MTA may install platform barriers to curb subway deaths

In the wake of the recent spike in the number of deaths on New York subway tracks, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is once again considering implementing platform barriers.

Fifty-four people were killed on subway tracks in 2012, a number that represents a five-year high. The MTA is evaluating solutions to the problem.

“We are expanding our public education campaign to warn customers of the dangers of standing near the platform edge, we are studying how to install a pilot platform door at a station on the L line,” said Fernando Ferrer, the acting chairman of the MTA.

A number of other subway systems in other cities including Shanghai, Paris and Dubai have already installed safety barriers. Some students believe that New York’s century-old underground transportation system is long overdue for automatic barriers as well.

“I think installing barriers on the subway [has been] a long time coming and would greatly ameliorate everyone’s subway experience,” said Stern freshman Sarah Rothstein.

However, installing barriers could be a costly endeavor for the MTA. Previous proposals, such as one created by engineering company Crown Infrastructure Solutions in 2007, have estimated a cost of $1 million per station for each of the 468 subway stations in the city. Crown Infrastructure originally offered to pay for the construction of the barriers in exchange for advertising in subway stations to recuperate revenue, but the deal never materialized.

Meanwhile, some commuters are concerned that further construction would obstruct their daily transportation.

“I feel this endeavor, unless once again offered for free, is unnecessary,” Eiden said. “What might have been a great idea years ago might now become a heavy burden on tax-payers and commuters relying on the system.”

The problem may go much deeper than funding, according Eric Galipo, an adjunct assistant professor of urban planning in the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.

“There are practical problems associated with putting barriers on train platforms,” Galipo said. “Not every train that runs on a single line is exactly the same. There are many makes and models of each train and over the years some doors may change locations, spacing, etc. So how do you decide where the openings in the barriers are? How do you make barriers that accommodate all makes and models of trains running on a line? And what happens when trains on one line are re-routed along a different line?”

City Council Transportation Committee chairman James Vacca announced on Jan. 22 that he would soon call an emergency hearing about the recent subway deaths. He released an official statement calling on the MTA to take action.

“It’s time for elected officials, the public and the MTA to say ‘enough is enough’ and actually do something about this problem,” he said in the statement.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday Jan. 28 print edition. Isaac Marshall is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]