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Officials work to raise NYC subway safety

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 6:06 p.m.

NEW YORK — Weeks after two New York City subway passengers were pushed to their deaths in separate incidents, officials on Monday discussed increasing safety in the nation's busiest subway system.

An expanded awareness campaign was presented during a transit and bus committee meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Manhattan. Measures include announcements in English and other languages warning riders not to stand at platform edges.

More than 140 people a year were injured or killed in the New York subway in 2011 and 2012, according to the MTA. Fifty-five died last year because they were pushed, fell or jumped onto the tracks, up from 47 in 2011 and the most in five years.

Those numbers are relatively small compared to the 1.6 billion subway rides taken each year. And former New York Gov. David Paterson, who is on the MTA board, noted that many subway fatalities are suicides and are difficult to prevent.

Still, given the recent deaths, the MTA is being urged to try a more elaborate and expensive option: glass safety barriers. Such sliding doors could be a difficult addition to a system that's more than a century old, said Thomas Prendergast, the MTA's acting executive director.

“When the system was designed over 110 years ago and didn't plan for that, it's hard to incorporate it into the system now,” he said, adding that it could cost more than $1 billion that would result in other projects being set aside.

Subway systems from Shanghai and Dubai to Paris have installed safety doors during the past three decades.

Another possibility would be sensory alarms that sound when someone crosses the yellow danger line and enters the track area.

In response to the MTA plans, the Straphangers Campaign advocacy group issued a statement saying it thinks the MTA is taking subway safety “seriously, responding to public outcries in the wake of high profile incidents of riders being pushed to their deaths.”

Last month, two men were killed when they were propelled into the path of a train by strangers.

In another case, a young woman stumbled onto the tracks and was hit by a train early on New Year's Day.

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