MARTA restores credit card use

MARTA on Tuesday partially fixed a four-day-old glitch in its Breeze card systemthat created long lines and confusion for some passengers during one of metro Atlanta’s busiest tourism weekends of the year.

Agency officials said the transit system started accepting credit card payments again just in time for Tuesday’s evening rush hour, though they were still trying to restore debit card service. The Breeze card machines began malfunctioning Friday, just as tens of thousands of visitors were pouring into the region for auto races, football games, Gay Pride activities, a sci-fi convention and other Labor Day weekend activities.

Between Friday and Tuesday afternoon, the machines only accepted cash. Riders with pre-loaded Breeze cards were not affected.

Ryland McClendon, MARTA’s assistant general manager for communications and external affairs, said the agency is still working with Cubic, the company that handles its Breeze card vending machine operations, to resolve the problem.

“MARTA is a lot of moving parts and at any time one of those parts can go awry and that’s what we experienced this weekend,” McClendon added. “This was right up there with the ice storm that we had in January 2011 in terms of impact to our customers and the inconvenience.”

The debit card problem continues as the city welcomes some 18,000 convention-goers for this week’s National Baptist Convention at the Georgia World Congress Center. It is the first time the group has been back to the area since 2005.

Tourism officials said they were aware of the problem but reported no major disruptions to their events.

“I haven’t heard any negative feed back so far,” said Jennifer LeMaster, a spokeswoman for the Georgia World Congress Center.

Nonetheless, the problem creates a possible image problem for the region, said Paul Breslin, managing partner at Panther Hospitality, a hotel consulting firm in Atlanta.

“It really is a black eye for us when we have so many visitors come into town. To have something like this happen is really just terrible,” Breslin said. “Sometimes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

But Breslin said city and hospitality officials stepped in to help.

“Kudos to the city for responding as best as it could,” Breslin said.”All of the people from ACVB and all of the hotels reacted well to steer the guests and give them advance notice. That really helped mitigate guest complaints.”

McClendon said the problem did not create security breaches or affect people’s individual credit or debit cards, but rather centered on a communication glitch between MARTA and its financial institution.

MARTA had more than than 1.1. million passenger boardings between Friday and Sunday on its rail and buses, said MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris. Monday data wasn’t available.

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