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Sliding Doors: MTA Announces New Safety Measures

DAVID MARQUES, HOST: Some New York city subway stations are going to look very different in coming years. Last week the MTA announced a pilot project to build protective doors that would block the tracks from the platform. The MTA says the doors will put a stop to the growing number of incidents where riders were pushed onto the tracks. But as Julian Abraham reports, the doors may also prevent another far more common cause of death on the tracks.

EMILY SHUTZ, HOST: And, you should be advised that this story will discuss suicide in some depth.

JULIAN ABRAHAM, REPORTER: in the past two months, three subway riders were intentionally pushed onto the tracks and died. These were random attacks…the perpetrators didn’t know the victims. And that’s left subway riders rattled.


"I know to stay away from the yellow line," “nah nah I stay away man. Train’s comin’, you don’t know everybody. So you stay back, you know?” “I get nervous. Like, I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see people falling on the tracks.”

JULIAN: The MTA says the new platform doors should prevent these kinds of attacks. They’ll be installed at three platforms to start, in Times Square, the JFK airport station in Queens, and Third Avenue. And the doors should also prevent another cause of death in the stations…suicide, which are actually far more common there than homicides. The MTA stopped releasing information on numbers of suicides after 2003. In that year, 70 people died of suicide in subway stations. And they will say that over the past two years, that number has increased by 50%. The MTA didn’t reply to our requests for comment for this story. Dr. Richard Friedman is a clinical psychologist and professor at Weill Cornell medical center. He says there may be good reasons why the MTA doesn’t report the numbers of suicide deaths without the context of their causes.

DR. RICHARD FRIEDMAN, WEILL CORNELL PSYCHOLOGIST: "It's not surprisig that they wouldn’t want to talk about suicides…they would not want to, you know, they wouldn't want to increase, contagion. People in the population who are distressed or have a psychiatric problem where they might be feeling like life isn't worth living and have any suicidality whatsoever. They you know, just by social Learning, you know, they're hearing about what other people do. And then as son, it sort of opens the door to the possibility they too might do it."

JULIAN: Dr. Friedman says its important for the media to report suicide as a result of serious mental illness that is treatable. He also says physical barriers, like the platform doors, have proven effective in other cities.

DR. FRIEDMAN: “When they put up safety nets on the Golden Gate bridge, people stopped from jumping and suicide rates overall declined – not just jumping."

JULIAN: The MTA says the platform doors will be installed on the three stations by 2024. Julian Abraham, Columbia Radio News.

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