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June 01, 2021

SEPTA to install steel barriers at Somerset Station to prevent deadly falls

At least 79 people have fallen onto subway tracks this year, mostly on the Market-Frankford Line

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA Somerset Station Streetview/Google Maps

SEPTA launched a pilot program that will bring steel barriers to the Somerset Station in an effort to decrease deadly falls onto the tracks.

SEPTA is launching a pilot program aimed at reducing the number of deadly falls and jumps onto its subway tracks.

Just last week, a person was fatally struck by a Market-Frankford Line train at 15th Street Station in Center City. There have been 79 falls this year, as of May 23 — most of which were on the Market-Frankford Line.

Somerset Station will be the first station in the pilot program, Kate O'Connor, SEPTA's chief engineer of bridges and buildings, told WHYY. Earlier this year, the Market-Frankford Line station was briefly closed for a deep clean and elevator repairs after riders and employees expressed concerns about the drug use around the station. Safety patrols also were increased. 

SEPTA will install galvanized steel barriers along the platforms at the station, with gaps open for passengers to enter and exit the train. The barriers will be about six feet tall and sit at the edge of the platform, right before the yellow caution pad.

Once the barriers are set up, SEPTA will monitor the effect and start looking at other locations to install them, O'Connor said.

The falls that have occurred this year follow a long trend. In 2020, more than 180 people fell onto the subway tracks, and in 2019 nearly 100 people fell. However, injuries and deaths from falls are down compared to the last few years. In 2020, there were 155 injuries at SEPTA stations, and 18 were fatal. 

Though mental health illnesses and addiction can lead to falls, SEPTA says other causes — like leaning too far over the platform or people looking at their phones — also contribute to the issue. Two years ago, SEPTA launched the "Watch Their Step" public awareness campaign to look out for fellow riders.

"Every second counts if someone is about to fall in the track area," SEPTA's website says. Riders should alert the station cashier, use the emergency call box or call the SEPTA transit police at (215) 580-8111 for help.

The transit authority reopened to full capacity Tuesday, after more than a year of limited ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are still required, regardless of vaccination status. 

"SEPTA will play a major role in the region's recovery from the pandemic, and we are excited to see more riders starting to come back," SEPTA General Manager Leslie S. Richards said. "Our employees have been working hard to maintain essential services during the pandemic, and we want residents to know that we are ready to get them to work, school, restaurants, special events and other destinations."

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