Samuelsen: Add platform staffers to dangerous stations


During yesterday’s discussion on subway stations we love to hate, a few readers mentioned narrow platforms as a major concern. At rush hour, some stations simply cannot handle the crowds, and lately, the MTA has dealt with a spate of accidents, some fatal, at 72nd St. and Broadway, an express stop home of a very narrow platform. John Samuelsen has a solution.

The TWU boss, in an letter to Joe Lhota which The Daily News obtained, calls upon the MTA to bring more employees to oversee platforms at crowded or dangerous stations. The authority has reduced these so-called station conductors from 100 to 40 over the past five years, and they could restore some order. “The platform is so narrow that if a person slips or trips there is a good chance they will be hit by an approaching train or fall onto the tracks,” he wrote.

Samuelsen might be onto something, but I wonder if he would accept my proposal: Bring aboard more station conductors by changing the job responsibilities of station agents to include platform duty during peak hours. This way, the MTA wouldn’t have to spend money it doesn’t have on staffing levels while at the same time, the authority would be developing a more productive work force. It would be a win for the MTA, a win for passengers and a win for the union as well.

Categories : Asides, TWU

21 Responses to “Samuelsen: Add platform staffers to dangerous stations”

  1. Ben – Another merit of your idea to bring station agents out of booths during peak hours is increased interaction with riders, which could help improve straphangers’ overall view of station/platform agents. Seeing them on the platform, being able to ask questions down there, and feeling a greater sense of peace of mind that they can act quickly in the event of an emergency could bolster the value of these positions, which is good for all – riders, MTA, and TWU.

  2. al says:

    Another part could be changing shift scheduling to create overlap during peak hrs, and thus have extra people on hand during those hours for platform duty.

    An additional benefit for platform agents is rapid fumigation for short run trains during rush hr. Currently you need train crews to walk the length of the train to ensure all passengers are off at 71st Continental (M,R), W168th st and Euclid Ave ( C). This takes time that is in short supply during peak hrs. Having a person to clear 2 or 3 cars each would minimize delay. This is how 111th St on the Flushing Line turns around 6+ tph during AM peak hr. It would then be feasible to squeeze in 1 or 2 extra peak short turn A express trains between 168th st and Euclid Ave or 1 or 2 extra peak E local trains between WTC and Queens Plaza or 71st Continental.

  3. mwdt says:

    Why not just bite the bullet and install platform screen doors? Those systems come at a large upfront cost but ultimately pay for themselves in gained security and convenience.

    • Alex C says:

      The answer is simple: we simply don’t have the money. It would take years to do, would cost billions of dollars (I know that sounds high but remember this is NYC and we’re working with kickbacks and mob contractors), and would require uniform fleets. The last issue is the biggest one as the A and B divisions both have different fleets, usually running on the same tracks. That means doors are at different spots on the platform.

    • R. Graham says:

      Not to mention that the rolling stock is still not uniform enough to even warrant a discussion. The 2 and 3 run different stock and have door alignments that are offset from one another.

    • Bolwerk says:

      On top of my comment comment below, and the points Alex C and R. Graham make, what do you really gain even assuming there is an actual net gain in safety because of those options? If you want to spend public resources preventing death, you’re better off just spending it on more transit to reduce automobile dependency. The incremental gain in safety is higher by probably several orders of magnitude.

  4. Larry Littlefield says:

    Because someone has arranged for the doors to be located in a different location with every new car class. Wonder why?

    In the meantime, how about putting station conductors in crowded stations and then going OPTO system wide?

  5. John-2 says:

    As long as you could keep the car classes separate, you could do platform doors — i.e., if all the 1 trains are R-62/R-62As and all the 2/3 trains were R-142/142As you’d never have a problem with the car doors and the platform doors matching up. But the 2 and 3 run different car classes and with any re-routes or overnight service, you’d also be mixing and matching the older and newer cars on the local tracks (the MTA would also have to take into account 5 train reroutes down the west side in emergency situations). And of course, anyplace on the BMT and IND where 75 foot and 60 foot cars can run is out.

    As with CTBC, the stand-alone lines on the L and the 7 are really the only places where the platform door option is viable. That’s because they have a single car class and no re-route options for other lines, while you might be able to expand that to the J/Z from Broad to Parsons-Archer and M between Metropolitan ans Essex once the R-42s are retired and only the R-143s and R-160s are on the Eastern Division (meanwhile, there would be no point in putting platform doors yet at the 7’s stations, until the 7 swaps its R-62s with the 6 so that they can start the CTBC tests with the newer R-142 and R-188 railcars).

