Home Asides Another year, another push for platform doors

Another year, another push for platform doors

by Benjamin Kabak

Every year at around this time, the MTA releases its year-end figures concerning passenger safety, and this time around, The Daily News did not fail to get too excited. As the paper notes, a whopping 147 people — or a percentage of all riders too miniscule to calculate — were struck by trains. That amounts to one accident every 2.5 days or approximately 1 accident per 12.5 million riders.

Without minimizing the loss of life — 33 percent of those hit by trains died — this isn’t exactly a problem screaming out for a solution. Still, earlier this week, New York City Transit President Tom Prendergast once again spoke out in favor of platform doors. “The primary reason is safety, ” he said. “The second is environmental control and the third is to have a better means of getting the train into the station, doing the loading and unloading, and getting the train out of the station.”

We’ve 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. Now with, in the words of The Daily News, “terrifying” accidents taking a “sharp leap” upward, the doors are back.

I’ll say what I said last year: If the MTA can implement platform doors while keeping expenditures low, great. They’ll keep people and trash out of the tracks while allowing for more temperate platforms. But the cost of implementing such a plan, let alone the practicalities at a time when door spacing on various rolling stock models has yet to be fully standardized, could be astronomical. And at that point, the costs far, far outweigh the benefits.

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oscar March 27, 2012 - 5:12 pm

“If the MTA can implement platform doors while keeping expenditures low”


Ash September 4, 2012 - 8:13 pm

There is a solution for that. I’ve got a granted patent for that and it works perfectly with all different types of trains and platforms and its cost is 30% of the PSD

Someone December 16, 2012 - 7:00 pm

The door setups are different for the 60-footers, 75-footers, 67-footers, R62/As, and the R142/A/R188s.

Larry Littlefield March 27, 2012 - 5:22 pm

Well, at the very least they could adopt a policy of having all future car classes have the doors in the same places as the predominant car classes now. And no more 75 footers.

Benjamin Kabak March 27, 2012 - 5:26 pm

I believe that has been the plan with the R142/R160 cars. However, until the remaining R68s are retired — and that won’t be for a while — the 75-foot cars live on.

Joe March 27, 2012 - 5:54 pm

The R211 (which will replace the R46) is going to be 75′.

Someone December 7, 2012 - 12:11 am

From what I’ve heard, it’s probably going to be 940 60′ cars for the R211 order.

Andrew March 27, 2012 - 9:43 pm

Ten 60 ft cars cost more to maintain (and probably more to buy in the first place) than eight 75 ft cars.

Nathanael April 13, 2012 - 2:09 am

I thought they were backing off on new 75 ft. cars due to curve radius and curved station platforms?

Alon Levy March 28, 2012 - 1:01 am

Yep. And to increase capacity, make new cars walk-through, like they increasingly do in other cities. Space between cars = free standing space.

Quinn Raymond March 27, 2012 - 5:39 pm

What kind of technology is required to ensure that the train pulls up to the exact same spot each time? It seems like that is the bigger challenge than the disparate rolling stock.

If it’s technically possible, why not implement it in a few high-volume stations like Grand Central, etc…?

I could see it greatly reducing operating costs (track work, etc..) and delays too.

dungone March 27, 2012 - 11:48 pm

The technology to line up the doors with the train isn’t very complicated, IMO. From what I heard about it, the platform doors are just the icing on the cake. The real trick is to bring the trains to a stop in the most efficient way each and every time by using computer software instead of humans. That has potential benefits that go beyond platform doors.

As far as people getting killed on the platforms, maybe this might sound like an even bigger waste of money to some, but it’s not the percentage of riders who get killed, but the percentage of train engineers who inevitably end up driving a train that kills someone at one point or another. Why make your employees have to live with that if you could prevent it?

Alon Levy March 28, 2012 - 1:06 am

I believe it’s some kind of automatic train control. It may be part of the ATS functionality on the IRT; ask someone who’s more in the know about it (Andrew? Help?). It’s routine on many non-automated systems around the world, and Tokyo has recently begun on retrofitting it on one of the local commuter lines.

Andrew March 28, 2012 - 9:28 pm

Sorry, I can’t be of much help. ATS doesn’t have the capability of moving the train. ATS simply tracks trains as they move from track circuit to track circuit and throws switches based on train identities.

The closest we have in New York is the gap fillers at Union Square (and formerly South Ferry). When the train is stopped in the appropriate position, a short track circuit detects the train and allows the gap fillers to extend. When the train starts to move, it creeps forward until it’s just outside that track circuit, then pauses to allow the gap fillers to retract (at which point a special gap filler signal clears), then proceeds at full speed.

I don’t know how platform doors work in other systems, but there probably needs to be some sort of communication system between the platform door system and the train.

