MTA will test middle-out turnstiles at 15 subway stops this year

The MTA is set to deploy middle-out turnstiles at more subway stations this year.
Ray Raimundi / MTA

The MTA plans to test “middle-out” subway turnstiles at 15 stations this year, testing the technology ahead of a long-simmering push to modernize its easily-jumpable fare gates.

The agency has been testing out “wide-aisle” fare gates at four stations, opening from the middle out instead of turning clockwise, since last year, and by the end of 2024, intends to have them at 15 stations.

The MTA believes the design to be a key component of efforts to combat fare evasion, which is again expected to cost the authority some $700 million in lost revenue this year. And unlike today’s turnstiles, they are also wheelchair-accessible.

The authority also says it has also made changes to the technology after riders managed to figure out how to make the gates open without paying — and subsequently posted the hack on social media for all to see.

“Through our field observation, and in response to your many TikTok and Instagram videos, we’ve made software and design changes along the way,” said Chantel Cabrera, senior director of subways coordination and solutions, at the MTA Board on Wednesday. “We added interim barriers to deter sensor triggering, we tweaked the speed in which the paddle doors open and close, the force you can apply on the paddles to break through on entry, and we are now testing taller paddle prototypes in our lab.”

The MTA plans to expand the new turnstiles to these stations:

  • Bronx: Kingsbridge Road (B/D), East 180th Street (2/5)
  • Brooklyn: Crown Heights-Utica Avenue (3/4)
  • Manhattan: 125th Street (2/3), 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal (A/C/E), Delancey-Essex Street (F/J/M/Z), Bowling Green (4/5)
  • Queens: Flushing-Main Street (7), Forest Hills-71st Avenue (E/F/M/R)

In addition, the turnstiles are already in use at:

  • Brooklyn: Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center (2/3/4/5/B/D/N/Q/R)
  • Manhattan: 34th Street-Penn Station (A/C/E)
  • Queens: Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue (E/J/Z), Astoria Boulevard (N/W)

The MTA has an active “request for information” out seeking vendors interested in redesigning the subway turnstile, which will ultimately be a highly lucrative contract.

To combat turnstile hopping, the MTA is also implementing “delayed egress” at some emergency exit gates, which Chair Janno Lieber calls “the superhighway” of fare evasion. At three stations where it’s being piloted, pushing the handle of the exit gate won’t open the door for 15 seconds, enough time that notoriously impatient New Yorkers will opt instead to just exit through the turnstiles. The delay has led to a 7% drop in fare evasion at the stations where it’s deployed.

Transit officials will need approval from the Fire Department and state code authorities to implement the delay elsewhere.

“We went through a process of making sure they were comfortable that it would not compromise safety in any way,” said Lieber. “That process has concluded, they gave us permission for the three pilots, and now we’re moving forward with a process to get permission to go much bigger.”