I was waiting for the L train at Bedford Avenue twice in the past three days when I heard announcements involving “a customer injury” and “a police investigation” that resulted in no Manhattan-bound trains. While it is a sad fact that passenger deaths and injuries occur all too frequently, the past few days have been particularly deadly.
The first L train death occurred around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning after a train struck 22-year-old Brian O’Mara of Garden City, Long Island. O’Mara had been standing on the tracks near the 3rd Avenue stop. Service partially resumed three hours later.
A second L train death happened Saturday night when a man became caught on the tracks between an oncoming train and the platform at the 6th Avenue station. There have been several reports of passengers seeing the decapitated head.
Manhattan-bound L trains were delayed again at around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning because of a sick passenger at Union Square, according to an announcement from an MTA employee.
What makes the L train particularly dangerous? While last weekend’s deaths happened to people on the tracks, the line’s overcrowding doesn’t help. According to a study published in October, the L train “has grown at three times the rate of the subway system as a whole.” Morning rush hour trains operate at 116% capacity. The MTA is aware of the overcrowding and has pledged to run more trains beginning this summer.
Can these tragedies be prevented by keeping people off the tracks? Cities like Paris and Tokyo have barriers and safety doors along the platforms at some stations.
Notably, within twenty-four hours of the two L train incidents, two other people died within the subway tunnels and walls. Riders found a man in his 60s dead in an R train station in Queens at 2:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. Reports speculate that he may have fallen down stairs. Later that day, an MTA employee found the body of a man near the Nostrand Avenue A station in Brooklyn.