  6. The Cobalt Devil says:

    Five million plus people a day ride the subway, and during an average year 99.99975% of us manage not to end up on the tracks. How many of those falling on tracks are suicide attempts or drunken fools? When was the last time anyone heard of someone falling in front of a train because they were pushed off a crowded platform? I’m thinking never. But hey, what’s a few billion dollars to build magic doors that’ll solve all our problems, and create a few new ones to boot?

    • Bolwerk says:

      When was the last time anyone heard of someone falling in front of a train because they were pushed off a crowded platform?

      It has definitely happened, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if it’s one of the more common reasons for falling in front of a train. These types of things do tend to happen during or near peak hours, for sure.

      But I agree, it’s not worth the cost. The safety of the NYC Subway system is well within tolerable limits, and could be significantly more dangerous, if “tolerable limits” are the standards of the automobile crowd. :-\

      • The Cobalt Devil says:

        Proof please. In all my 45+ years of living in NYC, I cannot remember one story of a person being accidentally pushed off a crowded platform. INTENTIONALLY pushed by crazies? Yes. Falling off drunk? Yes. Suicide? Yes. But NEVER have I heard about an overcrowded condition causing folks to take a dive over the edge.

        • Bolwerk says:

          AFAIK, there isn’t anyone keeping track of such statistics at that level of reliability, so I can’t prove it any better than you can. Anecdotally, I find these things tend to happen at closer-to-peak times, and I suspect that it could be due to crowding. Of course, maybe you’re right and the crazies just choose to push during peak hours. Then, that would mean they’re not that crazy. :-\ (And I’m not really a peak rider, per se.)

          And, the news is usually about the stuff that is so rare that it probably won’t kill you. The things that are likely to kill you, like getting hit by an automobile or some household accident, get buried in the back of the papers, while sensational and/or once-in-a-blue-moon stuff – e.g., serial killings, terrorism, dog semen, hot white girls – gets the attention. So I wouldn’t go strictly on what I hear about, either.

  7. Matthias says:

    If agents leave their booths to supervise platforms during rush hours, that leaves no one outside the paid zone to assist customers with MetroCard issues, opening the gate, etc. Since agents are already few and far between, I don’t see that as an improvement.

  8. Tsuyoshi says:

    There is another solution to this: congestion pricing. Charging more to enter stations which are overcrowded would either reduce the crowds, or if overcrowding persisted, provide the money to mitigate it.

    Of course it would be truly obscene if transit congestion pricing was implemented while road congestion pricing has not been, but the same principle could apply for transit just as well as roads.

    Speaking of which, why isn’t there a peak fare for the subway?

  9. pedant says:

    “Bring aboard my station conductors by change the job responsibility of station agents”


  10. UESider says:

    First, what in the world is a platform conductor going to do if someone is ‘bumped’ off the platform? And we’re going to spend billions of dollars to prevent this “Big Foot” scenario (i.e. people claim it happens but no one has actual proof)? Have to let Darwinism win out on this rare population of subway riders…

    As for the platform doors – again, we’re going to spend billions of dollars putting up walls and doors along every platform edge?? Incredible!

    This would only slow the system down – getting one set of train doors to close is difficult enough, now we want to add a second set to the mix?? Dwell time would skyrocket – we need a faster system, not a slower one!

    Agreed, platforms can be dangerous, especially when crowded. But (468 stations in the system) x (# of platform edges) x (# of trains per day) x (# of people per day) yields – perhaps – a tragic death each year has to yield a safety factor that is 99.999999% safe.

    This is certainly a better safety statistic than any other mode of transportation. Put that number of people on the highways and you’d get 25k deaths per year. The NTSB only dreams of this level of safety.

    No need to build walls…. if anything, how about a railing like you have on the TS Shuttle platforms? Still unnecessary, but much more realistic…

    • Bolwerk says:

      Railing (and platform screen doors) both pose their own safety problems, I think. A stuck train that can only be partially pulled into a station would have a harder time evacuating. And if the problem is a fire, that could turn a somewhat manageable, ventilated situation into a deadlier one.

  11. UESider says:

    can someone please explain what a ‘platform staffer’ will do that will make a crowded platform any safer??

    • Nathanael says:

      In Tokyo, they physically pack people into trains and pull them out of them.


      Everywhere else, they keep people from crossing the yellow platform edge line.

      Of course, in London, overcrowded stations have their entrances locked and barred during peak hours, making them exit-only. New York’s quirky installation of two-way turnstiles makes that a lot harder, though.

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