WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- The MTA has installed platform barriers at the No. 1 subway station at 191st Street as part of a safety pilot program.
The 191st Street Station is the first of four subway stations to install the barriers. Officials will study the program to determine if the concept can be scaled up.
The pilot program is part of a larger effort to advance subway safety.
"This is about finding creative ways to improve safety," said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. "A hearty pat on the back to New York City Transit professionals who found a practical way to jump-start the feeling -- and reality -- of safety in the subway system. It's still in an experimental phase, and we will be watching carefully to determine if the barriers are effective at deterring track intrusions without interfering with passenger circulation."
Every year, on average, more than 75 people die on the tracks. Many, because they jumped. Others, because they slipped, and still others who were pushed, like Michelle Go, who was shoved to her death in 2022.
The MTA has been working to tackle the issue of track safety after releasing a report last year that highlighted the number of track incidents, including falls and pushes. The MTA says these incidents rose 20% from 2019 to 2021, even as ridership fell during the pandemic.
"It's critical that we find ways to reduce the number of riders who fall or are pushed onto subway tracks," said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. "So, I applaud the MTA for this pilot, which is a relatively quick and easy way to add protection on the platform. I am excited to hear feedback from riders at 191st Street 1 on how the railings work in practice."
The barriers are located on the platform edge, adjacent to the yellow warning strip, placed strategically to avoid obstructing subway car doors as they open to allow customers to enter and exit the train.
The gates don't always line-up perfectly, because different subway cars have doors in different places, and they won't keep a determined person off the tracks. But if the concept works, the risks for everyone else could be reduced.
At the 191st Street station, the uptown platform barriers were installed on January 19, and the downtown platform barriers were installed on January 20.
"This is a terrific move by the MTA to increase passenger safety as well as perception of safety," said Gridlock Sam Schwartz, Longtime Transportation Engineer. "You could be sure I will be standing behind these barriers wherever they are provided."
A handful of commuters said they are hopeful that the barriers will make their travels safer.
"I think it's a great idea," one rider said. "I do that whole trick where I stand behind a pillar already, so I guess that does make sense to avoid someone pushing you."
The MTA will also begin experimenting with sliding doors, like those on the JFK AirTrain, but they are considered far too expensive and impractical for widespread use, unlike the gates, which are low-tech and low-cost.
The effort was funded using existing maintenance resources and in-house labor and materials, according to the MTA.
The MTA said it will review the data and see if it is worth expanding the program to other stations.