A Turnstile for the Ten Percent: Lefties No Longer Left Out in NYC Subway System

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(photo by Rufus Q. Stripe)

(Rufus Q. Stripe, Transportation Nation) Ten percent of the population is left-handed -- but 100 percent of the turnstiles in the New York City subway system have been geared for righties.

Until now.

In what advocates are hailing as a major victory for the sinister side of transit, the MTA is quietly piloting turnstiles designed especially for lefties in certain high-volume subway stations. So far a handful of turnstiles at the 72nd Street 1/2/3 station have been specially retrofitted for a left sided MetroCard swipe. In the upcoming months these turnstiles will be installed at other busy locations, like Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, Manhattan's Times Square, and Queensboro Plaza.

"We've been pushing for this for years," said Jenny Linkshander, the executive director of New Yorkers for Safe Sinistration, one of the largest left-handedness rights organizations in the region. "Since the inception of the subway system, a sizable portion of the New York City transit-riding public has been effectively forced into fumbling. That ends today."

NYSS had made "turnstile equity" a cornerstone issue. Other recent victories for the group include a recently installed bike lane located on the left side of Columbus Avenue -- a bustling commercial strip on the Upper West Side -- and an agreement by local office supply company W.B. Mason to increase the number of left-handed scissors it would stock.

Although no one from the MTA would comment on record, a source within the once rightie-dominated agency said it was widely known that the recently appointed chair, Joe Lhota, is himself a lefty, and has been vocal about his frustration with having to swipe his MetroCard at the turnstile with his less dextrous hand.

"It's really frustrating," said Linkshander. "Each fumbled swipe costs a transit rider .03 minutes. That adds up." The MTA estimates at least 87,000 of the 3.2 million awkward turnstile entries yearly are due to mis-sided swipe attempts. Plus, says Linkshander, "I have to fumble for my MetroCard with the hand I can't even write with -- it just feels wrong."

While there are no special designations at the turnstiles -- registered lefties have been given a specially ruled map -- some straphangers bristled at the change.

"This is ridiculous," said lefty Devon Recht, "and I feel like it sets the whole movement back. I don't need special accommodation."

 READ last year's post from April 1, 2011.