12. There Used to Be Subway Tickets and Ticket Takers

Early Subway ticket

Throughout the history of the subway system there have been various modes of fare collection. Currently, fares are paid with the swipe of a Metrocard and in the future will be paid with a high-tech “tap-and-go” system. You may spot some of the new payment system technology at some stations already. Before the Metrocard, there were tokens, and before tokens there were tickets.

Tickets were collected at stations and clipped by guards using boxy ticket choppers. The whole system proved to be very inefficient as the ticket collection took too much time and riders, as well as subway employees, were found to be cheating the system. According to an article posted to nycsubway.org from a 1921 Electric Railway Journal, the ordinary ticket-selling booth during rush hours could have a line of ten to forty people. After some time, the first turnstiles were introduced to the system in 1921. With the new turnstile system, which originally worked with nickels instead of tickets, it was written that twenty passengers a minute could pass through a single gate. The introduction of the turnstile also allowed for nearly 1,500 station employees to be relocated to another department.