Home Asides Is it ever OK to hop the turnstile?

Is it ever OK to hop the turnstile?

by Benjamin Kabak

In terms of gems from the City Council, here is another one, courtesy of The Daily News. Recently, while speaking with reporters, City Council member Robert Jackson told a tale involving his wife and an unstaffed subway entrance. Apparently, the MetroCard Machines at 181st St. weren’t working, and no station agents work at the entrance in question.

Instead of hoofing it to another entrance or seeking out a way to buy a fare, Jackson urged his wife to skip out on the $2.25. “I told her to go under,” Jackson said. “I would have gone under…Whoever goes to buy a MetroCard should be entitled to a free ride if the machines aren’t working, if there’s no token booth clerk there.”

For its part, the MTA was less than impressed with Jackson’s ethics. “Farebeating is a crime,” Adam Lisberg said to The News. “It’s wrong. It’s illegal, and it deprives the MTA of the money it needs to carry you on the subway.”

I want to pose this a different way: Do you ever consider a fare jump acceptable? Personally, I’m never without at least one and usually two MetroCards. I keep my unlimited on hand and have an emergency pay-per-ride back-up just in case. That way, I’m never faced with the possibility that I can’t board a bus or ride the subway. Furthermore, as every station complex has at least one staffed entrance, I also don’t think walking to that entrance with a person or working machines is too onerous. Apparently, though, politicians whose lack of support for the MTA has led to the dismissal of those station agents disagree.

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BoerumBum May 30, 2012 - 2:49 pm

Turnstile hopping is in the same category as cutting in line for the Brooklyn Bridge exit. You might think that you’re a genious, but everyone else knows what you really are.

BoerumBum May 30, 2012 - 2:50 pm

Sigh… looks like the genius is me. Nice spelling there.

Gary Busey May 30, 2012 - 2:52 pm

I’ve hopped a turnstile exactly twice: once at around 2AM when the MetroCard machine wasn’t letting me refill my card, and the train was pulling into the station, and once when I left the station to place a phone call and then I couldn’t swipe back on.

I don’t feel particularly bad about either situation.

Bolwerk May 30, 2012 - 10:04 pm

I really don’t see why some leniency can’t be granted in cases where a turnstile jumper is reasonably pressed for time and made a good faith effort to pay. It’s exactly what is done on POP systems, which work fine the world over. Even cops aren’t so halfwit that they can’t tell if you’re lying by your tone, facial expressions, and body language.

If some sociopath who can really fake it still slips through sometimes, oh well. It’s the price of not having a vicious police state.

Mike June 1, 2012 - 11:30 am

“Even cops aren’t so halfwit that they can’t tell if you’re lying by your tone, facial expressions, and body language.”

The undercover cops that stopped and frisked me, and then kicked me out of a subway station near Columbia one day for trying to repeatedly swipe a defective card would disagree with you. My card was a little bent, so I kept trying to swipe it, and they assumed I must of course have been trying to beat the fare.

As I left, they said “good luck getting to your appointment, asshole.”

New York City’s finest.

Mike June 1, 2012 - 11:32 am

Just to clarify: I didn’t even jump the turnstile, just kept trying to swipe my card over and over again (which isn’t illegal), and the cops still brought down the hammer on me.

Bolwerk June 1, 2012 - 1:00 pm

When life gives you pigs, make bacon!

Adam September 13, 2012 - 2:03 am

I say they give you a hard time you give them a hard time and contact whoever they work for most likely the MTA so I would complain against them.

ash May 30, 2012 - 2:54 pm

I swipe my unlimited card. “Please swipe again at the same turnstile.” I swipe again. “Already used.” Hop.

oscar May 30, 2012 - 4:26 pm


Eric May 30, 2012 - 2:57 pm

Yes, I have skipped on a fare many times, usually involving a HEET that wouldn’t accept my card and me going through the emergency exit.

UESider May 30, 2012 - 3:01 pm

on the record, i discourage the practice, in accordance with the colonels memo… off the record, i tell you it is a crucial part of close infantry training and if it happens to go on without my knowledge, so be it

or something like that…

no public official should be advocating any crime

but the mta should budget for a small number/% of fare jumpers and other minimalist seepage

there’s inevitably going to be a time when its just reasonable and practical. its the people who systematically skip out who need to be addressed

UESider May 30, 2012 - 3:03 pm

it should still be considered illegal, no matter the circumstances
and it’ll be for the judge to decide

Flatbush Depot May 30, 2012 - 3:08 pm

We discussed this at length on NYC Transit Forums. My main points were that the guy would have been preaching to the choir if he had decided to bring up these problems as they occur in SBS land, and that I was miffed that the TA spokesman had the chutzpah to pontificate about farebeating when the only reason why the farebeating occurred here was that the machinery was faulty, while completely ignoring the fact that this is/was MTA’s screw-up and MTA needs to do something about such situations, especially if they expect people to enjoy (or at least not get annoyed) using the system.

