Emergency exit gates at three subway stations will soon take 15 seconds to open, MTA officials announced Monday, as part of an effort to crack down on the “super highway of fare evasion.”
Transit officials estimate riders skipping the subway fare cost the agency $285 million in 2022. NYC Transit President Richard Davey said riders have found it easy to slip through emergency doors when they’re opened from the inside.
Come mid-February, the gates will be reconfigured with 15-second delays at three stations: The 138th Street-Third Avenue station on the 6 line, Flushing Avenue on the J, M and Z lines; and 59th Street on the 4, 5 and 6 lines.
MTA officials said they chose those three stations because they have enough turnstiles for masses of riders to quickly escape actual emergencies, like a fire or terrorist attack, even if the emergency gates won’t open for 15 seconds.
“We’ve been very careful about this, gone to the state code authority and gotten a waiver, which is basically everyone saying that we still have a safe station,” said MTA President of Construction and Development Jamie Torres-Springer.
Davey said the agency already tested the trick out at a set of emergency gates at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall station — and that it worked in “frustrating” riders who tried to use the exits when there was no emergency.
“So that’s the goal, to frustrate folks who might want to be using that as a matter of convenience, where you have a perfectly good turnstile next [to it],” Davey said.
Officials did not say whether the 15-second waits at emergency gates will be rolled out to other stations, but it’s one of several ways the MTA is working to crack down on fare evasion.
The MTA has over the last two years hired private security to stand near turnstiles to deter fare beaters. It’s also making adjustments to more than 3,400 turnstiles to prevent fare evasion through a maneuver called “back-cocking,” where riders pull back the bar just far enough to squeeze through.
The agency is also testing out a new turnstile design at the Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer station in Queens that is supposed to be harder to jump over. But some riders at the station have already figured out they can get the gates to open without paying by waving their hand over a sensor.
Danny Pearlstein, spokesperson for the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, said the delays to the emergency gates go too far in the MTA’s fight against fare evasion.
“Riding the subway should be as quick and seamless as possible for all New Yorkers,” said Pearlstein. “Riders with strollers, suitcases and wheelchairs, who need to use the gates, won’t appreciate the additional delay, no matter how brief.”