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New York City set to install platform doors to keep people off subway tracks; some wonder why Chicago can't do same

New York Installing Platform Doors To Keep People Off Subway Tracks; Could CTA Do The Same? 02:54

CHICAGO (CBS) -- New York City just announced a bold new plan to install platform doors in its subway system - a barrier to keep people off the tracks.

Now some are asking, why can't the Chicago Transit Authority do the same? As CBS 2's Tim McNicholas reported, it would come at a cost.

On June 27, 2019, Felon Smith dropped her phone onto the Red Line tracks, hopped down to retrieve it, and then was struck and killed by a train near the 69th street station.

Tragic video from a CTA security camera showed the last moment of her life.

But nearly three years later, it's a different video stirring emotions for her sister, Brandy Martin - a news report from New York City about a new safety feature coming to New York subway stations.

"I'm kind of emotional, because it's like, 'Wow, two years later and we have a solution - a possible solution," Martin said.

That solution is a barrier between the platform and the tracks that opens up for the train doors - only when the train arrives.

It's called a platform door, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City just announced a plan to install them at three stations in a pilot program.

"Installing subway platform doors where possible is a common-sense step we can take towards making the subways safer. I applaud the MTA for testing this idea, and my administration will work in partnership with them to evaluate their effectiveness and expand where appropriate," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said when the plan was announced this week.

"CTA definitely needs to consider this," Martin said. "I believe if we had something like that two years ago that my family wouldn't be so heartbroken."

Federal data shows Smith was one of more than 85 people hit and killed by CTA trains in the last five years. Just in the past month, we've done two stories about people hit by CTA trains - one death and one serious injury.

The CTA considered platform doors in the past and at one point consulted with the director of UIC's Transportation Center, P.S. Sriraj.

"It tended to prevent people from stepping onto the tracks, whether intentional or otherwise," Sriraj said.

One deterrent is high costs. New York City, for example, says its pilot program alone will cost more than $100 million.

Still, the CTA says they'll be keeping an eye on the pilot.

"If I were a user, I would like for the system to try it out, but if I'm wearing the other hat as a planner and a decision, then are the resources wisely spent in that particular aspect?" Sriraj said. "Is that the most dire need for the system?"

But for Martin, it's a way to prevent another tragedy.

"Rest in peace, my dear sister," she said.

A CTA spokesperson says it's not just cost, but implementation challenges on such an old transit system. The CTA is considering some other safety tools, like sensor- and video-based technologies.

This is the CTA's full statement:

"There is a host of new technologies that CTA is currently investigating that are designed to help transit agencies manage right of way (i.e. track) intrusions, including LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, as well as sensor - and video-based technologies.

"The CTA is aware of what the MTA is piloting and is following their pilot. The concept of adding barriers between tracks and platforms has been explored by transit systems across the United States and throughout the world, but it often presents numerous cost and implementation challenges for legacy agencies such as CTA and New York

"While we recognize that there will often be some challenges we need to address to make new technologies work on an older system like ours, the CTA continues to explore existing technologies that have evolved over the years, as well as new emerging technologies.

"CTA looks to pilot some of these solutions to determine their effectiveness, cost, and scalability over the next several years."

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