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At 5th Avenue Station, Riders Find an Exit Trap

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/nyregion/5th-avenue-subway-station-traps-unwary-riders-behind-locked-exit.html?ref=nyregion&pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

 

At 5th Avenue Station, Riders Find an Exit Trap

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Daniel Martinez, a station agent, shuts a gate at the Fifth Avenue-53rd Street station that keeps people away from a blocked exit.

By MATT FLEGENHEIMER Published: February 27, 2013

 

The travelers stewed, caught between the trip they were sure they had completed and the sidewalk they could not reach, compelled to confront a question of ethics at, of all places, a subway turnstile.

Where had it fallen apart?

They had gotten off their subway train in Midtown Manhattan without incident. They followed a light at the eastern edge of the platform, rode up an escalator and passed through the turnstiles.

Then some turned left, up a small flight of stairs, past a Subway sandwich shop and a shoeshine parlor — both closed. Others went right, where a shuttered locksmith stood at the base of the stairs. This would seem cruel on the way back down.

For there it was, greeting all parties at street level: a pair of roll-down gates, slammed shut.

“I just feel trapped,” said Kate Lingley, 27, from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, weighing her next move. Then she noticed a fellow rider wandering past.

“Here comes another trapped man.”

This is the Fifth Avenue-53rd Street station, where the E and M trains roam, where a certain kind of subway crime could be ethically defensible, and where, for several passengers each night, the only way out of the subway for about an hour was to slip back in.

Beginning at 9 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays — as several signs on the platforms can attest — the station’s Madison Avenue exits are closed. But an interior gate often remained open about an hour longer, laying the trap that led riders to the escalator, the turnstiles, the gate and, after a few moments of deliberation, the decision: Jump the turnstile to seek another exit? Call for help? Or, for those without unlimited-ride MetroCards, spend a second fare, not to enter the subway system, but to escape it?

First, the explanation. The top level of the station is owned by private companies, whose personnel control the street-level gates. On two recent nights, the gates were closed at or around 9 p.m. The gate on the platform is operated by Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers, who say their shift schedules usually summon them to the station around 9:45 or 10.

“I don’t know why they make the schedule like this,” one worker, Daniel Martinez, said as he locked the gate last Thursday evening. He had begun his evening at the station at 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue at 9 p.m., he said, and needed to perform several errands there before walking toward Madison Avenue.

“For those 30, 45 minutes,” Mr. Martinez said, “I’m saying to myself, ‘How many times have people gone up and come back down?’ ”

On that night, and another, 48 hours earlier, the answer was about 20. Some paused for minutes at the turnstiles, contemplating a moral calculus that, according to transit officials, appears to be unique to 53rd Street.

Over the course of two weeknights, about half of the riders hurdled over or ducked under the turnstiles. Several cajoled fellow passengers, who had not yet left the subway system, to push the emergency gate open. And the rest swiped their MetroCards, though for some, like Ms. Lingley, the possession of an unlimited-ride card eased the pain.

Many travelers chafed, quite reasonably, at being approached by an inquisitive stranger moments after realizing they were cornered. Adam Alicea, 23, was among several who called the station “an easy spot to rob someone.”

But a few offered to talk through their decisions.

One rider, Anthony Thavar, first insisted he would go over the turnstile, then grew paranoid about a possible police effort to root out fare beaters. (He repeatedly asked those near him if they were officers.)

“I’m not going to jump for $2,” he said finally.

He swiped his card. “Insufficient fare,” the machine read. He walked a few steps to the emergency gate, pushed it in vain, then returned to the turnstile. Without a word, he dashed underneath. He did not appear to regret his choice.

“Jumping turnstiles, what’s up!” he shouted gleefully as the escalator carried him away.

In his wake, two Spanish tourists fumbled for quarters beside two MetroCard vending machines, neither of which was accepting credit cards last week. They reached $1.75, before one dug into her pocket, grimacing, for a $10 bill.

For longtime riders, the episode can rattle years of hard-won confidence. New Yorkers are supposed to know their subways. They know which car will deliver them to the base of the desired exit at their stop. They know to leave 15 minutes of travel-time cushion on weekends. So how can the most fundamental of underground acts — leaving — beguile them so?

