Photograph by [phil h] on Flickr

Commuters trying to buy Metrocards with credit or debit cards on Monday or yesterday morning faced problems at non-working Metrocard vending machines and, worse, money taken out of their accounts though they were told the transactions didn't go through. The NY Times spoke to NYC Transit, which described the systemwide outages (yes, pretty much all the machines) as unprecedented.

NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said there was "some sort of communication problem between the machines and where the transactions are ultimately processed" and said customers whose accounts were charged would receive refunds within 10 days. Of course, at the stations, some "token booth" clerks tried to help, but sometimes it didn't work; one would-be straphanger told the Times:

"This morning at the Astor Place station, I had two clerks who told me to insert my card differently, even though customer after customer was stuck with the same problem,” said Torrey Whitman, an administrator at New York University School of Law. “One of the clerks took the card out of my hand, put it into the slot in the machine and let it sit there, as if that would work. Of course, we all know that you dip your card, and what more or less that dipping action involves.”

Imagine how it was at the entrances without clerks circulating.

Update: While NYC Transit told the Times the situation appeared to be fixed by mid-morning yesterday, we're hearing that some people had trouble buying Metrocards last night (a station agent at the 53rd Street station said the system went down at around 6 p.m. and to try again in this morning).