I’ve haven’t spent much time lately talking about subway collisions and deaths. After an early-2013 spate of hand-wringing over press attention to these incidents, what some were calling an epidemic has largely died down, and the TWU’s terrible plan to slow down trains hasn’t gone far. Furthermore, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that as press coverage has diminished, so too have copy-cat jumpers and train/passenger collisions. Now, we’re just bombarded with endless announcements over the PA system concerning the safety of the platform edge.
Earlier on Tuesday night, though, a collision happened that drives home the idea that there is but one real solution to the problem. It’s an expensive solution that may not be practical but would have many added benefits, and it’s a solution that requires engineering creativity and an extensive capital outlay. That solution is one I haven’t been quick to endorse over cost concerns, and it is platform edge doors.
Last night, as I left my office and entered the subway at Times Square, the PA system spoke of a problem impacting the West Side IRT. There were no 1, 2 or 3 trains running uptown between 72nd and 96th St. due to a police investigation. I figured the news would not be good, and I was right. CBS New York has the gruesome details:
A 18-year-old male was struck and killed Tuesday evening by a northbound 2 train as he reportedly tried to cross the train tracks at the 79th Street station on the Upper West Side. The accident happened at around 6:30 p.m. on the express tracks. Service was disrupted on the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 subway lines in Manhattan due to the police investigation.
Law enforcement sources told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon that the victim, who turned 18 on Tuesday, was with a group of friends. At least two jumped down and tried to cross — one made it, WCBS 880?s Alex Silverman reported. A witness said he begged the teens not to run across the tracks, but he could not stop them. “They crossed the tracks the hard way, as opposed to coming upstairs and going around,” the witness told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis. “They just ran across the tracks and got hit by the 2 train in the express tunnel.”
Police said the emergency brake on the Bronx-bound train was pulled after the operator saw one teen make it across the tracks from the uptown to the downtown side, then tried to stop the train for the second boy. But the operator could not stop in time.
All around, that’s about as bad as it gets. Two 18-year-olds — who were found to have a bottle of rum with them — entered on the wrong side and decided to rectify the situation by cross four tracks at rush hour. The 2 train, accelerating through a 24-block express straightway out of 72nd St., couldn’t stop in time, and plenty of people were in the station to witness the collision. It’s tragic; it’s horrific; and it’s worthy of a Darwin Award.
This tragedy illustrates the only way to protect people is by physically barring their entry onto the tracks. We’re not going to slow express trains down as they bypass local stations, and while a motion sensor may have served as a warning, it sounds as though the 2 train was moving too fast to stop in time. So we’re left with expensive platform edge doors. They can save energy, keep tracks clean and save lives. Without an obvious big-ticket item on the MTA’s next capital plan, maybe it’s time to give them a whirl.