In order to decrease the number of deadly falls and suicides onto its tracks, SEPTA officials are launching a pilot plan to install galvanized steel barriers along the length of the platforms at Somerset Station.
As reported by Darril C. Murphy from WHYY, the pilot program is an extension of a work that has included a thorough cleaning, repair of the elevators and the addition of police and SEPTA social workers on site.
“We’re just doing it at Somerset for right now. That’s our pilot location,” said Kate O’Connor, SEPTA’s chief engineer of bridges and buildings. “And then if it works out there and we see a significant drop in the falls in track from having that in place, then we’ll start looking at other locations.”
The barriers will probably be around six feet tall or at least high enough to prevent people from easily climbing over the top, and will be spaced out so people can enter and exit the train. They would be placed near the edge, before the yellow caution pad.
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Suicides is one of several events moving SEPTA officials to try out guardrails. The organization reported 79 falls this year as of May 23. All but nine falls occurred on the Market-Frankford Line with four occurring at Somerset.
The authority also reported 11 deaths this year, including six suicides, which are not counted among falls, as of May 25. The subway and elevated lines account for six deaths, with four happening on the Market-Frankford Line.
These numbers seem to continue an upward trend of falls in recent years. Between 2016 and 2020, 522 people fell on SEPTA tracks. Of that number 411 occurred on the Market-Frankford Line.
According to SEPTA officials, the increase could be the result of people using the stations as shelters. They also believe that individuals suffering from addiction may fall onto the tracks under the influence of drugs.
Currently, the authority intends to address addiction and homelessness with initiatives that partner law enforcement with social workers to prevent these incidents.
While track falls may be a result of a mental health crisis or addiction on the system, with their Watch Their Step campaign, SEPTA officials explained that some falls occur for other reasons, such as when riders lean over the edge of the platform to see the next train or are distracted by their phone.