“The escalators are on,” Julia Tang, 34, said, still incredulous as she considered her options from the wrong side of the turnstile. “It’s got to be open.”

Days after being informed of the station’s quirk, the authority said Tuesday that it had arranged to have the building owners keep the street-level entrances open until 9:45 p.m. It also planned to rewrite station signs to reflect the change.

Asked if the authority could condone the turnstile jumping that preceded the shift, Charles Seaton, an agency spokesman, said, “I cannot, and I will not.”

But a brief survey of local experts on ethical matters yielded a unanimous result: There is no shame in jumping, given the circumstances. Jason Shelowitz, the artist whose guerrilla “subway etiquette” campaign in 2010 urged riders to keep loud music, nail-clipping and groping off the rails, said any potential ticket issued would be “an easy one to talk your way out of” with an officer.

Jonathan Haidt, a professor of business ethics at the New York University Stern School of Business, said, “The ethical move is clearly to jump the turnstile.”

“They are not trying to steal service,” he added. “They are simply trying to exit a system that they paid once to enter.”

But Mr. Martinez, the station worker, issued perhaps the most decisive verdict, moments after completing his sweep near the roll-down gates, to ensure that no stragglers remained.

What, he was asked, should riders do before he or a colleague arrived the next night?

“Just go under,” he said, marching across the platform. “You’re better off.”

 

 

 

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Electronic Signs should be placed saying, "This exit is closed. Use the 5th Ave exit instead." when the exit is not open. When the exit is open, the "Hold handrails on escalator" , service changes, or a police announcement (keep items safe at all times) should be displayed.

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Electronic Signs should be placed saying, "This exit is closed. Use the 5th Ave exit instead." when the exit is not open. When the exit is open, the "Hold handrails on escalator" , service changes, or a police announcement (keep items safe at all times) should be displayed.

Usually most stations would have headlighted a sign of the direction to the ancillary exit with the hours of use.... and they had just one little job to do so. No need to use up electricity because they wouldn't put hours of that exit.

Edited by Metro CSW
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They could put a caution tape on the turnstiles where it is written "entry closed".

It is cheap and visible.

 

Note that as a parisian, I would have no shame to jump in this case.  :lol:

Edited by Minato ku
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Didn't they have this problem at Fulton St on the (J) a few years back? 

I know if I were stuck in this situation, I would definetly jump the turnstile going back in, if a cop was there I would explain to them "I'm trying to get out of here, and the only way to do that is to go back in the system!"

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Usually most stations would have headlighted a sign of the direction to the ancillary exit with the hours of use.... and they had just one little job to do so. No need to use up electricity because they wouldn't put hours of that exit.

 

Little small LED signs like that will not use up much electricity.

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Little small LED signs like that will not use up much electricity.

My point is that, why waste the money and trouble to install LED signs if it's just AN ANCILLARY EXIT!

Edited by Metro CSW

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My point is that, why waste the money and trouble to install LED signs if it's just AN ANCILLARY EXIT!

Ancillary exit? Signs point to it, it has escalators, it exits on Madison Ave in midtown manhattan. How can you say that it is an ancillary exit? If I'm not wrong, it has turnstiles and is not all HEET.

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That is the stupidest article I ever read. Locking the only exit from the station and then trying to bust "fare-beaters" is the definition of entrapment. So is trying to force riders to pay a second fare just to get OUT of an open exit. Not even the most corrupt cop in this city would issue a ticket to a customer who couldn't POSSIBLY have come from the outside once they showed them the locked exits.

They should have gone back into the station (any means they can through) and tell the station agent at the other exit (which they have to exit through anyway) that the other ended is lock and people (including themselves) are getting trapped there and demanded a refund then and there if they had to swipe to get back in.

Edited by Snowblock
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Ancillary exit? Signs point to it, it has escalators, it exits on Madison Ave in midtown manhattan. How can you say that it is an ancillary exit? If I'm not wrong, it has turnstiles and is not all HEET.

 

well, the simple facts it's

 

A. 5th ave station, not madison ave station

 

and

 

B. the entrance isn't 24 hours

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This reminds me of... what was it again, Fulton St? Last year or in 2011 I remember that a similar story was posted here.

