Home MTA Technology Transit exploring glass doors for platform edges

Transit exploring glass doors for platform edges

by Benjamin Kabak

Platform screen doors, such as those seen here at London's Westminster station, could soon come to New York's subway system.

Transit is exploring the possibility of installing glass doors on its platforms to keep passengers safe, tracks clean and stations climate controlled, the Daily News reported today. With a recent spate of high-profile accidents involving straphangers who have fallen or were pushed into the tracks as well as concerns over debris in the tracks, the MTA is trying to focus more sealing off the station edges and are soliciting expressions of interest for plans to install platform screen doors, platform edge doors or a platform edge gate. They want, however, to find a project that involves “little or no upfront costs” to the authority, according to the Request for Information.

“We are very early in the process,” Kevin Ortiz, Transit spokesman, said to the News, “of looking at the possibility of installing platform doors that would go a long way toward enhancing passenger safety and station appearance.”

According to the RFI, Transit is looking for vendors who can a proposal with a variety of attributes. First, the authority wants something that won’t require service diversions to install, and they want a system that can be controlled remotely and opened in case of emergency. Due to varying car lengths on the B Division, Transit wants a system that can detect and respond to door placements.

Learning from previous mistakes, Transit is searching for a system that requires “minimal preventative maintenance” that can withstand an “extreme operating environment.” The doors must be tamper and vandal resistant and must have space for informational displays and advertising posters. It must integrate well within the existing infrastructure and station technology and should be compatible with the various signaling and CBTC systems. The authority also said it will consider only venders whose systems that “have been proven in large-scale applications” in a “heavy-rail environment.”

It’s hard to dislike this project. Doors would keep passengers safely away from tracks, allow for a more temperate station environment and keep garbage on the platforms where it is easier to clean. For the MTA, though, the key is cost. As I mentioned, the authority wants to pay as little as possible and could pursue revenue-sharing plans with the chosen vendor. Otherwise, this project, as previous MTA officials have warned, will be too expensive. Still, any excitement over this project may be a bit premature. The response to the RFIs are due in March, and the authority will then evaluate whether or not it wants to proceed with an RFP process.

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Kid Twist February 1, 2011 - 11:59 am

But … how am I going to be able to lean over the edge of the platform to see if the train is coming?

Srsly: Sounds like a tall order. I wonder if anyone will be able to meet all these requirements at a reasonable cost.

Someone December 9, 2012 - 10:17 am

Platform edge doors which are only 5′ to 6′ high can still be seen over.

ant6n February 1, 2011 - 12:04 pm

Yeah, a lot of requirements. If that’s gonna be met at all, it’s gonna be expensive. I think generally these systems accept only one door configuration (although shorter and longer trains may be accommodated), so systems tend to standardize the door positions when buying new rolling stock.

On the other hand, platform doors make automatic train control much easier, and are a bit of a prerequesite.
I wonder whether it affects speed at all.

Alon Levy February 1, 2011 - 3:31 pm

All else being equal, automation raises speeds slightly. Computers accelerate and decelerate more precisely, without the additional error margins introduced by humans.

ant6n February 1, 2011 - 9:28 pm

Automation can increase speeds and reduce headways, but I wonder how speeds are affected if just automatic doors are used, without actually automating the drivers.

Gary Reilly February 1, 2011 - 12:11 pm

Another factor to consider is climate control – comfort and costs.

Can you imagine a 2nd Avenue station (the current one, I mean, not a future T line station) that isn’t a sweltering hell in the summer?

Now there’s a lifesaver.

Gary Reilly February 1, 2011 - 12:12 pm

Ah. I see you mentioned temperature, and that I forgot to close my italics tags. D’oh!

Someone December 9, 2012 - 10:16 am

You can’t close them.

BBnet3000 February 1, 2011 - 12:16 pm

This is something I dont know much about, are there systems out there in use already that handle variable door configurations?

Aaron February 1, 2011 - 2:23 pm

FWIW, Japan has been somewhat stymied by that – the Yamanote Line installation doesn’t include all cars, I guess because some of their trains are configured a bit differently. I don’t know if they’re waiting to retire the cars with the abnormal configuration or what the plan is.

John February 1, 2011 - 12:29 pm

What about outdoor stations?

Benjamin Kabak February 1, 2011 - 12:32 pm

As I mentioned, this is a very preliminary request for information. The MTA hasn’t gotten that far, but they have asked for doors that withstand a harsh environment including water exposure.

James February 1, 2011 - 12:48 pm

Climate control? How will closing off the tunnels make things any better? Are they talking about installing a/c in the stations? If so, where’s the money to pay for all that expensive cooling?

Benjamin Kabak February 1, 2011 - 12:50 pm

Just sealing the platforms and keeping heat from train AC systems in the tracks would cool the platforms a bit. They’ve installed climate control at Grand Central on the Lex IRT, and that’s something that could in the future be a solution at other stations as well. Again, this is all very preliminary.

R. Graham February 1, 2011 - 1:15 pm

However the cooling system at Grand Central-42nd is a very complicated system. IIRC, it involves redirecting some of the excess cooling from the terminal above to the subway below.

