Last week, the MTA Board unanimously approved the 2020-2024 $51.5 billion capital plan to Andy Byford's delight. And $325 million of that plan has been allocated toward solving a problem that has plagued city residents again and again in recent months: installing protective netting across the city’s elevated subway tracks.
Since February, there has been a series of incidents in which debris has fallen from elevated subway tracks and nearly injured people. First, a piece of wood from the 7 line platform impaled a car as it was in motion; then another piece of metal fell from the same 7 train tracks about a month later; then there were three more similar incidents in quick succession a month after that. Over the summer, it's happened at least another two times, the most recent of which was in August.
In response to these incidents, the MTA initially launched a $4.6 million pilot program to install protective knotless nylon netting, with openings small enough to catch debris, along four stretches of elevated track this summer.
The plan about when and where the netting will begin to be installed is still being finalized by the MTA, but it will be the same netting used as the pilot program. Spokesperson Nancy Gamerman told Gothamist, “Safety is the top priority at NYC Transit, and we continually review our system to find ways it can be enhanced and improved. Increasing netting on elevated structures is just one of our efforts.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district in Queens is where many of these falling debris incidents have occurred, told the Daily News that Byford assured him that all of the city’s elevated subway structures will get nets under the plan eventually. “If a human being was hit and severely injured or killed, the amount of liability is immeasurable,” said Van Bramer. “Not only do you have a system that was in disrepair, but you knew that debris was falling on a regular basis and then did nothing. At that point you are so liable it’s ridiculous."
The locations selected by the MTA as part of the initial pilot were 61st Street-Woodside on the 7 line, the 125th Street station on the 1, the J and Z lines in Jamaica between 121st and 111th streets, and the N and W lines in Astoria between Queensboro Plaza and 39th Avenue.
“We are encouraged by the possible viability and off-the-shelf availability of this netting to provide peace of mind to those who traverse streets below our tracks, and will continue our rigorous inspections of these structures, which are often struck by vehicles and exposed to highly varying conditions year-round that can speed deterioration,” NYCT president Andy Byford said in a statement in July.