Jan
14

Transit mulling platform edge pilot; TWU mulling a slowdown

By

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.



46 Responses to “Transit mulling platform edge pilot; TWU mulling a slowdown”

  1. Larry Littlefield says:

    “All of this goes to show how sensational news events don’t always lead to sound policies or public investments.”

    Actually, sensational news events never lead to sound policies.

    So what is the TWU issue? Are the mad about the possiblity of platform doors?

    “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.”

    On the other hand, if the MTA standarizes the door position on rolling stock from this point forward, and gradually rolls out CBTC, platform doors could be installed over 50 years for $20 million a year. Or they could be limited to the most crowded stations. The question is what about maintenance? No one would want to be stuck on a train because the doors don’t open.

    • John-2 says:

      Maintenance and clearance — I could see the MTA trying the doors at First Avenue or Bedford Avenue, since both are high-volume stations on the L. But putting them in at Union Square or Sixth Avenue is going to be a major problem, since the transfer stairs to the south ends of the Broadway and Sixth Avenue platform barely leave enough room for two people to get by on the Brooklyn-bound side.

      Other than narrowing the stairs, there’s really no way you can commandeer space for the platform barriers and not create a new hazard due to a lack of platform space (I suppose they could just leave a gap next to the stairs in the platform doors, but that pretty much negates at least 75 percent of the reason to have the doors, since of the jump/pushed/fell numbers, about 3/4s of the total seem to be suicide tries. You might as well just put a “JUMP HERE” sign where the openings in the platform walls would be).

      • Someone says:

        Nooo, platform gates have to cover the entire platform from floor to ceiling. Otherwise they wouldn’t work.

        But putting them in at Union Square or Sixth Avenue is going to be a major problem, since the transfer stairs to the south ends of the Broadway and Sixth Avenue platform barely leave enough room for two people to get by on the Brooklyn-bound side.

        And that’s why the station still doesn’t have elevators. It has nothing to do with the installation of the PEDs.

        • Henry says:

          “floor to ceiling”

          No they don’t. The ones in Paris work perfectly fine – they just need to be taller than 4.5 or 5 feet.

          http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BjtX....._paris.jpg

          • Someone says:

            “No they don’t. The ones in Paris work perfectly fine – they just need to be taller than 4.5 or 5 feet.”

            Someone can still jump over a short barrier like that. The ones in Paris are 7-8 feet tall (I’ve been there and it was about a foot and a half taller than me; I am 6 feet tall.)

            To be effective, a platform edge door has to be at least 6 feet tall. The taller the barrier, the more effective it is. A floor-to-ceiling screen door would be most effective, and I think the MTA might use this type of door.

            • Miles Bader says:

              To be effective, a platform edge door has to be at least 6 feet tall.

              This is simply wrong, as is born out by a huge amount of real-world experience.

              Chest-height (4ft?) barriers work wonderfully, and are cheaper/easier than full-height barriers. That’s important in a system such as NYCs which is severely constrained by budget and physical limitations.

              Obviously short barriers pretty much eliminate accidental falls and “pushing” incidents. While a determined suicide is theoretically still possible, clambering over a high barrier is impossible for many, and sufficiently difficult/time-consuming even for those in good shape that it makes a huge amount of difference: no more flinging yourself off the platform in a moment of despair with no time for anybody to do anything.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        I didn’t think of clearance, and you are right.

        • Someone says:

          Exactly why the MTA also can’t roll out platform doors (or elevators, for that matter) on some of the older NYCS stations. For example, we know that the Lexington Avenue-59 Street station on the N/Q/R won’t have any PSDs anytime soon, unless it gets a major renovation.

        • Can a platform really be too narrow for doors? How much space do they take up? Surely less than the current yellow bumpy thing. With an open platform, you don’t actually get to use the whole platform for walking – especially when it’s crowded, nobody ever actually stands within half a foot (or more) of the edge, for obvious reasons. With a closed platform, you can use all the space.

