The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will pilot “wide-aisle” fare gates at subway stations this year, easing use of the system for wheelchair users who, unlike most riders, cannot pass through turnstiles.
The wide gates, which open middle-out, will first be installed at Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue in Queens and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center in Brooklyn this spring, the MTA’s chief accessibility officer, Quemuel Arroyo, announced on Tuesday.
“We are finally installing those gates this year,” Arroyo said during the MTA’s New York City Transit committee meeting on Monday. “This is the first time that the MTA is changing their fare array and how our customers access our systems. I’m very excited to be installing the very first wide-out gates in the subway system, improving access for customers with disabilities, bikes, strollers, luggage, and many more.”
The MTA unveiled the new fare gates in 2021, promising to roll them out for testing at five stations. Sutphin-Archer and Atlantic-Barclays will be the first two to receive the treatment; they were chosen to get the first new fare gates due to their high volume of passenger traffic, including many carrying luggage or pushing strollers.
At present, those straphangers in wheelchairs must enter through one of 200 “AutoGates” at already-accessible stations — essentially an emergency exit gate that can be opened with a MetroCard or OMNY. Advocates say that the wider gates are a step toward allowing people with disabilities to use the system the same way as everyone else.
“Wide fare gates are great because they allow wheelchair users and people with strollers and bulky suitcases or packages to go into and out of the system just like everyone else and not have to use the finicky big door gates,” said Jean Ryan, president of Disabled in Action and a wheelchair user, in an email. “Once the wide gates are installed everywhere, we won’t have to have a certain kind of MetroCard or OMNY card to get through the gate to or from the trains. It might also stop some of the fare evasion that is happening with the big door gates.”
Such turnstiles are in wide use in transit systems around the country and world, like Washington DC, San Francisco, and London, but have historically been missing in the Big Apple. In 2021, the MTA said it would spend $25 million to install wide turnstiles at 200 stations over the next few years; the wide fare gates will replace a portion of the inaccessible turnstiles.
Transit officials in recent years have floated redesigning all of the subway’s fare gates, bringing them in line with other systems that open middle-out instead of with a spinning turnstile. That’s ostensibly to combat fare evasion: in December, MTA Chair Janno Lieber said the current turnstile design is “too porous” and invites ne’er-do-wells to easily jump over without paying.