In an ideal world — one where money doesn’t matter and planners could reconstruct the New York City subway from scratch — platform edge doors would be the standard. They protect tracks from debris and people from the tracks and allow for climate controlled stations, among other benefits, but they are also costly and technologically challenging to install in a system short on cash and with non-standardized rolling stock and curved platforms.
With an increased media focus on a few tragic accidents involving trains crushing people to death, politicians have renewed calls for platform edge doors. I’ve long maintained that this is a solution in search of a problem. Accident rates are around 1.5 per 50 million riders, and fatalities are even lower than that. Still, the MTA has had no choice but to listen.
As The Post reports today, the MTA is considering a pilot program for the L train. Platform edge doors would work on this ATO-equipped line with standardized rolling stock, but the MTA warns that a full system roll-out would cost over $1 billion. The agency is also planning on increasing the frequency of PA announcements concerning the dangers of standing too close to the platform edge. More concerning to every day subway operations is a rumor of a TWU missive concerning train speeds upon entering a station. (Train operators suffer tremendous psychological side effects long after these collisions.)
So what should we expect? The MTA will probably explore the idea of an ad-support pilot for some L train stations, but system-wide adoption remains a hazy long-term goal. A true TWU slowdown seems unlikely, but without public action from the MTA on some of the issues surrounding train fatalities, subway speeds could suffer. All of this goes to show how sensational news events don’t always lead to sound policies or public investments.