Glass walls, sliding doors on 2nd Ave. subway?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The new 2nd Avenue subway line, set to break ground next week, may have a different look and feel that the traditional subways New Yorkers are used to seeing on a daily basis.

MTA planners say the subway will have many modern features that set it apart, including roomier, brightly-lighted stations with wider platforms that are air conditioned and fully handicapped accessible.

However, one innovation being considered would make the new line radically different from every other subway in the city: Mechanical doors, set into a wall of glass or metal, located at the edge of the platform that would provide a barrier between passengers and the tracks.

Gone would be the rush of air and noise as trains rumble by, inches away from would-be riders waiting on the platform. Officials say the doors could allow substantial energy savings in the station cooling systems, since open platforms allow hot air from the tunnels to mix with the cooled air from the stations. The new technology would use cold water to chill air, which would be blown into the stations and reduce temperatures by about 10 degrees, officials say.

There are other benefits as well, according to planners. The door system would prevent people from falling or jumping in front of trains. It could also reduce track fires, since passengers would not be able to throw trash onto the tracks.

These types of doors are used in this country in many airport shuttle train systems, including the AirTrain at Kennedy Airport.

Engineers working on the design of the new line had previously considered the platform doors, but the concept was rejected because of concerns about its cost and the way it would affect subway operations. One concern is that most, if not all train systems that use platform edge doors also incorporate a system of computerized train operation in which trains stop at exactly the same spot every time. This ensures that they are always properly lined up with the doors.

The MTA has been working to develop a computerized system for New York, but it is still considered a long-term goal. With the current system, the doors woul dhave to be designed to operate with trains controlled by human drivers.

The first phase of the new subway line is to include four stations, from 96th Street to 63rd Street. It is scheduled to be finished in 2013.

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