It’s a subway rider’s worst nightmare.
At around 9 pm on Sunday, police say a 39-year-old woman was pushed onto the tracks at Bloor-Yonge station. The force said she suffered serious injuries from the fall, but she managed to escape further harm by crawling beneath the subway platform to get out of the path of the train.
This is the second such incident at the station in the past four years — in 2018, 73-year-old Yosuke Hayahara died when a stranger shoved him in front of a subway.
Despite those terrifying incidents, the TTC says it’s extremely rare for people to be pushed or accidentally fall off a subway platform. According to transit agency spokesperson Stuart Green, while people intentionally trespass onto tracks almost every day, accidental falls happen only a few times a year, and since 2009 there have only been three incidents of someone being pushed.
However, if a passenger does find themselves on the tracks, the TTC has the following recommendations on how to avert disaster:
Get to safety under the lip of the platform
“There are two pieces of advice — one is to avoid touching the covered power rail/third rail. The other is to tuck yourself under the lip of the platform,” said Green.
“There is enough room there for a person to safely shelter from a passing train while waiting for help to arrive.”
The third rail, which powers the subways and carries 600 volts of electricity, can be deadly. It’s considered so dangerous that TTC employees are trained to never touch it, even if they think the power is off.
The third rail is on the far side of the tracks, while the lip under the platform on the near side at every station was designed to be spacious enough for a person to fit in.
Although it’s theoretically possible for someone to avoid injury by pressing themselves as close as possible to the track bed and allowing the train to pass over them, the TTC doesn’t recommend it.
“The clearance (beneath the train) is significantly less than under the platform ledge,” Green explained.
Although it’s not pleasant to huddle on a grimy subway track bed for any length of time, the TTC says once you’ve gotten out of the way of the train, it’s safer to sit tight than to try to find a way back onto the platform .
“Our advice would be to wait there until help arrives in the form of a TTC staff member or first responder,” Green said. “We need to make sure power is cut and there’s no risk of a train coming into the station first.”
Hit the alarm and call for help
What if you’re not the one who’s on the tracks?
Anyone who witnesses a fellow passenger fall onto the tracks should immediately do two things, according to the TTC.
The first is to locate the emergency power cut button at either end of every platform. The button is marked by a blue light, and when pushed will cut power to the tracks in both directions to prevent trains from entering the station. If a bystander can’t reach the button in time themselves, they should call out to someone closer to press it.
Once the track power is cut, riders should alert a TTC employee who can immediately call for help.
Reduce the risk
The best way to avoid having to scramble to get away from a subway train is to not go onto the tracks in the first place.
“Never go down onto the tracks for any reason. If you drop something, leave it and tell a TTC uniformed employee,” the transit agency advises.
Passengers should always stand behind the yellow platform edge until the train has stopped, and mind the gap while entering or exiting a subway.
Don’t count on barriers anytime soon
Riders and safety advocates have for years pushed the TTC to install platform edge doors on the subway system to prevent people from getting onto the tracks.
The TTC says it supports installing physical barriers, not only to keep people safe but to prevent litter and other debris from finding its way onto tracks and disrupting subway service. However, implementing them would require extensive station reconstructions and the adoption of an automatic signaling system that would allow trains to stop in precisely the right spot on the platform.
The agency estimates the barriers would cost $1.35 billion, and the project is currently not funded.
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