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Laser Detection Proposed as Subway Safety Solution in NYC

By Zachary Stieber
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 28, 2013 Last Updated: January 28, 2013
Related articles: United States » New York City
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A subway is seen here pulling in a station in New York City in this file photo, on Mar. 29, 2012. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

A subway is seen here pulling in a station in New York City in this file photo, on Mar. 29, 2012. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—After a series of recent deaths on subway tracks, the MTA board said it will explore using detection technology previously considered only for security.

Six deaths in the subway have happened in the last month, including several suicides, the most recent on Jan. 22 at Times Square. The others were classified as accidents, which include slipping off the platform or being pushed. In 2012, out of 141 accidents, 55 ended in deaths.

Platform screen doors, an oft-cited solution, would cost an estimated billion-plus dollars. The many obstacles to constructing screens include the different curves of the platforms in different stations, and columns almost right next to the tracks in others.

Besides the problems, “It’s not a silver bullet,” said Thomas Prendergast, acting president of the MTA’s New York City Transit.

A slide from the presentation of potential solutions to the recent accidents and deaths on the subway system, showing the statistics since 2001. (Courtesy of the MTA)

A slide from the presentation of potential solutions to the recent accidents and deaths on the subway system, showing the statistics since 2001. (Courtesy of the MTA)

So the agency will explore using laser detection to alert staff when something or somebody has come onto the tracks.

“You can tie it to an alarm system, flashing lights, things of that nature, to warn people that there was somebody on the road bed,” said Prendergast.

Meanwhile, Councilman James Vacca, chair of the transportation committee, scheduled an emergency hearing on “the recent spate of deaths” in the subway system. The hearing will be on Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. at 250 Broadway.

Riders noticing someone on the track nowadays should use an intercom if the station has one or alert any MTA employees around, said Prendergast.

The MTA will put together a timeline for testing the laser detection, previously only discussed as an anti-terrorist tool, and come back to do another presentation to the MTA board.

The platform conditions are an “exceptionally complex safety issue,” according to the presentation Prendergast gave the MTA board Monday.

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