          • John-2 says:

            Check out the Brooklyn-bound side at Union Square, where the stairs up to the N/Q/R trains are. It’s iffy as it is for two people to pass where the stairs are located, especially if one of those persons weighs in at 250 or more pounds. Plunk a platform door/wall down there and you’ve all but limited access to one person(s) in one direction, which is bound to create movement conflicts.

            The spacing for the stairs up to the F/M platforms at Sixth Avenue isn’t quite as bad, but the problem remains there and at other (mainly island platform) stations that give the space the platforms have and what the platform doors would need, the safety concerns over people falling on the tracks may simply be replaced with the safety concerns of people fighting to access exits in too small an area.

            • Someone says:

              Also, at the Lexington Avenue-59 Street station on the N/Q/R, there is barely enough room for one person to pass, let alone two. There are plenty of other stations where the platform is too narrow to allow elevator installment, or PSDs.

              • Nathanael says:

                You can always tuck the elevators at the far end of the platform so that nobody has to walk past them. No such trick with putting platform screen doors around stairwells, though.

            • Nathanael says:

              Union Square is a problem station in any case, what with the curved platforms and gap fillers, as well as the narrow platforms.

              I suppose nobody would go for digging up Park Avenue and Union Square Park in order to relocate the IRT Union Square station onto the straightaway from 15th St to 17th St. This would also involve relocating all the tracks except the eastmost. You could put in much bigger, modern platforms, though.

              • Nathanael says:

                Actually, the more I look at this the more I like the idea. I suppose the cut-and-cover would be deeply unpopular, not to mention the temporary severing of the 4-5-6 into two lines (one from 14th St. south, one from 23rd St north).

          • Someone says:

            Two or three inches. They’re pretty thin, actually.

  2. Someone says:

    I wonder which station will be tried out for this. Hopefully, it’s a high traffic station like 1 Avenue, Bedford Avenue, or Union Square.

  3. Chris G says:

    Wow. Couple of points here.

    I would take a partial roll out vs non on platform edges. I just believe at least underground they should be full walls and not half heights that i’ve seen suggested. Let it be able to allow real climate control and real garbage control.

    Regarding increasing the frequency of warning announcements i’d think that would be counter productive. People will tune them out more than they do now.

  4. Brian says:

    In 2011, 47 people were killed by trains, most of them were suicides, this accounts for 0.000002% of the annual ridership of the subway. The Billions this would cost would be much better spent elsewhere in the system ie. construction, rehabilitation, and improving current service.Not to metntion all the headaches from service changes that would result while these things were being installed and tested. I hope the MTA doesnt do it, its a massive waster of time and money that frankly they dont have.

    • sharon says:

      A person looking to commit suicide will find another avenue to do so. Spending billions on platform doors does not solve this. Hey why not put walls up on every street corner in the city. Someone could just throw themselves in front of a car. The FDR drive has no wall that separates the roadway from the sidewalks around it.

      Putting doors or barriers at stations that the rush hour crowd nearly forces people onto the track is another story. TWU does not want the L to have doors, no need for the driver or a conductor on the train.

      Lets not forget that controlling the doors and having a human eye on door operations, human eye looking ahead at the train controls and monitoring the cars can be done via camera from a central location. You can get the same level (or better) human input without having a person on the train. This can be done at a very cheap cost. Allow the cell phone companies install 4g(or new 5g cellular tech ) in the tunnels and all the mta needs to do is to install the cameras

      • Someone says:

        The TWU also doesn’t want the 7 to have ATO. IT’s mainly because they want more jobs to stay available in the NYCS, as enough jobs have already been eliminated.

  5. Roy says:

    I’d imagine it’d be a lot easier and cheaper to install “suicide pits” like on the London Underground. They might not save everyone who falls/jumps/is pushed in front of a train but they’d probably save a lot more than not having anything.

