This Deal Could Have Brought Life-Saving Subway Barriers To NYC For Free

mta subway barriers doorsA rendering of what the barriers would look like in Grand Central Terminal.

Photo: Crown Infrastructure

A deal proposed in 2007 to New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) could have brought barriers that would keep people from falling, jumping, or being pushed onto subway tracks, at no financial cost to tax payers or the agency.Other cities, including Paris, Singapore, and Beijing have such barriers, whose doors only open with the train stopped in the station.

In 2007, Crown Infrastructure, a division of architecture, engineering, and project management firm Crown, offered to find engineering firms and cover the enormous costs (about $1 million per station) of building the barriers.

In exchange, it would have had the right to display advertising on them, using the revenue to recoup the cost of its investment. The MTA would have received a share of that revenue as well.

Anthony Milano, Vice President of Crown Infrastructure, said the captive nature of a huge audience (nearly 5 million riders each weekday) would have made such advertising space extremely valuable. It “makes a lot of sense in terms of how advertising dollars work,” he said.

The actual installation would have been done by Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors, a British company that has installed its doors in 13 different transit systems around the world, by its count.

Crown Infrastructure would have paid to maintain the barriers for the length of its contract with the MTA (between 10 and 30 years).

After 54 people were killed by New York City subway trains in 2012, including two men pushed onto the tracks in December, the MTA said in a statement it will reconsider the barriers. That statement, however, also noted the project would be “expensive and extremely challenging.”

Because New York’s subway system features trains whose doors are not uniformly placed, installing permanent barriers with doors that line up would be nearly impossible.

For its part, Crown Infrastructure is still interested in working with the MTA, and Milano says the deal had made some progress before being dropped a few years ago. But, he said, the MTA has been “reluctant” to move forward.

As to the difficulties of lining up the doors and doing construction in a subway system that runs 24 hours per day, Milano said, “That’s why you work with engineers.”

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