Newer MTA Turnstiles Trick Some Riders into Paying Twice


metrocard-nyMost subway riders can quickly navigate through a revolving-door, ceiling-to-floor turnstile. It’s a simple enough maneuver: Swipe the MetroCard, step straight ahead, push the bars forward.

In less time than it takes a conductor to say, “We’re being held in the station by the train dispatcher,” the seasoned straphanger has crossed to the other side.

But the cagelike contraptions can bamboozle less experienced travelers into paying the $2.25 fare twice – an apparently unintended consequence of the design that doesn’t seem to trouble the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“These are the biggest robbers down here,” one transit worker said as he repaired a high entrance-exit turnstile, or HEET, in the Union Square station.

Here’s what happens. A confused or distracted rider steps into the wrong opening of a revolving-door turnstile after paying. From that position, slightly left of center, the turnstile will rotate in the correct, counterclockwise direction – for a few feet. It then locks again.

The rider is still on the outside looking in. The turnstile won’t budge unless fed another $2.25.

“It happens all the time,” another turnstile repairman said. “Most of the time it’s tourists, but sometimes it even happens to people who live here. Nobody knows. There’s no signs or information.”

Next to tourists, the elderly are most likely to need more than one crack at a HEET, the workers said.

Sara, a Westchester mom, and her daughter Ellie got tripped up the other day at the Times Square complex. As they approached a pair of turnstiles, dozens of exiting riders from a 42nd St. shuttle train pushed through from the other side.

The tiny entranceway suddenly was crowded and noisy. A screaming, brain-rattling alarm sounded because a self-absorbed joker used the emergency exit gate for no goodreason.

Mother and daughter, a bit bewildered and trying to advance upstream through exiting riders, both pushed the wrong set of bars and each lost $2.25. They had to buy two more single-ride tickets and try again.

“We don’t usually do the subway,” Sara said. “We’re from the suburbs. We usually drive.”

Helen Tyler, 27, from London, also got beat by the HEETs. Although a frequent user of the London Underground, she had to pay two fares at the same unstaffed Times Square entrance.

“It’s very confusing,” said Tyler, who was traveling with three other young Londoners. “We don’t have a clue.”

Some more regular riders don’t realize they paid twice, one of the transit workers said. When the turnstile halts their progress, they just assume their card wasn’t read properly. They just swipe again without looking. One ride for the price of two.

One longtime commuter conceded it happened to him once. He usually avoids HEETs, he said, and will take one of the waist-high turnstiles if available.

The MTA has installed hundreds of HEETS at entrances over the past 13 years to curb fare-beaters from jumping the low-bar turnstiles. Plans call for 41 more to be installed to the tune of $2.3 million.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to get messed up,” Sara said.

 {NY Daily News/}