Every day, throngs of riders stand on the edge of danger in the nation’s busiest subway system, waiting on platforms with nothing between them and the tracks.
Dozens of subway and light rail systems around the world have safety barriers with sliding doors on their platforms, but the idea hasn’t gotten traction in New York. Yet transit officials are giving it a new look after two people were pushed and a third fell to their deaths on the tracks since early December.
Safety doors would be expensive and difficult additions to the sprawling, 108-year-old subway system, but some people are urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to try it.
Being shoved or bumped onto the tracks is “my biggest worry about New York,” said Ed David, a cinematographer who last spring launched an online petition to install the devices after reading about a college student who was hurled onto the tracks and killed by a train amid a fight at a Brooklyn subway station.
About 140 people are hit by New York City subways per year, in situations such as accidental knocks and willful leaps. Fifty-five people died last year and 47 in 2011, according to the MTA.
The numbers are small compared to the 1.6 billion subway rides taken each year.
But two men were killed last month in a scenario out of an urban nightmare — each propelled into the path of an onrushing train by a mumbling stranger, in separate incidents. Then a stumbling woman fell onto the tracks and died when a train hit her early on January 1.
Sometimes called platform screen doors or edge doors, the devices are generally transparent walls or barriers that run the length of a train platform, with doors or gates that align with the train’s doors.
Early plans for two New York City subway line extensions, now under construction, included platform doors. But the barriers were dropped from the plans to keep costs down.
One suggestion, from architecture and engineering firm Crown Infrastructure Solutions: It would pay to build the structures, at an estimated $1 million per station for 468 stations, and recoup the cost from advertising on built-in screens.