MTA officials brought a New York psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Marmar, to talk to board members Wednesday about the agency's efforts to save lives by keeping riders from entering the tracks, whether they enter intentionally or not.
"The decision to actually take one's life, to act on a sense of despair, often takes place in a 10-minute time frame," Marmar said.
What You Need To Know
- MTA officials are testing the use of blue LED lights, which studies have suggested can prevent suicides
- The blue LED lights will roll out in subway and Metro-North stations this year
- The MTA is also moving forward on the use of train cameras and its closed-circuit television system to spot homeless encampments and people trespassing onto tracks
- "I really like the idea of creating a more calming and more controlled environment in the subway system that's all very important for safety," Dr. Charles Marmar, a New York psychiatrist, said
And that's why MTA officials are testing what one called "smaller interventions" to prevent tragedy from happening on the tracks.
"I really like the idea of creating a more calming and more controlled environment in the subway system that's all very important for safety," Marmar said.
Part of that plan will include adding blue LED lights to the subway system, which was a key recommendation in an MTA report last year on preventing track intrusion and suicides.
"Studies have found that blue lighting can reduce the incidents of suicide or attempts of suicide by providing a calming psychological effect," Jamie Torres-Springer, president of MTA Construction and Development, said.
The MTA report says that in the first four months of 2022, there were 105 cases where a train hit a rider — 27 were suicides or suicide attempts, a 50% increase compared to the same months in the previous year.
The report cites a study of 71 stations at a railway company in a metropolitan area of Japan, which found that blue lights led to an 84% decrease in the number of suicides over a decade.
Already, 26 Long Island Rail Road stations have them, and they will be tested in subway and Metro-North stations this year.
"We can't necessarily stop, limit, all of the means of someone attempting to harm themselves. We can make smaller interventions," Torres-Springer said.
The MTA also tested front-facing cameras on trains to spot anyone trespassing on the tracks or living in tunnel encampments. And the MTA has used its closed-circuit television system to detect overly crowded platforms.
"We're talking hundreds of millions for these initiatives to increase subway safety and stop the human tragedy of people getting on the tracks, whether they have mental health issues or trying to hurt themselves," Janno Lieber, the CEO of the MTA, said.
That money also covers the MTA's long-term plans, like track incursion detection systems and platform screen doors.
The MTA will accept bids this spring for the construction of platform screen doors in three stations: Times Square-42nd Street, 14th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan and Sutfin Boulevard in Queens.