The boarding process on Boston subway platforms can be so unruly that transit officials have tried taping lines on the platforms to keep new passengers from blocking departing riders.
Now the T might borrow a much higher-tech idea from the other side of the world: building a wall to separate riders from arriving trains.
You might recognize the concept from transit systems at airports that use glass walls and sliding doors that open only once the vehicle moves in. The technology is also common on subway systems in Asia and increasingly in Europe, but it has not been deployed on a major US transit system.
Platform doors are often seen as a safety measure, to prevent passengers from accessing or falling on active train tracks. But Massachusetts officials see them primarily as a way to bring more order to the sometimes-chaotic boarding and disembarking process. Coupled with other new technology, the doors could even be used to help steer riders to cars with fewer passengers.
“You can begin to create visual cues and visual barriers so that people know where the door’s going to open,” state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said. “If you’ve ever been in some of the systems in Europe, they even have overhead information that tells you not only where the cars are but which ones are fuller so you can sort of locate yourself on the platform and align yourself with the ability to walk right into a car.”
The impetus for the idea is the arrival of the first new Red Line cars beginning next year — which, unlike the patchwork of cars in the current system, will all have the same dimensions. Because the barriers would be in fixed locations, subway cars have to be a uniform length to align with the openings.
Officials are also planning a full car replacement in the next decade on the Green Line, which currently operates different models. The Blue Line and Orange Line each already have uniform fleets, though the Orange Line is also set for a full replacement in coming years.