MTA eyes handful of plans to curb subway deaths

Straphangers wait for the train at a stop

Straphangers wait for the train at a stop in Brooklyn. (Getty Images) (Credit: Straphangers wait for the train at a stop in Brooklyn. (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."

The MTA has looked at platform barriers in the past, but said that logistics make their installation extremely difficult. Obstacles include varying platform sizes and shapes, 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.

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

During 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.

Of the 141 hit last year, 38% either tripped or fell onto tracks, 23% were alleged suicide attempts and 23% intentionally went onto tracks to retrieve something or for other reasons. The rest of the incidents are from people leaning onto tracks, being bumped, having medical issues or falling between cars.

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