Fare Gates Replace Turnstiles at Sutphin Blvd: MTA Hopes New Gadgets Will Reduce Fare Evasion

By Celia Bernhardt | [email protected]

The busy Sutphin Boulevard–Archer Avenue–JFK Airport subway station in Jamaica is now home to a fleet of the MTA’s new fare gates. 

The double-door gate devices replaced traditional turnstiles and emergency exit doors in one side of the station earlier this month. It’s the first full deployment of the technology following its pilot in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center station.

The MTA hopes to reduce fare evasion with the gates, which don’t easily lend themselves to being hopped over — though some have observed that evaders might find “doubling up” to pass through the gates with just one payment to be even easier with this design. 

The gates allow customers with strollers, large luggage, bikes, or mobility devices — who might have needed to use an emergency exit rather than a turnstile in any other station — to pass through smoothly. Built by Cubic, the firm which developed both MetroCard and OMNY, the new additions cost roughly $700,000.

The MTA held a news conference in the station on Dec. 4, marking not only the debut of the fare gates but a Customer Service station as well. The shiny new alcove is the 14th of its kind in the city. It’s staffed by station agents who can assist customers with OMNY technology, Reduced-Fair, and other issues. 

MTA Acting Chief Customer Officer Shanifah Riera said at the press conference that Sutphin Boulevard was a particularly appropriate station to receive the new additions. “With a direct link to the AirTrain, the [station] is often visitors’ first introduction to New York, making it a perfect spot for a new customer service center and wide aisle fare gates,” she said.

In the evening of Monday, Dec. 11, some customers seemed exasperated by the unfamiliar fare gates while others passed through without a hitch. A station agent was active in helping people who had issues with OMNY on the new machines. One fare gate seemed to glitch, remaining open even when no one was swiping or tapping to pass through.

Maggie Tiwarie, a Richmond Hill local on her way home from work, said that the new gates were a good addition. 

“I think it’s efficient,” Tiwarie said. “It’ll stop people from just going through without paying.” 

At the Dec. 4 press conference, one journalist asked how the MTA would determine whether or not the gates would reduce fare evasion when one emergency exit door remained on the other side of the station. “Obviously we’re watching these gates in particular,” NYC Transit President Richard Davey said. “If someone is a determined fare evader I think that’s going to be tough to beat under any circumstances, but I think the majority of folks are not.”

“At a station like this, you have a lot of customers with luggage who legitimately need to use these wide-aisle gates,” Davey added. “Obviously for customers with disabilities as well and mobility devices is an example. So we’re watching all that to see and learn.”

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