Fare evasion could render obsolete the subway turnstiles first installed in New York City a century ago.
The MTA displayed different models of modern fare gates at Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday that could help fix the fare evasion problem, which a new report says cost the subway system $285 million in 2022.
The report — put together by a 16-person panel of notable New Yorkers and first reported by the Daily News — says that in all, the MTA lost $690 million last year to fare and toll evaders on its subways, buses, trains and bridges and tunnels.
Investing in new subway gate technology could reduce the MTA’s losses.
“These fare gates are designed to make it much much harder for persons to evade paying the fare coming in,” Roger Maldonado, an attorney and co-chair of the agency’s fare evasion panel, said Wednesday.
The new fare gates would replace the rotating turnstiles with motorized, plexiglass panels or doors. Similar systems are used in transit systems worldwide, where their height discourages would-be fare jumpers.
Conduent, a U.S. firm, displayed a gate with two widths — one tailored to wheelchair accessibility. The glowing green gate included sensors that would ensure two riders didn’t slip through on one swipe, a company spokesman said.
Conduent sales director Bill Brunet took MTA chair Janno Lieber through the test gate on one swipe — causing the fare-evading transit boss to set off an alarm.
Conduent fare gates are used on French transit systems, and Philadelphia’s SEPTA plans a pilot test of the units next year.
Scheidt-Bachmann, the firm that provides fare collection equipment for Boston’s MBTA system, also had a unit on hand.
French company Easier had two fare gates on display that featured plexiglass panels that rotated up and out of the way of a passengers entering the system.
Thales, which manufactures fare gates used in parts of Paris’ transit systems, had a video display at the showcase as well.
Maldonado said people could easily exist the subway system through the gates in an emergency — ending the need for the emergency doors his panel says are the main source of fare evasion.
Any plan to replace the turnstiles is still in the early stages, and no bidding or procurement process has been started, MTA chair Janno Lieber said.
“We’re going to put out a request for information to look at different models of gates, we’re starting to study the ones you see behind us,” he said.
“Obviously, that kind of a move at that scale is going to take a while,” Lieber said when asked how long it would take to outfit the city’s 472 stations with new gates.
Automatic turnstiles that accepted coins were introduced to the subway system in the 1920s. The new technology allowed the MTA’s predecessors to lay off hundreds of ticket choppers, who manned subway entrances and checked riders’ paper tickets.