Revisiting Sliding Doors On Subway Platforms

The nightmare of many subway commuters is somehow ending up on the tracks while a train is approaching. This scenario has been in the spotlight quite often of late whether it was the Queens man who was pushed in front of the Q train or the man who was found dead inside of a subway tunnel after being hit by a L train.

Many ideas have been spread about how these events could be avoided. One of the popular ones called for the installation of sliding glass doors on subway platforms. The idea is not new as the MTA at one time considered installing them in both the Second Avenue Subway & 7 line extension projects. However much to my pleasure, the ideas were scrapped.

Margaret Hartmann of NY Mag recently penned a piece about how the agency could prevent subway deaths if they only had the cash to install these devices. Let’s take a quick look at her thoughts:

On Tuesday, a man was found dead in a subway tunnel after being hit by an L train, kicking off another week of subway horrors. Earlier this month, a Queens father was pushed in front of the Q train, a young man jumped onto the L train tracks and was seriously injured, and a drunk homeless man was saved at Bowling Green station after stumbling onto the rails. People wind up on the subway tracks all the time — 146 people were hit by trains in 2011 and 47 were killed — but the recent incidents left New Yorkers pondering their worst subway fear even more than usual.

Slate offered some survival tips: In the absence of a good Samaritan who’ll hoist you onto the platform, you could stand between the two sets of tracks, crouch in the space under the platform, or lie down between the rails. The MTA’s advice was much less satisfying. A spokesman told Capital New York that they don’t have any recommendations for riders who find themselves on the tracks, since each station is constructed differently. The official policy: “Customers should stand well back from the edge of the platform.” Transit officials in other cities have managed to come up with strategies to prevent subway deaths that go beyond “don’t fall in,” but there are few that the perpetually cash-strapped MTA can afford.

The most effective solution by far is the installation of platform screen doors, which are common in European and Asian cities and are used in New York on the AirTrain. Aside from preventing people from falling or jumping onto the tracks, having a barrier between the platform and the tracks keeps stations cleaner, reduces fires caused by garbage on the tracks, and allows for air-conditioned platforms.

Four years ago, the MTA considered putting platform doors in the new 7 train extension and Second Avenue Subway, but the idea was ultimately scrapped. When it was reported in 2011 that the MTA was seeking proposals for installing the sliding glass doors in existing subway stations, there was a quick backlash. According to Transportation Nation, State Senator Diane Savino said in a letter to the MTA chairman that while 90 people fell on the subway tracks in 2009, it wasn’t worth installing an expensive system to protect .00005 percent of subway riders. “To even contemplate this nonsense is self-evidently a waste of time, effort, energy and yes — money; money the MTA does not have,” she said. It’s been estimated that installing the doors throughout the system could cost between $1 billion and $2 billion and take 25 years. When Joe Lhota was asked about the barriers in April, he said, “They’re quite expensive and given the 496 stations, I think that’s the number, it’d be quite prohibitive.”

Click here for the complete article.

As I opined in February 2011, I am not a fan of the agency installing these doors. One death resulting from ending on the tracks is one too many but at the same time, the costs are just not justified when compared to the actual amount of people who end up on the tracks each year. Plus the potential for malfunction is extremely large considering this is the MTA we are talking about.

The reality of the matter is that the chances of these being installed are slim to none. Hopefully people & more importantly elected officials will not use the recent incidents to push for their installation as the money would best be suited for more worthy projects.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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