New York and Chicago look at "platform doors" to stop subway attacks

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

There are some changes coming to the New York City subway system under the leadership of new Mayor Eric Adams, and the system certainly needs something to change soon. The city is preparing to install some new “platform doors” at three subway stations as part of a pilot program. If you’re not familiar with the concept (and I wasn’t) these devices are barriers that separate people on the platforms from the dropoff to the rail tracks below. Doorways in the barrier open up in front of the rail car doors, and only when the train is at the station. It’s an expensive modification, but one that has been deemed necessary. Why? Because people keep getting shoved onto the tracks by deranged homeless people or gang members, sometimes resulting in their deaths. And other cities like Chicago are asking why they aren’t doing this also. (CBS Chicago)

New York City just announced a bold new plan to install platform doors in its subway system – a barrier to keep people off the tracks.

Now some are asking, why can’t the Chicago Transit Authority do the same? As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported, it would come at a cost…

That solution is a barrier between the platform and the tracks that opens up for the train doors – only when the train arrives.

It’s called a platform door, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City just announced a plan to install them at three stations in a pilot program.

Federal data reviewed by CBS shows that 85 people have been struck and killed by metro trains in Chicago over the past five years. A much larger number have been injured. The numbers in New York City are three times as high. Of course, not all of them were pushed to their deaths by homicidal maniacs. In June of 2019, a Chicago woman accidentally dropped her phone down off the platform at a rail station and jumped down to retrieve it. She was unable to climb back out and was struck and killed by an arriving train.

Part of me wonders why nobody thought of this before now. I’ve used the subway in Gotham many times, but I don’t think it ever occurred to me to ask why the rail platforms just suddenly end with an abrupt drop down onto the tracks with no sort of safety barrier in the way. I suppose people just assumed that this is how it’s always been and that must be for a reason.

But at the same time, not all that many people were absentmindedly wandering off the edge of the platforms or leaping down to retrieve dropped items. The danger levels have been seriously amplified by the proliferation of mentally unstable homeless people and gang activity. The very idea of randomly shoving someone down into the path of an oncoming train should have always been unthinkable for any sane, rational person. But the percentage of sane, rational people hanging out in the metro systems around our country clearly seems to be decreasing.

Shortly after taking office, Mayor Eric Adams told reporters that he had taken the subway to work and even he didn’t feel safe down there. And that guy has a constant security detail with him. (And that’s an armed detail, by the way, but we can debate that part of the story at a later date.) So I’m not going to criticize this plan and we can monitor how well these new doors work out. But at the same time, both New York and Chicago could make some early progress by increasing the number of metro police in the tunnels and decreasing the number of random maniacs sleeping down there.