Do any transit systems with wayside, fixed block, stop-arm signal systems have platform doors?

Joe March 27, 2012 - 5:55 pm

It doesn’t really require any specific technology… operators already have to stop within a few feet of a certain spot. The platform doors are usually significantly wider than the train doors to allow for some variance in stopping position.

mwdt March 27, 2012 - 9:42 pm

Exactly. You just need to train operators to stop within a specifically defined window.

Quinn Raymond March 28, 2012 - 9:55 am

Ahhhhhh. Got it.

Kai B March 29, 2012 - 1:08 am


I’ve seen it work in St. Petersburg, Russia, 11 years ago (and by the looks it was installed in the 1960s or 1970s). Certainly no CBTC going on there, especially at the time.

I’d also like to hear it from architects themselves that doors can’t be designed to accommodate both 60 and 75-foot trains. We’re just speculating. There may be a common denominator.

Someone December 17, 2012 - 12:52 pm

There are actual screens that are used in a few parts of the world that can be raised to allow passage to the trains, then when the trains leave, the screen goes down.

Anon March 27, 2012 - 5:57 pm

Simply Prohibit people from Walking on the yellow line by the station platform edge if the train is not stopped at the station.
Make sure there are yellow bumpy tiles at each station. Perhaps this yellow tiled area needs to be slightly expanded. Cop sees some jack @ss standing on the line — give them a citation. In addition to this they need to expressly prohibit people from sitting on or blocking the stairs/entrance/exits (smokers, cell phone yabbers and other malcontents) and those jack @sses need to be fined as well

its that simple.

vb March 27, 2012 - 7:23 pm

It’s not that simple in all cases. For example, the Lexington Ave/59th St station has a pretty narrow N/R/Q platform. There are only about 2.5 feet of space to the side of the stairs in the middle of the platform. If you need to walk by, you pretty much have to walk on the yellow line (and 2 people walking in different directions means one has to walk right on the platform edge). This platform is also very crowded, which doesn’t help things. I’m always terrified when I have to walk by those stairs. Platform doors would be a great help there.

Adirondacker12800 March 27, 2012 - 7:25 pm

Taking up 4, 5, 6 inches of space along the platform edge….

Anon March 27, 2012 - 7:35 pm

In those cases where it is rush hour and stations are “narrow” warnings will be given without citations.

still seems simple to me.

Now people throwing themselves at the train — not simple..

but every other case — even someone having a diabetic attack and fainting onto the tracks—guess what–it was illegal to be on the yellow edge (at least according to my proposal) and they shouldn’t have been so reckless with their own life.

SomeGuy32 March 27, 2012 - 8:15 pm

Giving out tickets for being on the line has to be the dumbest idea ever.

Anon March 27, 2012 - 8:38 pm


tk March 29, 2012 - 4:40 pm

yes, great idea. maybe if we make it illegal to litter, there won’t be so much garbage on the tracks. oh wait…

Andrew March 27, 2012 - 9:38 pm

It might actually be less expensive to move one of the tracks and widen the platform, or (like at Bowling Green) to dig out a side platform and fence off one track on the island platform.

Someone December 16, 2012 - 10:17 pm

It’s still not that simple. The trains are of different lengths, as I mentioned above, and thus it would be very difficult to line the different train lengths up. Besides, platform screen doors cost $2 million per station, at the very least. The MTA couldn’t even install an elevator there a while back because it was too narrow. So what will make PSDs a useful addition to this station?

I don’t even know if PSDs are going to be installed at all, in the new stations…

Anon March 27, 2012 - 7:40 pm

Look at today’s photo SAS/Ben is using for “At Bleecker St., an aligned uptown 6”

How difficult is it to keep NYers off this yellow line?

UESider March 27, 2012 - 7:40 pm

i believe in the sanctity of life but darwin has to rule on this one…

i dont see how doors get trains in or out of a station any faster – closing two sets of doors will increase dwell time and slow the system

this just sounds like a maintenance nightmare – 468 stations x ~24 sets of doors per platform? no way

and, what happens when the platform doors dont open so you have to try to run to another set of doors? straphangers will get trapped on the train and have to go another stop…

this just reeks of major problems

mwdt March 27, 2012 - 9:58 pm

Some transit systems seem to be able to manage platform screen doors just fine.

oscar March 28, 2012 - 2:16 pm

they don’t have the TWU

The Cobalt Devil March 28, 2012 - 2:29 pm

They also don’t have almost 500 stations, hundreds of miles of track, and 10 different model subway cars of various sizes.

Someone December 7, 2012 - 12:14 am

There are only 3 different lengths of cars currently in use int eh NYC Subway system.