Chris G February 3, 2011 - 4:20 pm

Also, cooling something as small as a platform is a lot easier than cooling the current wide open tube inclusive of the tracks. So you need less cooling for the to be enclosed platforms.

Its not a wash of course, but its not as drastic of a problem as it would appear.

R. Graham February 1, 2011 - 1:24 pm

I must say I personally feel and have always felt that this is something that can only be done reasonably on the underground IRT.

Several reasons. It’s the only division running stock that has doors that mostly settle in the same exact areas. Even with the R62s vs the R142s you can adjust the platform door widths to meet the needs of both rolling stock.

The B division is an entirely different story. You’re talking about older equipment still in use on the C at 60 feet per car with door arrangements slanted in the left vs right format. Newer 60 feet cars with matching door arrangements on both sides. 75 feet cars with matching door arrangements on both sides both obviously door to door distance is longer on a 75 footer.

Plus to avoid the platform wind tunnel effect and expose to high winds, outside stations most likely have to be left out without consideration for an expensive reconfiguration of platforms and roofs to house the panels. It would be great for being protected from the rain and mind wind but on those rare times the wind exceeds 50-60 MPH this could be a distance if one of those panels were to cut loose and land on the elevated track. For elevated track this concept works best for island stations and that’s about it.

Someone December 4, 2012 - 10:28 pm

The R62s and R142s are not equipped for automatic operation, so the driver would have to be very careful when pulling in the station…

John-2 February 1, 2011 - 1:25 pm

It seems like any platform door option on the B division would have to be tested on the underground stations of the L or the J/Z first, where you’re 99.9 percent guaranteed that all the cars will be the same 60-foot length, and the car and platform doors will line up as long as the T/O hits his or her marker.

I’m not quite sure what the MTA’s idea is when they say “Due to varying car lengths on the B Division, Transit wants a system that can detect and respond to door placements.” since that sounds like a call for a platform door system with as many as 68 different openings for a 600-foot platform, to take into account whether or not a 60- or 75-foot train pulls into the station. As someone who’s experienced the enjoyment of a rail car door opening while the platform door remains tightly shut, that’s way too many moving parts to worry about potentially malfunctioning and creating a horde of angry passengers, either in the car or on the platform.

Testing it on the A division, or on the L or J for now seems like the safest way to go, and if the MTA opts to start really phasing out the 75-foot cars with the R-179 order, then they can start looking at B division platform doors for the main trunk lines, as the door openings are standardized.

Elizabeth February 1, 2011 - 2:06 pm

In the photo of the Tube, the ad spots look digital. I’d love to see, when the train was pulling in, the ads disappear to show what train was arriving and it’s next stop(s). And/or route changes. And the time to the next train’s arrival.

Donald February 1, 2011 - 2:36 pm

The fact that the MTA is currently running 75 foot and 50 foot long train cars is going to make installing screen doors very difficult. More likely than not, the doors will malfunction and won’t be lined up with the train’s doors. I think the TA should limit screen doors to stations that only run one type of train.

Donald February 1, 2011 - 2:36 pm

correction: I meant 60 foot, not 50.

Ray February 1, 2011 - 6:59 pm

What about curved stations? I’d imagine it’d be a bit more complex and costly, especially with stations like 14th St on the Lex Ave line.

R. Graham February 1, 2011 - 10:18 pm

Honestly there are very few stations I feel are in need of this and not more than just those several.

Overcrowded stations
Curved Stations
Gap filler stations

To me that’s it. Overcrowded stations like Lexington Ave-53rd Street and Grand Central are in dire need. All for the fact that you can ended up falling off of the platform because there’s too many people behind you.

Curved stations like Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and others. These are the stations where a train can come in full speed and the chances of you being seen by a train operator in time enough for him/her to react his less than remote.

Gap filler stations or should I say station because the only one left is Union Square. This would solve the problem of drunk guys getting themselves pinned between the train and the filler.

ajedrez February 1, 2011 - 8:24 pm

I’m assuming that the car doors would have to close a few seconds after the platform doors, so nobody who is running for a train gets stuck between the platform door and edge of the platform.

By the way, how wide would that space be?

R. Graham February 1, 2011 - 10:08 pm

It would have to allow just enough space to accommodate natural train lean or sway depending on the stock and suspension system.

Matthias February 1, 2011 - 10:17 pm

I enjoy the exposure to the tracks and the open tunnel, but I’m probably in the minority. It would be great to keep the tracks from being used as a trash can. I can’t imagine anything as slick and modern-looking as that photo–I also can’t imagine anything that would meet all the requirements. Little to no upfront cost?

Steve February 1, 2011 - 11:14 pm

I’m not too big of a fan of the glass doors, tho I do understand their benefits (preventing people from getting hurt/killed, preventing lawsuits and trash from being thrown on the tracks leading to fires). However, with the lack of money around, I seriously doubt this should be a priority. I mean, I know the track fires cause major delays and injuries lead to lawsuits, but you have 468 stations in the system, which would make this a huge undertaking and cost so much money during a very difficult time. In fact, I don’t know if I could even justify spending money on all the time clocks either (tho, I know it does help people to make/change plans). I just feel the costs of installing all those clocks in so many stations just so people know when the train is going to come is unnecessary when you have so much debt.

