn’t been refunded yet.” His statement was made as of Friday morning.
The LIRR has done business with Scheidt & Bachmann since 1986 with these machines having been in use since 2001. However this is not the first issue the LIRR has dealt with this year involving these machines. This past April, the LIRR had to issue approximately 400 refunds when these machines took the passengers money but did not issue a ticket.
I sit here in astonishment wondering how something as simple as a billable transaction could turn into such a huge mess. First off how do you not know the full technical specifications of devices you paid for? Anyone with a clue would make sure these machines are capable of not having credit card limitations. This concept seems so obvious considering Mr. Fehn acknowledged that more & more commuters are using forms of credit cards to purchase tickets. He also noted that credit card purchases are up 25% this year compared to the same period last year.
One has to laugh at the statement Mr. Fehn said regarding possible overdrafts. Mr. Fehn said the LIRR would “consider” refunding those charges. HELLO!!!!!!, you owe it to your customers to refund overdraft charges. The commuter should not bare a penny of responsibility for a glitch that was out of their control. Who in charge over there even thought that this issue would have to be discussed? This is one of those clear cut issues where only one choice exists.
Who needs comedy clubs or movies when you have the MTA playing 365 days a year!