Scott E March 27, 2012 - 8:51 pm

I would venture a guess that tall, unbreakable glass doors are quite heavy. I’d also bet that many of the platform-edges, even the ones that aren’t visible crumbling, aren’t quite strong enough to support the weight of these doors. There will need to be quite a bit of work done on these platforms before one can even consider the thought of installing platform-edge doors

Roland S March 27, 2012 - 10:23 pm

What don’t people understand about this? It’s not about saving lives.

It’s about preventing the multi-million-dollar blow the city’s economy takes when a whole subway line gets shut down for an hour because some unfortunate schmuck fell on the tracks.

Andrew March 27, 2012 - 10:33 pm

So you’d prefer the subway line to get shut down for an hour because the platform doors got stuck?

dungone March 28, 2012 - 12:04 am

Trains already have automatic doors and they seem to work fine. Nearly every elevator in the world has two sets of sliding doors, too. The nice thing about automated doors is if the platform side of the door really does get stuck and the platform can’t function without it, you could just manually leave it open.

What I really think it buys you, though, is valuable real estate on the platform. Everything along that platform edge where there isn’t a door can support people walking around safely right up to the wall where otherwise they’d be falling off left and right. People who are waiting for trains would be able to gravitate towards the walls, leaving the middle of the platform more open as a passage and in the narrowest areas people could pass each other safely where right now they have to stop and wait for one another to get out of the way. I think people would generally be very happy with it. Throw in air conditioning and heating in the summer and a quieter environment, they could even start playing elevator music…

Alon Levy March 28, 2012 - 1:48 am

I don’t think this ever happened in Singapore, where all the underground stations I’ve seen have platform screen doors.

The Cobalt Devil March 28, 2012 - 3:39 pm

I wouldn’t compare Singapore to NYC unless you want an authoritarian big-brother running the subway here. If the doors don’t work I’m sure somebody gets whipped or thrown in jail for a year or two.

Alon Levy March 29, 2012 - 6:13 am

Can we please discuss Singapore the city rather than Singapore the fantasy of Westerners? Contract law in Singapore is your standard common law. No canings, no nothing; that Singapore canes people for vandalism is as relevant as that the US has criminalized its inner cities with the war on drugs. Singapore even has accidents just like other developed countries.

Arch Stanton February 3, 2013 - 3:55 am

Actually it has happened in Singapore, Several years ago a piece of chewing gum got stuck in one of the subway door sensors preventing it from closing. It took an hour of so to clear the problem. However, it was rush hour and the whole system was paralyzed… the solution was to outlaw chewing gum in the whole country.

UESider March 27, 2012 - 10:25 pm

while we’re at it, why dont be build walls on the curb to divide the sidewalk and the street?

people step off the curb and get hit by taxis, buses, bikes, trucks and other traffic every day.

we have a duty to protect these pedestrians!

Roland S March 27, 2012 - 10:25 pm

I should also mention that platform doors allow platforms to be fully enclosed, which is a huge advantage for above-ground or trench stations, especially during the winter.

In the underground portions of the subway, MTA could use half-height doors like they have in Paris. They’re only 5′ tall and don’t hit the ceiling, but they prevent people from falling on the tracks.

Ed March 27, 2012 - 10:43 pm

Could someone list the systems where they have these (Paris?), how they work, and how the transit agency there is able to afford them?

I’ve probably used some version of mass rail transit in over twenty cities, over half outside the U.S., and I don’t recall seeing platform doors.

Is there so much concern now about people getting run over by trains because there is an increase in people doing this to commit suicide? Is it because the platforms at some stations in the system are ridiculously narrow? We could hire some of the unemployed on projects to overhaul the older stations in the system and solve both problems.

Alex C March 27, 2012 - 10:48 pm

Easy, they have a few modern lines that use it. Not all Paris lines use platform doors.

Alon Levy March 28, 2012 - 1:59 am

All underground stations in Singapore. The newest Underground stations in London (on the Jubilee Line Extesion). Paris Metro Line 14. All (underground) stations I’ve seen on Line 1 in Shanghai, with chest-level barriers on some stations on Line 2.

J B March 29, 2012 - 6:58 am

I think every underground station in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Kaohsiung and Guangzhou have them, and I believe every station built after 2007 in Beijing. Taipei has them on about a third of all stations, on its automated line and all lines opened after 2009. Some stations on the Fukutoshin Line in Tokyo also have them.
The Taipei metro has added doors to older stations where it believes crowding is a problem, but these are only four feet high. Suicides are also a major justification for installing them. I don’t know how they’re paid for but presumably the metro pays for them itself, which is reasonable since accidents disrupt service and Taipei’s metro doesn’t have the MTA’s budget problems- in most years it’s profitable.
No idea how they work, though.

Bolwerk March 28, 2012 - 1:30 am

Platform doors introduce their own safety problems. Stuck trains get harder to evacuate. Fires could become more devastating.

