I seem to remember seeing emotionally split Kirk cradling himself on a singular transporter pad before beaming out and beaming back as a whole. I think I've seen another two on one pad scene as well.

Is the transporter restricted to the number of transporter pads? For instance, can you double up people on three pads and transport 6? How about doubling up on 6 pads in order to transport 12?

  • I think in the TNG episode "Up the Long Ladder" people and a bunch of animals were all beamed up (and then beamed to the cargo bay), so it must be possible to have more than just a single person/entity per pad. They also transport things when there are no pads at all (e.g., from the bridge of one ship to another), so "pads" cannot be the limiting factor.
    – KevinO
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 4:16
  • This probably should be an answer, not a comment. Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 7:19

1 Answer 1



My answered is based on TNG-era transporter technology, but at the moment, I can find no evidence that the particular features I am about to describe are different in the TOS era.

According to the canon Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual (written by Michael Okuda and Rick Sternbach, production designers for TNG),

Since the transport beam conduits permit the matter stream to be routed to any pattern buffer, any given chamber can be reused immediately without waiting for cooldown by switching to another pattern buffer. Since there are only three patter buffers normally used for personnel transport, this process can be repeated twice before waiting for pattern buffer reset. This translates into an average of about 1.9 six-person transports per minute...

(From Chapter 9 "Transporter Systems", Section 9.4 "Limitations of Use")

So it seems that transportation is not related to the number of pads or even the position of the pads. The transport beam conduit can be directed into any pattern buffer. Rather, the key is the number of independent pattern buffers.

It seems that the six pads are simply a suggestion, corresponding to the average situation presented above.

This is consistent with the fact that we see many occasions when transport is accomplished without pads at all, using targeting scanners only (e.g. transport from a surface to the ship or site-to-site transport).

There does seem to be an upper limit:

...six emergency transporters capable of transporting twenty-two people at a time.

(From Section 9.5, "Transporter Evacuation")

The emergency transporters have a higher capacity than usual transporters (at a trade-off with distance) and so a normal transporter will have an upper limit of less than 22 people.

  • 1
    Is there a limit to how many people you can put in a pattern buffer? What if you crowd 30 people onto the pads?
    – Molag Bal
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 4:30
  • @amarillo : 30 won't work, but 22 will work with emergency transporters (answer updated). :-)
    – Praxis
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 4:33
  • 2
    Praxis saves the day again!
    – Molag Bal
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 4:34
  • @amarillo : Thanks. I try. ;-)
    – Praxis
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 4:35
  • 2
    @KevinO : That situation counts as "Evac to Ship" (to use terminology from the Manual). Even though you are seeing only the usual personnel transporter, it is being supplemented with pattern buffers normally used only for the cargo transporters (p.109).
    – Praxis
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 4:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.