MTA to consider platform screen doors

January 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm

The MTA in New York is considering platform screen doors at stations, Gothamist reports:

In the aftermath of recent high profile subway shovings that left two people dead, the Daily News reports that the MTA will reconsider installing sliding doors on some subway platforms…yet again…

Of course, this plan has come up several times over the last few years—and has ultimately never been fulfilled.

Platform screen doors are a barrier of walls and doors that protect a train platform from the track via a wall with doors, sometimes floor-to-ceiling, or sometimes just tall enough to prevent an accident. The doors line up with train doors and open when the train is fully stopped in the station.

Lines 1 and 14 of the Métro in Paris have these doors out of necessity (they are fully automated and therefore need to ensure that riders do not fall onto the track), as do many airport shuttle systems (which are also usually automated). Other systems, like the MTR in Hong Kong, have platform screen doors which protect passengers from falling onto the tracks but are primarily for comfort and to save money on cooling costs.

Porte Maillot station on Line 1 of the Paris Métro. The screen doors are just enough to keep riders safe, but don’t help with circulation or climate control. Credit: Wikipedia.

54 people have been hit and killed by subway trains in New York City this year; a further 139 have been hit (and presumably injured). This isn’t shocking for a system that carries over 5 million people on an average weekday, but it is troubling nonetheless.

The MTA’s newfound interest in platform screen doors is not new and its importance downplayed in the past because of high cost and concerns about practicality. This isn’t surprising; there are many other improvements that need to be made (especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy), and outfitting 468 station platforms with doors would be costly. With the newest request for proposals, however, the MTA is asking for a no-cost solution through advertising.

Understandably, it is difficult to come across funds – federal, state, or local – for anything that isn’t just maintaining public transportation or small capital improvements (there are exceptions, like the $17,000,000,000 Second Avenue subway in New York, which has been in and out of planning since 1929 and is only under construction of one phase since 2007). It therefore makes sense that the MTA would ask for a no-cost method of putting the platform screen doors up, and it would come from selling the advertising rights on/above the doors.

I’ve been clear before that I’m personally not a fan of a ton of advertising on public transportation. Provided the MTA can find a way to make the advertising nonintrusive (meaning it doesn’t light up the whole place and doesn’t have any sound), there should be no problem with some advertising above the platform screen doors. Putting advertisements all over the glass doors would only block the view of a train from the platform (a real issue where many tracks in New York are shared and trains run to different destinations, labeled by a display on the outside of the train) and block the view from inside the train to the platform (again, another issue since many older trains in New York do not display or announce the stop, and looking out the window is necessary).

This already seems to be the case for one proposal from Crown Infrastructure Solutions:


Credit: Crown Infrastructure Solutions.

Credit: Crown Infrastructure Solutions.


The platform screen doors could serve a purpose other than protecting riders: climate control. This wouldn’t be such a huge concern in subway stations, but at elevated stations (here in Chicago too), full-height platform screen doors could protect riders from cold, windy weather as well as keep riders cool in the hot, summer months. Stations aren’t climate-controlled as it is, but Chicago platforms already have “heaters” in unprotected shelters (those cannot possibly be very energy efficient). With an investment in platform screen doors, it’s worth thinking about complementary possibilities.

Diagram for an elevated New York Subway station. Credit: Crown Infrastructure Solutions.

It’s worth a look. We’ll see later whether anything comes from the proposals.