I agree they probably net a bit more safety, but the already minuscule amount is reduced further by new risk. It’s not worth it.

AlexB March 28, 2012 - 8:37 am

All the NYC subway stations are a little bit different. There are also so many and would take so long to install, the MTA would probably end up with slightly different types of doors along different lines. First, they would introduce the doors on a line like the 7 or the L where the total number of stops is manageable, and the implementation can be consistent along a whole line without having to worry about branches. Maybe they would even fully enclose some of the busier elevated stations. If that worked, they would expand it to the 456 and then to the rest of the system over roughly 20-30 years, about the same pace that it’s taken them to install the countdown clocks.

Benjamin Kabak March 28, 2012 - 8:54 am

I have to think that if the MTA were to move forward with platform doors, they’d do so only at “problem” stations. There’s definitely no need to put doors on every platform, and for many of the above-ground/open-air stations, doing so would be insanely costly.

The Cobalt Devil March 28, 2012 - 9:31 am

Am I the only one who sees that this will NEVER, EVER happen? The MTA barely has enough money to run the trains and clean (and I’m being generous when i say “clean”) the stations it already has?

This project will cost millions to build and maintain. It’s a moot arguement. If you don’t want to get hit by a train, stay away from the edge, lean against the support column, and don’t get into fights with drunks.

UESider March 28, 2012 - 10:43 am

completely get the argument for insulating the train conductors – that has to be a horrific thing to experience…

isnt there a better alternative, though? i.e. protect the tunnel at the station entrance where the train is moving the fastest (and frequently coming out of a blind tunnel) with a railing or partial platform doors (half doors sound like a better option)?

Ed David March 29, 2012 - 8:11 am

I started a petition for platform doors:

Agreed – if we can keep costs down, then it’s worth it.

Someone December 7, 2012 - 12:13 am

It will only work on the IRT platforms and the BMT eastern division…

John R March 30, 2012 - 5:15 pm

There is another benefit that can come from platform doors that was not included on the list of potential benefits offered to the platform dooors.

The most significant side benefit of installing platform doors may be to help mitigate water corrosion of the tunnel infrastructure. By installing these platform glasses, it is possible to seal up the ventilation grates throughout the system (reducing the maintenance costs associated with them) because it will be possible to pressurize the tunnels. High velocity fans can be installed at points throughout the system to pump air through the tunnels to keep them dryer (as is done in the deep tunnels). By increasing the air flow in the tunnels and the amount of debris entering the tunnels, it will reduce the places for water to pond and also reduce the humidity level within the tunnels. This can significantly extend the life of the tunnel infrastructure, which is primarily supported by steel and highly vulnerable to moisture.

The platform doors are necessary to maintain high flow velocity within the tunnels. Otherwise you would lose pressure by the time the pressurized air got to the first station. The side benefits are improved safety, being able to install lower velocity vents for the platforms that keep the platform temperature the same as the street level (much cheaper than installing air conditioning), etc.

UESider March 31, 2012 - 11:59 am

good luck sealing up nyc transit tunnels!! never going to happen..

to the argument about elevators having two sets of doors- first of all, thats a Slightly different environment And the door sets are connected

also, of the train systems with two sets of doors – they also run much larger/wider trains that can handle the rider volume. where you have riders cramming into trains (thus blocking doors) the way we do at peak hours on the busiest lines, people just dont fit. the door situation is much different

Amidst renovations, subway platforms narrow :: Second Ave. Sagas April 2, 2012 - 12:55 pm

[…] straphangers who jump or fall into trackbeds have gained headlines, some transit watchers have renewed calls for platform doors. The benefits, as I’ve discussed are numerous, but the costs could be astronomical. While […]

Nathaniel July 10, 2012 - 11:08 pm

I’d have to say that I think the best experiment would be on an L platform, currently the only fully CBTC operating line. In this way, even thought the human operator can easily do this task, the computer does it even more precisely. In addition, the L is one of the most crowded rush hour trains, so it would be nice to see the doors at work in a station that would either display or, possibly, not show the doors benefits. Plus, the r143s and r160’s (the only cars operating on the line) have the exact same length and door placement, so it wouldn’t be confusing.

Is it me or did they install ACs at the grand central station - where the 3, 4, and 5 trains are. - Page 3 - City-Data Forum August 9, 2012 - 3:17 pm

[…] Originally Posted by Adhom In order for AC to be effective on the platform, you will need a glass barrier between the platform and the tracks like they have in Hong Kong and airport shuttles. I'm guessing the new 2nd Ave line should have this when it's completed? The SAS will not have platform doors, though it should. Another year, another push for platform doors :: Second Ave. Sagas […]

Someone December 16, 2012 - 6:58 pm

I heard the doors cost $30,000 apiece


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