Within a six-month period last year, at least five T riders stumbled off platforms and onto tracks at different Red Line stations. Videos capturing the spills have spread across the Internet, fueled by online viewers’ all-too-human tendency to gawk at others’ bad luck. Other cities shy away from releasing surveillance footage that has the potential to embarrass, unless there’s a compelling reason like needing assistance in solving a crime.
But with all the recent attention given to people who fell or were pushed in front of oncoming trains in New York, the T’s policy is important for public safety. The more people who understand the risks of walking on platforms while distracted — or, worse yet, intoxicated — the fewer accidents there may be. But the videos themselves aren’t enough. Along with those clips, the MBTA should release educational information about how best to help those who have fallen on tracks. For example, many onlookers’ first reaction is to jump onto tracks to help rescue fall victims, or to extend a hand to pull them up. But onlookers should first alert T personnel so that they can send word to nearby trains and shut off power to the electrified third rail. Then, the onlookers should encourage those who have fallen to rush to the end of the platform — away from the direction of any approaching trains — to climb up ladders.
Fortunately, Internet viewers haven’t just laughed at the footage. Some have expressed concern, wondering if the MBTA needs to take action to curb what seems to be an increasing number of falls into T tracks. In response, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo argues that there actually hasn’t been an increase in spills; now that the incidents are being broadcast online, it just seems that way.
At the same time, Pesaturo acknowledges that the MBTA doesn’t keep fall-on-the-track statistics, and that he isn’t aware of any major transit systems that do. In fact, many, including New York and San Francisco, do. The MBTA should follow suit.