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Union Unveils Bloody MTA MetroCards in Push for Slowdown

By Jill Colvin | February 7, 2013 9:50am

NEW YORK CITY — The city's public transit union will be distributing creepy mock MetroCards Thursday to promote its campaign to slow down subway trains as they're approaching stations following a slew of recent subway deaths.

TWU Local 100's "Metro(death)Cards," which will be handed out in Lower Manhattan Thursday afternoon, are splattered with blood stains and a smudged fingerprint. "Use at your own risk," the cards warn.

The back of the cards features a Grim Reaper and an outline of the union's plan, which involves slowing trains when entering a station so that conductors have more time to react if they see a person on the tracks.

"The union is sponsoring the outreach to bring public attention to the grave dangers facing passengers every day on the tracks," said a union spokesman, who said that, while the MTA is investigating "numerous high-tech solutions that would cost billions of dollars and take decades to implement," the union already has "a quick, easy and no-cost solution."

Subway deaths spiked in 2012, with 55 people killed, up from 47 in 2011 — the highest number of deaths since 2007, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority stats.

The deaths have sparked interest in potential protections for straphangers, including calls to install pricey platform screen doors, like the ones seen in some European cities and on the JFK AirTrain, plans to rig subway platforms with “intrusion technology” that would sound alerts when someone steps onto the tracks, as well as the union's slow-down plan.

The union, which is currently in contract negotiations with the MTA, also wants the MTA to put agents on crowded platforms and install emergency shut-offs to tracks in station booths. 

The cards will be given out by TWU employees at three Lower Manhattan stations on Thursday from noon until 1 p.m., ahead of an emergency hearing called by the City Council's Transportation Committee to examine ways to prevent subway deaths.

A costumed Grim Reaper will also accompany transit workers at the City Hall N/R stop, across the street from 250 Broadway, where the hearing will be held. The cards will also be distributed at the Park Place 2/3 station, and Brooklyn Bridge on the 4/5/6.

The MTA has thus far rejected the slow-down suggestion, arguing that slowing trains would exacerbate crowding on trains and platforms, making them more dangerous.

"We want to work with the TWU on an increased public education campaign... to remind customers to be aware of their surroundings and stay away from platform edges," said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg, who noted the MTA has already unveiled plans for danger warnings in all subway cars, along with a paid media campaign, enhanced station announcements, and new safety fliers.

Of the 141 recorded incidents in which a train struck a person last year, 54 were caused by tripping and falling, 33 happened after people intentionally entered the tracks to retrieve lost items, trespass or cross the tracks, and another 33 were caused by people jumping in a suicide attempt, officials said.

Five of the incidents were the result of someone being pushed or bumped onto the tracks.

About a quarter of the incidents involved drugs or alcohol, officials said.

More than 200 people had signed a petition on the union's site as of Wednesday night endorsing the union's slow-down plan.