Link to thread: http://www.nyctransitforums.co.....t-jackson/

Link to my first post in that thread: http://www.nyctransitforums.co.....ntry538667

Second: http://www.nyctransitforums.co.....ntry538848

Third: http://www.nyctransitforums.co.....ntry538903

Fourth: http://www.nyctransitforums.co.....ntry539790

AK May 30, 2012 - 3:09 pm

I once got the dreaded “Just Used” message on a perfectly good monthly card and the train was entering the station. I was already running late, so I hopped. I know they still consider it fair evasion, but I had a valid card and wasn’t about to miss my train because of their faulty equipment.

Todd May 30, 2012 - 3:48 pm

I’ve hopped twice that I can remember, both times for card/swipe malfunctions with an unlimited card. I know it was technically wrong, but they already had my money, so I was willing to chance the ticket.

wrongway jumper May 30, 2012 - 3:49 pm

As a youth i used to jump the turnstyle on the way out of the station to avoid the long lines by the one-way gates. I would get great reactions. It took people a moment to realize that i was jumping out not in.

SEAN May 30, 2012 - 4:21 pm

There are TWO EXCEPTABLE times to turnstyle jump. 1. If you LEGITIMATELY paid the fare or 2. you have an UNLIMITED Metrocard & the turnstyle fails to unlock in either situation , then you can jump. This assumes there’s NO open booth at your entrance.

please Notice wich words I put in all caps.

Seth Rosenblum May 31, 2012 - 2:50 pm

I noticed that one of those words should’ve been “ACCEPTABLE”

Yo May 30, 2012 - 5:02 pm

I’ve done it before like others above. I had a valid monthly card and then after swiping it a few times after the first few times didn’t work I got a “Just Used.”

Jumper May 30, 2012 - 5:36 pm

Whenever it charges me extra for a train-to-bus transfer when it should have given me the transfer, I remember that and jump the next time so that me and the MTA are even. I have to transfer bus-to-train every morning and train-to-bus every evening. About once a week it doesn’t give me my transfer. That means that the MTA is taking quite a bit extra of my money. I jump to make sure that I pay the right amount.

dave June 3, 2012 - 11:21 am

That happens to me once in a while. If you call 511 and give them the station/stop/bus route and the numbers off the back of your metrocard, they’ll send you a new one for 2.25 a couple days later. Quick if not friendly.

Cesar May 30, 2012 - 6:11 pm

I did once, not on the Subway, but on the PATH from Newark. The train was about to leave the station and it was late at night (therefore, low frequency). I felt really bad, so once I got to Manhattan I swiped my Metrocard and left.

Michael May 30, 2012 - 6:34 pm

It’s never ok to jump a turn-style. If you do, be prepared to talk to a judge.

But, there is no excuse for the MTA to have broken ticket machines. One of the biggest problems the MTA has is lack of money, so their top priority has to be collecting every possible dollar by ensuring access to working ticket machines.

Unfortunately, the MTA set itself up for high ticket machine demand and failures by making the original metrocards disposable and requiring unlimited ride metrocard users to buy new cards. The MTA now knows this was a mistake and will start charging a new metrocard fee to encourage to reuse their metrocards and more importantly, switch to automatically refilling metrocards. The new metrocard fees should be high enough to cover the operation and maintenance cost of ticket machines.

There really is no reason why a NYC resident or regular subway rider should need to use a ticket machine anymore. The auto refill easy pay metrocards (pay-per-ride or Unlimited with suspended pay-per-ride option) provide options for all ridership needs and ensure you never get stuck with an expired metrocard when trying to board a bus. You also still get the pay per ride discounts.

Similarly, single ride metrocard should be eliminated, and replaced with a reusable low income metrocard, that provides the pay-per-ride discount to people who can only afford to buy one ride at at time.

Anon May 30, 2012 - 6:46 pm

sure. if there was a guy with a chainsaw
behind me I would jump.

Hope that’s o.k.

Duke May 30, 2012 - 6:51 pm

Morally speaking, if you’ve legitimately paid the fare, then how you enter is irrelevant.

Practically speaking, I’d rather end up short $2.10 than risk getting confronted by NYPD and given a $120 summons, so I won’t be jumping any turnstiles.

The solution to this problem? Unlimited cards should be made to look different than pay as you go cards, and possession of one should by law make you immune from fare beating tickets.

