Home Asides Amidst renovations, subway platforms narrow

Amidst renovations, subway platforms narrow

by Benjamin Kabak

Over the past few weeks, as accidents involving 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 platform doors could better protect the MTA’s passengers, another issue surrounding passenger safety concerns platform space.

As New York 1’s Tina Redwine noted last week, station renovations often leave platforms with very little space. Her article focused mainly on the impact of ongoing construction, but the final products leave space at a premium too. As Redwine notes, on the IND platform at Broadway/Lafayette, areas currently under construction leave just 51 inches of space for people to wait for trains and walk down the platform. It isn’t nearly enough.

The problem, though, doesn’t end with the construction. As the MTA renovates stations for ADA compliance and grafts bulky elevators into 70- or 100-year-old stations, straphangers lose platform space. As staircases appear, waiting areas disappear. Grand Central on the IRT, for instance, wouldn’t feel so cramped if the platform areas for people waiting for trains weren’t so miniscule. There is, of course, no easy answer here as these upgrades are both necessary and required, but as the MTA searches for ways to make platforms safer, examining the amount of space we have while waiting should be a no-brainer.

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Gordon Werner April 2, 2012 - 12:57 pm

just imagine how much they’d whine if the MTA shut the stations down completely when renovating them

Chris G April 2, 2012 - 2:54 pm

Let’s be honest here. The station doors are NOT about safety first. They’ll be sold that way, but they’re more about keeping people and things off the track and reducing clean up costs and maintenance costs of the ROW.

I am very pro platform doors. They are used around the world and there is little good reason beyond the conflicting car sizes that I have heard to not do it. It is something that can be done in phases, one section of a station at a time if you need to. From other discussions on this we mostly agree it would not be hard from a tech point of view to do.

A short list of benefits you’d have is climate controlled stations, no litter in the tracks causing track fires or rodents, the full platform would be usable, another advertising surface, increased in system points of sale as in newsstands etc paying rent.

i know this is a costly project. But what these days isn’t?

SEAN April 2, 2012 - 3:26 pm

It’s not a bad idea. If you give it a little thaught, you end up creating a whole slew of jobs from designers to installers.

Now before you install any doors, you could do simulations in computers to see how they could look & work.

Chris G April 2, 2012 - 3:43 pm

Don’t need to study or sim.

They are already used in many places around the world. First and foremost, Walder’s new home the MTR.

SEAN April 2, 2012 - 5:08 pm

The simulation is more or less streight foward & takes little time. Remember if it is new, the MTA will study it to death before installing anything.

How would you install doors on outdoor rows in Brooklyn, Queens & The Bronx.

Benjamin Kabak April 2, 2012 - 5:11 pm

You probably wouldn’t for a good number of reasons.

John R April 2, 2012 - 4:25 pm

Also the potential to pressurize the tunnels and increase the life of the tunnel infrastructure by lowering the humidity, sealing up vents that allow water and debris in, etc. There’s a lot of good to these doors outside comfort and safety.

George April 2, 2012 - 3:11 pm

The ADA was a result of intenstive lobbying by the elevator companies. It had nothing to do with helping disabled people. Everyone knows this.

What would help out ten thousand times more people are escalators, not elevators. The amount of people who can walk but have trouble using stairs is astronomically higher than the amount of people who can’t walk at all.

SEAN April 2, 2012 - 3:17 pm

You’re joking, right?

pete April 3, 2012 - 11:42 am

No. The MTA has only once in history installed an ADA ramp in the subway, 8th Ave 42nd street. Everywhere else, even for just 15 feet, its an elevator.

al April 2, 2012 - 3:40 pm

How about a compromise. Platform railing or fencing. They are much lighter, cheaper, thinner, have no moving parts, and are easily and rapidly reconfigurable. Mark the door locations and then install the hardware with bolts, brackets, and epoxy. Install signs, reflective hazard tape, and mirrors for train crew and you’re done. Poles can also be part of this system. It should be added on A division lines first since they already have countdown clocks too.

As for person on tracks, maybe they can install large foam filled bumpers on trains. Another is a motorman operated system that works like a airbag to scoop up and catch the person on the track.

John Doe April 2, 2012 - 5:40 pm

Benjamin – love the blog.
ok, can the MTA please address the lack of platform space @ the 59th St/Lex stop of the N/R/Q. It’s madness during rush hours!! It would help if they knocked down the “station refuse room”, it would free up some space (we can worry about where to store the garbarage at another time-think platform space trumps). If anyone hasn’t been pushed/fallen yet, they will eventually.
Native NYer

ant6n April 2, 2012 - 8:09 pm

Mmmh, I wonder whether one can install plattform doors on the central, crowded stations. This would enable better safety, better a/c, less waste on tracks where most people are; and speed is more important in central sections as well.

Jerrold April 2, 2012 - 10:12 pm


This is somewhat off-topic here, but your reference to Grand Central reminded me of another issue. Now that the first quarter of the year is over, do you know if they actually did open up that new entrance to Grand Central Terminal on 47th St. between Park and Lexington? (Remember, they had given “First Quarter 2012” as the completion date.)

George April 2, 2012 - 10:30 pm

Jerrold, you also asked this on March 22 on the post about Smith-9th Sts station. I think you might have gotten by now that Ben doesn’t follow up. He just re-posts MTA press releases and complains about them.

Jerrold April 2, 2012 - 10:44 pm

Wow, you remember my past posts better than I do! I forgot that I already asked it recently. I was asking Ben because he seems to have a great deal of knowledge about everything that’s going on in mass transit in this town at any time.

Benjamin Kabak April 3, 2012 - 12:46 am

Thanks, George! Would love to know why you bother reading then.

I can’t force sources to talk to me on their time, and I’ve been working on finding an answer now that we’re a whopping one work day into 2Q 2012. So how about you back off a bit?

Anonymous April 3, 2012 - 10:09 am

The short answer is No, it is not opened yet, but they are making progress and by the photos posted on the ESA project they might need another month or so. Here are the two most recent photos:



You can search the posted photos from previous weeks for photos of contract CM004 which includes that entrance.


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