    • Henry says:

      I know that in at least some subway stations, the “pits” are used to facilitate the drainage of water, so that’s pretty gross IMO.

      Roosevelt Island has pits already, I believe.

      • Someone says:

        Yeah, and so do Lexington Av-63 St; 21 St-Queensbridge; Jamaica-Van Wyck, Jamaica-Sutphin Blvd; Jamaica-Parsons-Archer; and South Ferry.

        There are 6-inch-deep pits in most underground NYCS stations, I believe.

    • sharon says:

      You can not spend billions to save the disenchanted from themselves.
      It is just lunacy.

    • Someone says:

      Just a question, how much is it going to cost to replace all the existing drainage pits on the NYCS?

  6. jon says:

    Besides the obvious saving of lives, especially in the case of accidents and homicidal maniacs, the doors would save money and headaches in two ways.
    First, everytime one of these incidents happens the MTA employee who has the misfortune of being involved receives at least 30 days of paid leave.(I know this isn’t all that much in terms of cost savings, but it will be a decent percentage of the total cost when spread over 20-30 years.)
    Second, it will greatly reduce both the freq

  7. jon says:

    Besides the obvious saving of lives, especially in the case of accidents and homicidal maniacs, the doors would save money and headaches in a number ways.
    First, everytime one of these incidents happens the MTA employee who has the misfortune of being involved receives at least 30 days of paid leave.(I know this isn’t all that much in terms of cost savings, but it will be a decent percentage of the total cost when spread over 20-30 years.)
    Second, it will greatly reduce both the frequency and severity of track fires.
    Third, the MTA will be able to spend less money on vacuum trains, or at least have those that are running do a better job on each pass of the system.
    Finally, in the event of minor system flooding, less water will be able to accumulate. The drains throughout the system will be less likely to have debris blocking the flow of water.

    Again, I don’t know if these will counterbalance the $1 billion or more, because we all know the MTA can’t really keep things on budget as a general rule, but they should save a very significant percentage of whatever the ultimate cost of the program would be.

    PS. Sorry for the partial comment above.

    • sharon says:

      ” everytime one of these incidents happens the MTA employee who has the misfortune of being involved receives at least 30 days of paid leave.”

      Another way to save the employee of the horror is to do away with the employee on our vertical elevators(subway system)

      Technology can be implemented right now to help out.
      1) Train operators have a blind spot as soon as they enter the station due to going from dark to light. The MTA could install flat panels in car so that the train operator has a view of the tracks and platform edge prior to entering the station
      2) Track sensors can notify the train operator of a person on the track to slow down.

      Yes this does not stop the person pushed in front of the train but it prevents the drop cell phone type incidents.

      3) Put simple piped barriers in places that the train does not stop. You can even install ad screens on some of them to help lower the cost. No need for full scale doors unless you are going to go automated train operation

      • sharon says:

        just to note, the previous studies of installing flat panels inside train cabs needs to be thrown out. screens are much smaller and thinner now. A simple ipad in a rugged case would work just fine. Video can even be transmitted wifi

  8. SEAN says:

    As a person who is legally blind, I can understand the platform door arguement for safety reasons. However from a cost perspective, I’m not sure if spending the amount required to install, test & maintain sliding doors is justified. That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of having them.

    • Someone says:

      But then, how can you read this?

      • Alon Levy says:

        There’s software that reads out text to you, and the more advanced forms of it can even recognize text in image files, like all those Facebook updates that gratuitously render text in JPEGs. As long as you don’t need to solve a CAPTCHA, you should be fine.

        • Someone says:

          I know about that software, but what about the XHTML, and text in other languages, among other things?

