The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Track Trespassing Task Force has issued a report detailing actions the agency and its partners are taking to address track trespassing.
The report found the rate of track intrusions in the subway system declined in April, following a peak in the winter of 2021-22. April 2022 saw 100 intrusions, a figure more in line with previous historic norms — but still an unacceptable number of incidents that impact service and cause injuries and fatalities. A majority of the 537 total intrusions through the first four months of the year involve someone choosing to go onto the tracks, while intrusions by people experiencing mental illness accounted for approximately 20% of intrusions.
The Task Force developed numerous recommendations for new initiatives to both reduce track intrusion incidents and aid the MTA’s response to these incidents. These include actions in customer communications, aimed at discouraging voluntary incidents; operations, aimed at coordinating the work of homeless outreach workers, mental health professionals, and police officers as they tackle interrelated issues in the system; and capital improvements, aimed at using technologies and station improvements to prevent incidents and improve incident response.
About the initiative
We're launching a multi-pronged approach to protect passengers from the risks of trespassing on the tracks within subway and regional rail systems.
The MTA's new Track Trespassing Task Force will look at solutions to reduce track intrusions, which have increased throughout the transit system by about 20% between 2019 and 2021. The task force has recommended a series of communications, operations, and capital initiatives to enhance customer safety and prevent service disruptions. A full report on the task force's findings will be released in March.
The first major recommendation put forth by the task force is a Platform Screen Doors pilot program at three subway stations in Manhattan and Queens. In addition to the platform screen doors, the task force recommends piloting new Track Intrusion Detection Systems using advanced technology to alert train operators when people or objects enter tracks. To reduce track intrusions in subway tunnels, the Authority will also look to expand Laser Intrusion Detection Systems to secure critical tunnels.
About the platform screen door pilot
We have been studying platform screen door technology, which separates passengers from the trackbed. Subject to funding, we will implement a pilot program at three stations in Manhattan and Queens.
We will install platform screen doors at the following stations:
- at Times Sq-42 St
- at 3 Av
- at Sutphin Blvd – Archer Avenue – JFK
We chose those high-ridership stations because they represent a mix of different platform configurations and geographies.
Platform screen doors are one tool that helps us protect our riders by preventing or detecting intrusions onto the track.
We extensively studied screen doors and recently released a 4,000-page analysis that identified challenges with using them throughout the system. Many stations have narrow platforms that can’t accommodate barriers while retaining wheelchair access. Others can’t support the added weight of the new doors. And until our train fleet is fully standardized, door configurations are misaligned throughout the system. This pilot will let us further test feasibility and identify solutions to engineering and operational challenges.
Another solution of barriers, or fences at stations — smaller interventions that don’t provide the protection of full screen doors — may be helpful. But safety experts are also concerned they can backfire by causing injuries if someone gets caught in a door and dragged down the platform. We are initiating a full hazard assessment of this technology to further understand the costs and benefits.
Our next steps are to conduct additional planning on the three stations chosen for the pilot and then to incorporate them into a capital project this year.
For LIRR and Metro-North, the task force recommends adding and repairing fencing and signage.
The MTA will also work with state and city partners to enhance mental health outreach and platform safety. We have identified stations where intrusions happen frequently so resources can be deployed to those platforms.