 



 



 





 



 




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That is the stupidest article I ever read. Locking the only exit from the station and then trying to bust "fare-beaters" is the definition of entrapment. So is trying to force riders to pay a second fare just to get OUT of an open exit. Not even the most corrupt cop in this city would issue a ticket to a customer who couldn't POSSIBLY have come from the outside once they showed them the locked exits.

 

They should have gone back into the station (any means they can through) and tell the station agent at the other exit (which they have to exit through anyway) that the other ended is lock and people (including themselves) are getting trapped there and demanded a refund then and there if they had to swipe to get back in.

 

They can demand whatever they like, but the agent simply isn't equipped to give a refund.

 

Never understood why that exit isn't open full-time, like virtually all others at this point.

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They can demand whatever they like, but the agent simply isn't equipped to give a refund.

 

Never understood why that exit isn't open full-time, like virtually all others at this point.

 

they would have to get the owners of the building the entrance is part of to keep it open full time

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They can demand whatever they like, but the agent simply isn't equipped to give a refund.

 

Never understood why that exit isn't open full-time, like virtually all others at this point.

So says the (MTA)'s spokesman...  <_<  You really do sicken me with your brown nosing. I wish that was you stuck in there since you have so much sympathy for the idiotic procedures that the (MTA) uses. 

 

That is the stupidest article I ever read. Locking the only exit from the station and then trying to bust "fare-beaters" is the definition of entrapment. So is trying to force riders to pay a second fare just to get OUT of an open exit. Not even the most corrupt cop in this city would issue a ticket to a customer who couldn't POSSIBLY have come from the outside once they showed them the locked exits.

 

They should have gone back into the station (any means they can through) and tell the station agent at the other exit (which they have to exit through anyway) that the other ended is lock and people (including themselves) are getting trapped there and demanded a refund then and there if they had to swipe to get back in.

I agree... What's worse is this is not a unique situation. I have heard of this problem with other stations where the (MTA) has to deal with a building controlling an entrance.  You would think commonsense would tell them to negotiate the opening and closing of these entrances with (MTA) workers and the building, or better yet let the (MTA) workers be in charge of opening and closing all of the pertinent entrances.  I know it's a hairy issue because I used to deal with property managers but come on now.  If the (MTA) can coordinate having these buildings build these entrances which benefits the buildings, then they should be able to better coordinate this as well, since this is becoming more common, esp. in Manhattan.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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So says the (MTA)'s spokesman...  <_<  You really do sicken me with your brown nosing. I wish that was you stuck in there since you have so much sympathy for the idiotic procedures that the (MTA) uses. 

 

Pardon me, did I state any incorrect facts?

 

I stated that the station agent is not equipped to issue refunds. (A correct fact.)

 

I also stated my opinion that the exit should be open full-time. (Not a fact at all, so it can't be correct or incorrect.)

 

So what are you complaining about?

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Pardon me, did I state any incorrect facts?

 

I stated that the station agent is not equipped to issue refunds. (A correct fact.)

 

I also stated my opinion that the exit should be open full-time. (Not a fact at all, so it can't be correct or incorrect.)

 

So what are you complaining about?

Well we know that the station agent is not equipped to issue refunds, but you don't have to be so damn callous, that's the point.  The (MTA) is providing a service and when the service is poor they should correct the problem and give refunds where appropriate.  If people have to pay to re-enter the station because of a closed exit which is of no fault of their own but of the (MTA), then I think they should be refunded.  I mean in any other circumstance if a customer is treated poorly or is wronged they are usually taken care of in some fashion.  The (MTA) should be doing the same thing, yet they have audacity to say that they don't condone "farebeating" in this case when they're creating the problem to begin with as if people are just going to be magically re-entering the system to steal a ride when they are literally trapped in the station with no other recourse but to pay yet again or to jump the turnstile.  They have no problem taking people's money under any circumstance and in this case they are clearly in the wrong.

 

I'm sure you would be just fine having to pay additional monies to re-enter a subway station because of an error caused by the (MTA)...

