2013-01-16 / Front Page

MTA Eyeing Rider Alerts, Platform Safety

By Liz Goff

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is planning an aggressive passenger information campaign designed to warn straphangers to stand away from the edge of the platform at subway stations.

The agency is also considering expanding its “See Something, Say Something” campaign, urging straphangers to alert police if they see an emotionally disturbed person in the subway.

The campaign would ask riders to look out for the mentally ill on subway stations and platforms following the deaths, last month, of two straphangers that were pushed onto subway tracks by suspects with a history of mental problems.

The agency is also considering installing sliding doors at “L” train stations to stop straphangers from falling or being pushed on the tracks, authorities said.

Sources said the MTA chose the “L” line for the pilot program because it does not share tracks with other subway lines, it uses only one type of train and it has the most sophisticated signal and communications system.

The doors would likely be installed at one station at the start of the program and would be installed at other stations if the pilot program is successful, MTA officials said. The sliding doors would only open when a train arrives at a station and opens its doors, thus preventing straphangers from leaning over the edge of the platform.

Installing the platform doors could cost the MTA more than $1 billion, authorities said. But the agency is looking into funding from private companies that would share in profits from ads that would appear on the doors.

Two upstate lawmakers reacted to the two subway push deaths by introducing bills that they hope will close loopholes in “Kendra’s Law,” legislation named after Kendra Webdale, 32, who was pushed to her death in January 1999, by a schizophrenic who was not taking his medications.

State Sen. Catherine Young and Assemblymember Aileen Gunther introduced the bills that would make Kendra’s Law permanent. Other proposed legislation would increase the maximum length of court supervision of treatment for the mentally ill from the current six months to one year, require that appropriate authorities pick up supervision of such cases when a patient moves to a new county within the state, require evaluations from mental health institutions and prisons after patients are released, so they do not fall through the cracks and would require the State Office of Mental Health to prepare educational pamphlets explaining the process family members should follow to obtain help for relatives with a mental illness.

Similar legislation last year failed to make it out of the Assembly’s Mental Health Committee.



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