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MTA: Subway Platform Barriers Would Cost More Than $1 Billion

Subway platform with glass barriers - Paris, France (file / credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Subway platform with glass barriers – Paris, France (file / credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering several options to improve safety  on subway platforms following an alarming number of deaths on the tracks.

So far this year, subway trains have killed seven people.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer predicts that number will be 100 by the end of 2013 — nearly twice as many as last year when 55 people died.

A freshly sharpened focus on subway safety comes after two people were allegedly pushed by strangers to their deaths in December.

Some subway riders have been taking their own precautions, standing farther from the platform edge in the wake of the deaths.

“I do stand back,” Pat Dial, of Jamaica, Queens told CBS’s Weijia Jiang. “I try to be mindful that if you walk past, someone could turn and bump you.”

On Monday, MTA officials presented ideas to install protective barriers between the tracks and the platform, but some say having a barrier might do more harm than good, especially when the platform is crowded.

“If there’s an emergency situation and everyone has to get out, what are you going to do? Funnel people into doors? It’ll be chaos getting in and off the trains,” Upper East Side resident Josh Young said.

John Samuelson, who heads the Transport Workers Union, has also expressed concern over what would happen if track workers suddenly had to escape to a platform.

“If something catastrophic happened, like a train entered the station while workers were on the tracks and it’s a perfect storm of many redundancies failing, the only option is to jump up on the station platform,” Samuelson told AM New York.”With the barriers, that avenue of escape wouldn’t be possible.”

However, others feel an extra layer of security can’t hurt.

“If it’s going to keep us out of harm’s way by all means do it,” Dial said. “We got a lot of crazy people out here right now.”

“You never know who’s behind you. A lot of people, they don’t care. They just stand close to the platform,” Claude from the Bronx told 1010 WINS reporter John Montone. “You always got to be aware of who’s around you.”

The MTA said it would cost over $1 billion to retrofit the entire system.

“It’s not a silver bullet. It would not solve the problem totally,” said New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast.

Prendergast said the MTA is also looking into motion sensors.

“The technology today with laser detection has gotten to the point where you can use that as a means to try to identity when somebody has started to enter a public space,” he said.

The agency is also launching a new public information campaign to urge subway riders to keep a safe distance away from the trains.

“What we know we can do is we can focus efforts right now at trying to change customer behavior and that’s what we’re doing,” Prendergast said.

What do you think of the idea of subway barriers? Sound off in the comments section below.