Bolwerk May 30, 2012 - 10:05 pm

Unlimited cards should be made to look different than pay as you go cards, and possession of one should by law make you immune from fare beating tickets.

Indeed. And they should also make you not need a receipt on a SelectBus.

John May 31, 2012 - 12:23 am

It’s astounding that this has never been put into practice, considering that the MTA already makes cards that look different for student Metrocards and senior citizen/disability discounted Metrocards.

Bolwerk May 31, 2012 - 10:40 am

Printing a “receipt” on the back of an MC with a longer expiration than a paper SBS receipt is a reasonable option too.

Seth Rosenblum May 31, 2012 - 2:58 pm

There’s a big problem with this idea. Even if you could print an expiration date on the back of an unlimited metrocard, it wouldn’t be accurate: unlimited metrocards start the first time you swipe them, not when you buy them. Even if you made the machines start unlimited metrocards and printed the expiration on the back of them, all the unlimiteds that are sent through the mail wouldn’t have an expiration date, and it would just make the instructions for boarding a Select-Bus more complicated.

The only way to accomplish this is to have the enforcement officers scan your Metrocard, or to start selling unlimited cards that align with the calendar month(You buy a March or April unlimited pass).

Bolwerk May 31, 2012 - 3:32 pm

It’s a problem, but it’s not insurmountable. I wasn’t talking about the current MC expiration date, but adding another print – perhaps a transaction number or death date. A TVM that imprints a date to expiraiton would be sufficient.

OTOH, this is less feasible with the new policy of unlimiteds that expire.

Of course, the technology exists to scan unlimiteds. It’s already employed in subway stations and there is no reason it can’t be installed on buses, not carrying necessary.

Andrew June 4, 2012 - 10:19 pm

But the TVM doesn’t know when the unlimited card expires – as Seth said, that’s determined by when it’s first used, not when it’s purchased.

(Changing that policy would be a very bad idea – it would make it impossible to buy a new card in advance, which is the insurance many of us use against broken machines or long lines when we’re in a rush to get to work the next morning.)

You expect everybody on the bus to line up at a single fixed scanner whenever an inspector boards? Not practical.

New Yorker May 30, 2012 - 6:53 pm

Every so often I’ve been waved through a faulty card reader by a MTA bus driver. Turnstile jumping? Not really. Fare evasion? Definitely.

Would a judge understand? The passenger, bus driver and dispatcher at the depot will all be in trouble for sure. I wonder…

pea-jay May 30, 2012 - 10:43 pm

Back in the Token collecting days of the CTA, I once hopped a turnstile that took my token but did not unlock itself.

Paying too much attention to fare-beating dollars :: Second Ave. Sagas May 31, 2012 - 12:48 am

[…] « Is it ever OK to hop the turnstile? May […]

Kevin Li June 4, 2012 - 1:37 am

Farebeating is technically a crime, but I’ve always been pragmatic when confronted with such a decision. For example: I get off at the wrong station.

Frank September 13, 2012 - 2:08 am

I try to follow the law and pay because I know if we all skip out the service would be horrible. However if my unlimited card is valid and for some reason the machine isnt working I am not about to walk all the way back up and find another place to swipe. I will jump that thing like there is no tomorrow, a janitor sweeping yelled at me “THAT IS ILLEGAL” so I yelled at him “then get your machines fixed because I paid my fare”

Bob Bobson April 24, 2014 - 5:50 pm

The general consensus sensibly seems to be that if the machines aren’t working, then it’s not the rider’s fault, so it’s not fair for them to be punished for that. Ironically, the resulting lack of income is exactly what leads to service disruption and equipment failure. Regardless, riders (with or without unlimited cards) should not be punished, nor forced to walk to another gate (maybe they were on their feet all day and are thus exhausted, or pregnant, or on crutches, or carrying a heavy/number of bags or something).

The number one rule of business is that you don’t put obstacles in the way of customers. If you expect people to give you their money, then you shouldn’t make them have to go to extra lengths or expense, or have to work or fight to do it; make it as easy as possible for customers.

In the situation where the rider is willing and able to pay the fare but the equipment/service prevents that, then it’s provisionally “OK” to “hop the turnstile” so long as you make it up later (swiping the card twice, dropping in double the cash fare, etc. the next time). Counsilman Jackson should have done that.

Chris December 18, 2014 - 11:19 pm

What if I’ve paid for an unlimited and forgot my card at home? I’ve paid the money, no one is deprived of a ride, and I feel I’ve earned some reprieve from the countless unannounced 2-hour+ train delays I’ve had.

Amethyst August 19, 2017 - 2:48 am

Just saying ive hopped turnstiles late at night. MTA charges an exorbitant amount for shitty service and it isnt because some people skip out on paying a fare. Hate on me all you want…


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