MTA weighing additional subway safety options

People line up at the Union Square subway

People line up at the Union Square subway station in Manhattan. (Dec. 19, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

The MTA is weighing a handful of options to increase subway safety after the recent rash of subway deaths, including increased public safety announcements, platform barriers and a new track "intrusion detection" system.

At its monthly board meeting, the agency outlined these proposals in a special safety presentation, saying that the high rate of recent deaths -- already seven this month -- is spurring renewed interest in making platforms safer.

"This is an extremely complex issue," said acting MTA chief Tom Prendergast. "We have to make sure people understand what the nature of the hazard is and what they can do to protect themselves."

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The MTA has looked at platform barriers in the past, but said that logistics make their installation extremely difficult, including varying platform size and shape, as well as different types of subway cars, Prendergast said. The agency previously said it will test sliding doors at one stop along the L train, but didn't say where or when

The proposed "intrusion detection" system would alert train operators when straphangers are in areas where they shouldn't be, potentially allowing the trains to stop in time to avoid an accident.

But the most realistic option, Prendergast said, is changing commuters' behavior, which the agency hopes to do through a renewed public awareness ad campaign to warn riders to stay away from platform edges and to notify officials at the first sign of trouble.

For the past decade, between 31 and 55 people have been killed yearly by subways, according to MTA statistics.

The high of people killed in a single year was 55 in both 2007 and last year.

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