          • John S says:

            Give me a break. Screen reading software interacts with your operating system and applications and reads out what those programs print out on the screen. Apart from being pointless, XHTML is (mostly) understood by web browsers, and the rendered output is similarly handled by the screen reading software. (Put another way, the screen reader does a copy/paste from Firefox or Chrome, and the latter figures out what the HTML/XHTML/whatever contains.) While there are always ‘new things,’ this is largely a ‘solved problem,’ and software updates catch the new stuff. HTML5 is surely avoiding a lot of the hellish mess that is/was Flash.

      • BenW says:

        I don’t know Sean personally, nor do I know the (legal) standard for blindness in New York, but the reason the term “legally blind” exists is that there are lots of people who can see well enough to read (albeit sometimes only in very large print or with special high-contrast screens), but not well enough to do things that require fully-functional vision (e.g. drive a car). Off the top of my head, I think that distance vision and peripheral vision issues, among others, could result in somebody being considered “blind” for legal purposes without it being noticeable to strangers they passed on the street.

  9. Ezra says:

    On an unrelated note, check this out:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/pro....._spotlight

  10. Someone says:

    The article on the Post says that the L only uses one type of train.

    It uses two. The R160A is a train, too.

    • sharon says:

      one in terms of door location

      • Someone says:

        Wait, so based on that assumption, the R142, R142A and R188 are the same, too? What about the R27 and R30? I know they are the same in terms of door location, but their internal components are all different.

        • BenW says:

          I’m not sure what your goal is with this subthread—are you just trying to be clever, or are you genuinely outraged at the shorthand the Post is using in a four-inch story about the subway? If the latter, let me argue a moment for the value of context: yes, there is a meaningful sense in which the R143 and the R160A are totally different “types” of train. In the same way, there is a meaningful distinction between R160A and R160B cars (hence the existence of that distinguishing letter), and for that matter between A and B cars in the same order. However, in the context of talking about the platforms on different lines, nobody cares about that distinction, because they’re talking about the distinction between trains that have a modern-era 60-foot car (R143/R160), those with an older 60-foot car (R32), and those with a 75-foot car (R46), because platforms that are served by all three of those (looking at you, 8th-avenue local) can’t readily be fitted with platform doors, but those on the Canarsie line can. Which is to say that in this context there is only one type of train that serves those platforms.

          In the same way, if we were talking about the difference between subway trains and commuter rail trains, we’d say that those were two types of train, and we wouldn’t need to go into the differences between an R32 and an R188 (or between an M3 and an M8), because in the context of discussing FTA versus (heaven help us) FRA safety rules, the distinctions between different types of commuter train and different types of subway train are irrelevant. And that’s a good thing! Because if we never filtered down the details to account for the current context, we would be unable to see general patterns in life, and we would be stuck in third grade (approximately—I suck at remembering developmental benchmarks), insisting that there’s no such thing as a forest, because all the trees have different shaped branches.

  11. If it was an attempted rule-book slowdown (or even if it wasn’t), what does it say about the union’s credibility with the rank-and-file that none of the train operators actually seemed to follow though?

  12. Alon Levy says:

    So what if it’s a billion dollars? It’s still a very good deal in terms of lives saved. At ~40 per year, with $5 million per life saved (a value that rises over time with economic growth), it’s a social rate of return of 20%, comparable to the social rate of return of the Paris-Lyon high-speed rail, the most successful line in the world outside Japan. Standard discount rates are about 4% for an investment with some risk, and 1.5-2% for a risk-free investment.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Even if I were to buy those numbers, that argument only makes sense if the state or feds lay out the money. It’s not a favorable investment for the MTA.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Do people never sue the MTA for falls?

        • Bolwerk says:

          Of course they do, but they don’t usually get awards that approach the $5M payout you mention. I don’t know what the average award is, but I’d be surprised if it were even $1M. (Usually, legal fault is split between the MTA and the victim, even if in reality the fault is 100% the victim’s.)

          Anyway, this isn’t a major objection from a social standpoint, but it’s still not a good investment for the MTA. It’s a good investment for the state, especially on behalf of its friends in the insurance industry!

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