The newest safety upgrade to the subway system is as old-school as it gets: steel fences. The yellow mesh barriers have been installed over the weekend on the platforms at the 191st Street station on the No. 1 line. There are no gates that open and close — the fences simply have gaps where the subway doors open. They’re part of a pilot program that will soon include three more stations — West 8th Street–NY Aquarium, Clark Street, and one to be determined.
An MTA study from 2020 found that automatic platform doors like the ones found in many newer train systems across the world would be costly to build and physically impossible to install in nearly three-quarters of our stations. As people kept getting shoved into the tracks, the MTA began testing out high-tech platform barriers in 2022. In the meantime, it answered the call with these much simpler, much cheaper barriers as a low-cost way to add some literal guardrails to the system. (The MTA said the fences were built with in-house labor and materials.)
It’s unclear how much these new fences will protect people from being shoved into the tracks, but they’ll likely help stop any accidental falls, especially when platforms are crowded and commuters are jostling. They’re certainly better than nothing, and they look to be simple and relatively cheap, so they could go systemwide in a short time. As former traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz said in the MTA press release: “You could be sure I will be standing behind these barriers wherever they are provided.”