Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Platform Screen Doors, I've still got your back

Torontoist had a recent post about the reason why Toronto won't be seeing platform screen doors - safety devices that prevent passengers from going onto track level when a train isn't at the station with doors open - anytime soon. While I agree that we won't be seeing them for a few years, I think this is an avenue the TTC should go down.

"It's too expensive..."
While they are expensive to install and operate, they bring about some very important efficiencies. "Passenger injury at track level" will be a thing of the past, and this will reduce costs associated with sending dozens of shuttle buses to deal with the delays. Also, this will virtually eliminate operators having to go on disability when they witness a horrible incident. They don't mean service improvements, but they will make the service we do have safer, more attractive and more efficient.

"They don't have the ability to stop in the same spot..."
Getting platform screen doors would require automatic train control, or service would be slowed down as trains would have to enter the station much slower in order to ensure the doors line up properly. However, the first phase of this system has already been funded by the provincial government. It will take some time to install, but moving to ATC will allow trains to run closer together. Higher frequencies will increase capacity and reduce crowding. It will also allow trains to use either track in either direction, opening the door to overnight service without needing to cancel maintenance.

"Everything mechanical at the TTC breaks down weekly..."
The Ford Pinto blew up when you rear ended it, but people still buy their cars today. Yes, the TTC has maintenance issues, but I think it's unfair to argue that they can't handle it. I'm sure everyone has a D or two on their transcript, but that doesn't mean they aren't qualified to do the job they are trained to do. Similarly, just because the Queen car has problems doesn't mean Transit City is an imminent failure.

"But what about ventilation..."
The TTC uses the subway trains to push fresh air into the station, and a full floor-to-ceiling platform screen would interfere with that. But, they don't have to be full height to provide the protection they are designed to protect. As long as they are tall enough to ensure someone doesn't fall over, or tall enough to give the authorities enough time to react if someone is deliberately trying to climb over it, they will be successful. If full sized screens are necessary, then an engineering solution that doesn't involve redoing the HVAC system could be implemented. Slats in the glass could potentially do the job.

Safety sells come budget time, but platform screens are a good investment regardless. They save lives, save money and create spinoff projects that improve service all around.

If you play the YouTube video above, you'll see a platform attendant on the London Underground. Presto might allow us to close collector booths at lightly used stations, and this could be one of the places where we re-deploy the collectors.

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At 5/16/2008 10:33 p.m. , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

When Spacing picked up this issue, I left the following comment:

If you picture the provincial government as two cows, you’ll almost always find that the “public health & safety” cow has much more milk than the “general revenue” cow.

Upper levels of governments love big projects, because citizens can see the results everywhere they go. I suspect this is why MoveOntario went big when they could have easily spent the money on several thousand buses instead.

Anyway, combining those two thoughts, platform screen doors are one of those projects that hit right at the heart of things governments want to fund: Big projects that improve public safety.

Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but I say milk the cow for all its worth.

At 5/26/2008 7:11 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also left a similar comment on Spacing, but I thought I'd stick it here as well. The idea of subway platform doors has grown on me, but if you ask me what the number one priority should be for platform barriers, I'd say the underground Transit City stations, particularly on Eglinton. If we really want to be able to operate these underground sections at high speeds (last number I saw was 30km/h AVERAGE in tunnels, including deceleration/stop/acceleration times, which is subway speed) then we are going to need to come up with an effective system for keeping people & obstructions off of the tracks (since the LRVs will be low-floor, the tracks are at roughly the same height as the platform!) Without the psychological barrier of a drop at the platform edge, we're bound to get plenty of troublemakers exploring the tunnels, marking them up with graffiti, and possibly even causing real damage.


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