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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Well we know that the station agent is not equipped to issue refunds, but you don't have to be so damn callous, that's the point.  The (MTA) is providing a service and when the service is poor they should correct the problem and give refunds where appropriate.  If people have to pay to re-enter the station because of a closed exit which is of no fault of their own but of the (MTA), then I think they should be refunded.  I mean in any other circumstance if a customer is treated poorly or is wronged they are usually taken care of in some fashion.  The (MTA) should be doing the same thing, yet they have audacity to say that they don't condone "farebeating" in this case when they're creating the problem to begin with as if people are just going to be magically re-entering the system to steal a ride when they are literally trapped in the station with no other recourse but to pay yet again or to jump the turnstile.  They have no problem taking people's money under any circumstance and in this case they are clearly in the wrong.

 

I'm sure you would be just fine having to pay additional monies to re-enter a subway station because of an error caused by the (MTA)...

Maybe, the station cannot issue refunds, but what happened to block tickets? Do they not exist anymore? Why couldn't the station agent issue one to someone who claims he has to pay an extra fare to get back in. They can be used within 48 hours.

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Maybe, the station cannot issue refunds, but what happened to block tickets? Do they not exist anymore? Why couldn't the station agent issue one to someone who claims he has to pay an extra fare to get back in. They can be used within 48 hours.

LOL... I've never heard of them and if they do exist I'm sure the (MTA) is keeping them on the hush.

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A block ticket is (was) issued when the system is blocked and you must exit the station and pay another fare to continue your trip. They may have been discontinued with MetroCard Gold, but you still need them because using your free transfer for a bus in such an instance will prevent you from getting a second one later on.

 

In this case it could be justified because you were blocked from leaving the station and had to pay another fare to re-enter.

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So says the (MTA)'s spokesman...  <_<  You really do sicken me with your brown nosing. I wish that was you stuck in there since you have so much sympathy for the idiotic procedures that the (MTA) uses. 

 

And when he goes back downstairs after paying another fare, finds out that the agent just locked the bottom exit also so he is stuck there until morning. Maybe then he won't be so sympathetic.

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Well we know that the station agent is not equipped to issue refunds, but you don't have to be so damn callous, that's the point.  

 

This is the entire text of the post you objected to: "They can demand whatever they like, but the agent simply isn't equipped to give a refund. / Never understood why that exit isn't open full-time, like virtually all others at this point."

 

Where was i callous?

 

I never said that this was a good situation. All I said was that there's no mechanism for the station agent to issue a refund.

 

Maybe, the station cannot issue refunds, but what happened to block tickets? Do they not exist anymore? Why couldn't the station agent issue one to someone who claims he has to pay an extra fare to get back in. They can be used within 48 hours.

 

As far as I know, block tickets still exist (I got one about two years ago), but they're only issued during service outages, and I think the station agent needs special authorization to distribute them.

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This is the entire text of the post you objected to: "They can demand whatever they like, but the agent simply isn't equipped to give a refund. / Never understood why that exit isn't open full-time, like virtually all others at this point."

 

Where was i callous?

 

I never said that this was a good situation. All I said was that there's no mechanism for the station agent to issue a refund.

Oh please... Who are you kidding? The (MTA) has jipped customers for quite a while in circumstances where customers should've had refunds (i.e. last two major hurricane storms) and now suddenly they're going to break with the culture and issue a refund?  You know the deal and that's why I find it "interesting" that you come back with a little snide comment like that.  It is dry at the least and certainly exudes an air of callousness esp. coming from you with your previous snarly remarks on issues pertaining to customers and the (MTA) who you always find a way to side with and now you play dumb like you don't know... <_<

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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This is the entire text of the post you objected to: "They can demand whatever they like, but the agent simply isn't equipped to give a refund. / Never understood why that exit isn't open full-time, like virtually all others at this point."

 

Where was i callous?

 

I never said that this was a good situation. All I said was that there's no mechanism for the station agent to issue a refund.

 

 

As far as I know, block tickets still exist (I got one about two years ago), but they're only issued during service outages, and I think the station agent needs special authorization to distribute them.

This is obviously not a new problem. The station agent must have been approached numerous times by people paying a second fare. If he needed authorization to issue block tickets, he could have requested it unless he didn't think of it or was denied permission to hand them out. The real crime is that it took a New York Times article to bring this disgrace to light, because people actually were endanger of being trapped and stuck there all night and that could have been disastrous if someone suffered from medical problems and there would have been a gigantic lawsuit.

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