Benjamin Kabak February 1, 2011 - 11:19 pm

Again, the cost of installing the countdown clocks was incidental compared to the real need to upgrade the communications equipment. It’s a capital expense funded from the capital budget that made too much sense not to do now. I don’t know why people are so hung up with criticizing a good initiative.

Steve February 1, 2011 - 11:23 pm

Well, while it can help to change plans depending on delays, I find that most of the time I really don’t have any other alternatives in choosing another reasonable route. However, that may differ for other people (depending on where they live and where they go).

Phillip February 2, 2011 - 8:36 am

bleh, the platform doors would be nice on any new station, such as the ones built for 7 ext and 2nd ave…. but installing them on just about anything else would destroy the character of the stations themselves, and in several areas would feel quite claustrophobic.

imagine platforms doors in the 168th station… totally out of place and ruins the charm. imagine platform doors in the stations with the 2ft wide platforms near the first and last cars on the train.

paulb February 2, 2011 - 8:52 am

Ben, that photo of the London platform. It’s….. mass transit porn! I can’t stop looking at it. That perfectly tiled, gum free floor! The accent tiles where the doors open. No columns! That sexy yellow and black warning band along the doors. The gleaming glass and stainless steel. Even the ceiling above the tracks is finished. I want to RIDE that subway!

vbtwo February 2, 2011 - 10:19 am

If you think that’s great, check out some pics of the new Barcelona lines/stations:

Look at the L9/L10 photos as these are the new lines, but even the other older ones look pretty good.

There’s also a video showing the station/trains here:

JS February 2, 2011 - 10:35 pm

What other brilliant ideas can Jay Walder bring over from London? How about wooden escalators that catch fire? Or a subway line that goes in circles, in two directions!

Alon Levy February 3, 2011 - 2:25 am

I rather hope Walder brings London’s construction costs here, as a first stage. London’s construction costs are only the second highest in the world, at 1/3 to 2/3 as high as New York’s.

Chris G February 3, 2011 - 4:49 pm

This is something I wish NYC had most. Even more than the next train clocks. Amazing how once again we’re debating something the rest of the world does well.

For those that fear for ruining the character of the stations, this discussion is over. The equivalent of NIMBYism. Useless.

As for the situation, we’ve heard all sorts of reasons this can’t be done. Costs. Platform edges would need to be reinforced. Character of stations lost. Train cars not matching up. Too complicated. Possible failure to open.

All of these can be overcome.

Costs is easy. Reduced maintenance costs due to trash not being in the tracks. No more lawsuits/reduced lawsuits from people being pushed/falling into the tracks. Advertising.

Start up costs. Its basically an entire new wall. All that advertising revenue could be shared for 5 years (example) to get someone to front the costs.

Platform edges is either a yes or no. Either way it shouldn’t hold up the project.

Train car doors not matching up is easy too. Start with those stations that use what your standard will become. Only do others once rollingstock can be replaced to that standard. This will help remove a lot of the complications and moving parts.

This doesn’t have to be an everywhere right now project. I can think of 5 stations off hand to start with. Even 10. But removing public access to the tracks is a win all around. You’ll be cooler/warmer (when appropriate instead of reversed as now) waiting for your train. You will have access to time clocks to know when your train is coming instead of leaning into the path of the train. The MTA will make more advertising money. The costs of running both the station and the trains through those stations will be reduced.

I’d be willing to bet that a cost benefit analysis would show this project, at least on the 10 appropriate starting stations could be done at a positive benefit/cost reduction to the MTA.

Revisiting the reaction to the glass doors :: Second Ave. Sagas February 4, 2011 - 1:24 am

[…] the Daily News got wind of the MTA’s Request for Information concerning the possibility of installing glass doors on subway platforms, it seemed like a harmless news story. The authority wasn’t planning on committing resources […]

From the annals of bad ideas: Slowing down the subway :: Second Ave. Sagas February 14, 2011 - 11:31 am

[…] who notes that at least one company — Crown Infrastructure — is interested in the MTA’s proposal, agrees. “You would think” based on the reaction, he says, “subway executives had […]

Another year, another push for platform doors :: Second Ave. Sagas March 27, 2012 - 5:04 pm

[…] been down this road before. In fact, it was just last February when Prendergast first proposed platform doors (as long as they didn’t have to pay much), and everyone and their uncles grossly overreacted. […]

Someone October 30, 2012 - 8:56 pm

The only platform screen doors in London are on the Jubilee line extension.

Someone December 4, 2012 - 10:26 pm

Those are impossible in the NYC subway B division, because unless 1,377 cars were to be suddenly scrapped, there is no way the 75-foot cars can line up to screen doors for 60-foot cars.

Imagine, for example, on the F where both 60-foot and 75-foot cars are used- wouldn’t you be surprised to walk out of a R46 into a glass wall, because the screen doors in place there are meant for 60-foot cars only…


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