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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Track Trespassing Task Force yesterday released a report that shows a decrease in trespassing incidents and an increase in suicide attempts on both subway and railroad tracks during the first four months of 2022 compared to the same time period last year.
The task force found that the rate of track intrusions throughout the New York City Transit subway system declined in April after a spike at the beginning of the year. Track intrusions peaked at 160 in January, the highest single-month total over the past three years. In April, 100 intrusions were reported, a "figure more in line with previous historic norms, but still an unacceptable number of incidents that impact service and cause injuries and fatalities," MTA officials said in a press release.
Most of the 537 intrusion incidents on subway tracks between January and April involved people voluntarily going onto the tracks, with 20% of incidents relating to mental illness. Over the same time period, 27 out of the 105 train-person collisions on the tracks were suicides or suicide attempts, representing a 50% increase compared with the first four months of 2021. For all of 2021, 47 of 200 collisions were suicides or suicide attempts, and 23 of 68 fatalities where a train hit and killed a trespasser were suicides, officials said.
Although most trespassing incidents resulting in collisions occur in the subway system, the task force recommended several security and safety initiatives be implemented at MTA Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road stations as well. The task force has members from all of MTA's transit-operating agencies.
In 2021, LIRR reported 95 track intrusions, which resulted in 29 collisions and 24 fatalities. The commuter railroad also has issues with unauthorized vehicles driving onto the tracks or intentionally parking on the tracks – there were 22 such instances in 2021. Metro-North reported 869 track intrusions, which resulted in 11 collisions and eight fatalities, in 2021. The report did not offer figures for the first four months of 2022 for either railroad.
LIRR and Metro-North use different data collection and reporting processes, which accounts for much of the incongruity between the number of track intrusions reported between the subway and railroad systems, officials said.
The task force is working with suicide prevention organizations and associated experts in efforts to address the rise in suicide-related trespassing incidents. A partnership with New York University’s Department of Psychiatry will develop more effective suicide prevention messaging campaigns.
Additionally, MTA will soon pilot the use of blue lighting at subway and Metro-North stations to complement suicide prevention measures. The task force published research on the utility of blue lighting, which can provide a calming effect on people, potentially reducing suicide attempts. LIRR has already installed blue lighting at 16% of its stations since 2019 and is in the process of installing them at seven more stations.
MTA also has plans to implement track intrusion detection systems, and the task force issued a request for information from vendors earlier this year. The procurement process will begin later this year.
The task force recommended more laser intrusion detection systems, which are in use at 11 subway stations. LIDS help issue alerts to security teams when an unauthorized individual enters the tunnel area. Another 68 devices at eight stations have been installed and will soon be brought online.