New ‘saloon door’ fare gates coming to Metro stations to prevent fare evaders

Metro is installing new doors meant to make it more difficult to side-step fares. (Courtesy WMATA)
A rendering of the new Metro doors — resembling a swinging saloon door — which is retrofit into the current fare gate cabinets. (Courtesy WMATA)

Metro riders will soon walk through newly-designed fare gates — a deterrent to the growing number of people who ride the rail system without swiping their SmartTrip cards.

According to Metro, from Jan. 1 to March 16 of this year, approximately one in eight rail riders vaulted, stepped over or forced open Metrorail fare gates, or “tailgated” a passenger who had just tapped their SmartTrip card on the recently modernized gates.

Metro has been experimenting with a newly-designed barrier to deal with fare evasion.

At the Fort Totten station, Metro has tested two new higher, four-foot-tall doors — resembling  swinging saloon doors — which have been retrofit into the current fare gate cabinets.

The new, laminated orange doors, with clear plastic tops extending approximately a foot above the fare gate cabinets, don’t allow a fare evader to grasp the stanchion and propel himself over the barrier.

“Observations demonstrated an immediate change in customer behavior and non-tap entries were reduced at those gates,” according to a summary provided to the Metro Board. “Jumping and stepovers continued at the not yet retrofitted gates.”

A typical fare lane will have one door, but there will also be wider lanes with two doors to provide more access and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Metro will soon complete the installation at all Fort Totten fare gates, then retrofit nine more stations in the first phase of the project, while continuing to receive rider feedback on the experience.

The agency projects it will cost approximately $35 to $40 million to retrofit the entire system and expects the new door-style gates will be in place in all stations in approximately 15 months.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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