After a surge in subway fatalities in recent weeks, including three deaths within a 24-hour period last weekend, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today sent a letter to the MTA Inspector General requesting that he conduct an in-depth investigation of recent subway-related injuries and fatalities, and to consider safety programs now being effectively utilized in transit systems across the world.
"Too many people are dying in our subways," said Borough President Stringer at a press conference in his office. "It is time to gain a deeper understanding of why this is happening with such regularity, and to explore possible preventative steps. Our subway system is one of the largest and most traveled in the world, but we must also make it the safest."
Borough President Stringer noted that the number of subway fatalities this year puts New York City on pace for 100 subway deaths in 2013, well above last year’s five-year high of 55 deaths.
In a letter addressed to Barry L. Kluger, Borough President Stringer called on the Inspector General to provide:
- A comprehensive analysis of available safety programs and features now being utilized effectively in transit systems around the world, such as platform barriers and safety doors, as well as the costs and feasibility of introducing them on a limited and system-wide basis in New York.
- A breakdown of the frequency, type and volume of MTA audio warnings, including the languages in which these warnings are made, as well as signage related to safety.
- Internal MTA data on the number of suicide attempts within the subway system, on both a short-term and long-term basis.
Stringer also called on the MTA to address the impact that subway fatalities have on MTA employees, with an eye towards making sure enough is being done to support the mental health of employees exposed to subway-related deaths.
"These recent fatalities have created an almost palpable sense of apprehension among straphangers in our City," Borough President Stringer said. "I urge the Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive assessment of these issues, so that we can take intelligent, cost-effective steps to reduce these preventable deaths."
"Deaths on our subway system have got to stop," said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Transportation Committee. "The problem is obvious, and now it's time for solutions. The MTA must convene all relevant stakeholders, mental health professionals, safety experts, transit experts from around the world and, of course, the riding public and develop a plan to end death by train once and for all. Borough President Stringer's requests of the MTA Inspector General should be an important part of that dialogue. My committee will hold a hearing on this topic as soon as possible, and I will be looking for answers to this problem."
"Surely New Yorkers deserve solid information on what could be done about the scores of people struck and killed each year in the subways," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, a riders group.
"Deaths and injuries in the subway worry everyone, and there's very little information available about the best way to prevent them. A rigorous study would help us understand what the MTA and the public can do to make our subways safer. I support Borough President Stringer's call for good information to help form good policy," said John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, New York's grass-roots membership organization of subway and bus riders.
Information on recent fatalities:
- On December 3, Ki-Suck Han was pushed onto the tracks and killed at the 49th Street/7th Avenue subway station.
- On December 27, Sunando Sen was pushed onto the tracks and killed at the 40th St-Lowery stop on the No. 7 Line.
- On January 1, a young woman walked onto the tracks and was killed by an uptown 2 train near Penn Station.
- On January 16, a 31-year-old man relieving himself between cars on the uptown 6 train was killed when he fell onto the tracks and was struck by the train he was riding.
- On January 19, three deaths occurred:
- Brian O'Mara was found dead at 8:25 a.m. on the Brooklyn-bound L train tracks at the Third Avenue station.
- A train operator discovered a body in the subway tunnel about 60 feet from the platform on the southbound track of the Nostrand Avenue A train station in Brooklyn.
- A man on the tracks was struck by a Manhattan-bound train as he tried to climb onto the platform at the Sixth Avenue L train station.
- Yesterday, January 22, an individual committed suicide on the uptown 2/3 tracks at Times Square.
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