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Platform Barriers Are Effective But Expensive

Designing out variability and error is a mantra for industrial engineers. It also can be a life-saving aspect of subway platforms.

New York City media occasionally report about people jumping in front of subway trains to commit suicide, the occasional push of an innocent bystander onto the subway tracks or pedestrians who trip and fall into the way of the onrushing trains.

But several cities around the globe have essentially designed out such possibilities. Platform screen doors seal off the train tracks from the platform, and their doors open simultaneously with the subway train doors to allow people to board and leave. The doors serve as suicide barriers and protect passengers from being knocked off crowded platforms.

But they cost a lot of money – million dollars per subway platform. As one New York state senator pointed out, only 90 passengers out of 1.6 billion riders a year somehow fall onto the subway tracks in New York City, an average of 0.00005 percent a year.

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