By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — Five years after the MTA enacted a rule barring passengers from moving through subway cars for their own safety, city lawmakers are now trying to make it easier for passengers to switch between cars — for their own safety.
Brooklyn City Councilwoman Letitia James introduced a resolution at the Council's last full meeting that would force the MTA to keep all subway doors unlocked.
Currently, the MTA locks doors on trains running on the B, D, A, G and R lines, spokesman Charles Seaton said.
He said the locked lines' trains feature longer, 75-foot cars, which pose a bigger safety risk because when the trains go around curves, the ends of their cars don’t line up.
"If someone steps through, they’d be stepping into space," he explained.
All doors can be opened by the conductor electronically, he noted.
But while the locks are intended as protection, the bill's sponsors, including Lower Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin, fear the practice may actually be putting passengers at risk by preventing escape in an emergency.
The group is particularly concerned about women being trapped in locked cars with individuals they perceive as threats.
"It’s really a safety issue, not just in terms of harassment, but if there's some trouble on the train," said James' spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis, who said that several recent incidents motivated the resolution's introduction.
"Given these circumstances, it is imperative for the MTA to unlock all doors between subway cars on all transit lines operating in New York City to ensure that all passengers are able to escape from a dangerous or compromised car to a safe one," the bill reads.
The legislation would also allow passengers to access tracks and tunnels through cars' front and back doors at all times.
In 2005 the MTA began barring passengers from passing from one subway car to another, except in emergencies or when directed by an official, in order to protect riders against injuries and fatalities caused by falling between the cars. The law was also supposed to protect straphangers from other threats, like terrorism, according to the legislation’s text.
Instead of switching cars mid-train, Seaton advised passengers to get off when they reach the next station. Even in shorter trains, he said it’s both illegal and dangerous for riders to switch between cars.
But Worthy-Davis said that passengers are capable of weighing the risks.
"I think most passengers are aware you’re not supposed to go through them for convenience...We’re just giving them options," she said. "Whether there’s more danger in the car is up to them."
Worthy-Davis said James is planning to call for a hearing on the proposal soon.