A Light at the End of the Tunnel? MTA Rejects ‘Grim’ Rise in Subway Deaths

Transit Strike Looms For New York City CommutersThe MTA is denying New York magazine’s recent claim that the number of people struck and killed by trains so far in 2013 is “on pace to set a grim new mark.”

“If the current trend holds, more people will die along the rail and subway authority’s thousands of miles of tracks in 2013 than in any year going back to at least 2008,” the article reads, citing statistics provided to the publication by the MTA. “A total of 84 people died on the tracks in 2012, making it the deadliest full year in the last five.”

The article states that as of the end of August, 65 MTA riders had been killed by trains this year. Based on that number, the article predicts that the number of train-related fatalities will climb to 98 by the end of 2013.

While the MTA doesn’t deny the 65 tragic deaths, spokesperson Adam Lisberg told The Observer that New York magazine’s analysis doesn’t really indicate any sort of meaningful trend. As any good MTA rep would point out, it’s more accurate, he says, to measure the rate of people killed by trains, as opposed to the raw number of train deaths.

“Ridership has grown substantially in the last ten years, which we’re very proud of,” he said, “When you compare it against that, the rate [of train deaths] is declining slightly…It’s essentially a getting-struck-by-lighting kind of phenomenon, given the number of people who pass through the system year by year.”

Mr. Lisberg also referenced a January 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal, which states that death-by-train “is a persistent reality of the subway, but nonetheless a rare one compared to the number of people who move through the system every day.”

Still, says Mr. Lisberg, “That’s never a reason not to try to prevent these deaths.” In addition to its current public service initiatives—you know, all those signs telling you NOT TO GO INTO THE DAMNED TRACKS FOR ANY REASON—the MTA is also planning to test out some new, preventative technology.

Don't ever go into the subway tracks for ANY REASON, Mr. Lisberg advises. (Photo: Getty)

Don’t ever go into the subway tracks for ANY REASON, Mr. Lisberg advises. (Photo: Getty)

Sometime in the next couple years, the MTA still plans to experiment with electronic platform doors along the L line, which will only allow riders to pass through when a train is in the station (this hinges, of course, on the assumption that the L train shows up).

The MTA is also apparently looking at “track intrusion technology”: a combination of scanners or sensors that can detect when someone is in the path of an oncoming train.

All things considered, there’s probably a good chance you’ll survive your next subway ride.