A turnstile, also called a baffle gate or turnstyle, is a form of gate which allows one person to pass at a time. It can also be made so as to enforce one-way traffic of people, and in addition, it can restrict passage only to people who insert a coin, a ticket, a pass, or similar. Thus a turnstile can be used in the case of paid access , for example to access public transport, a pay toilet, or to restrict access to authorized people, for example in the lobby of an office building.
Turnstiles were originally used, like other forms of stile, to allow human beings to pass while keeping sheep or other livestock penned in. The use of turnstiles in most modern applications has been credited to Clarence Saunders, who used them in his first Piggly Wiggly store.
Turnstiles are used at a wide variety of settings, including stadiums, amusement parks, mass transit stations, office lobbies, airports, ski resorts, factories, power plants and casinos.
From a business/revenue standpoint, turnstiles give an accurate, verifiable count of attendance. From a security standpoint, they lead patrons to enter single-file, so security personnel have a clear view of each patron. This enables security to efficiently isolate potential trouble or to confiscate any prohibited materials. On the other hand, physical barriers become a serious safety issue when a speedy evacuation is needed, requiring emergency exits that bypass any turnstiles.
Persons with disabilities may have difficulties using turnstiles. In these cases, generally a wide aisle gate or a manual gate may be provided. At some locations where luggage is expected, a line of turnstiles may be entirely formed of wide aisle gates, for example at Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 Underground station.
Turnstiles often use ratchet mechanisms to allow the rotation of the stile in one direction allowing ingress but preventing rotation in the other direction. They are often designed to operate only after a payment has been made, usually by inserting a coin or token in a slot; or by swiping, tapping, or inserting a paper ticket or electronically-encoded card.