MTA Reports 15% Increase In Number Of People Hit By Subway Trains

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Photo: DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

Posted this morning about a man being hit by a subway at 96th Street yesterday — the fifth such occurrence on the UWS in the past five weeks.

If it seems as though more people are being hit by trains these days, it’s not your imagination. 2011 saw a 15% increase in the number of people vs. train collisions.

ABC had a brief story last week with the numbers:

According to MTA safety figures, trains hit subway commuters 147 times in 2011. 50 of them were killed. That’s up 15-percent over the 128 struck in 2010.

The figure means that every 2.5 days a rider is struck by a train, according to the report on customer safety discussed at the MTA’s Transit Committee on Monday.

While the increase is certainly noteworthy, it’s debatable as to whether or not it’s significant in the broad scheme of total subway ridership.

In 2010, the most recent year I can find data for, there were 1,604,198,017 — we’ll round it down to 1.6 billion — total subway rides. With 128 recorded person vs. subway collisions, that works out to roughly 0.000007979% of all riders, or about 1-in-12.5 million.

If we assume ridership numbers stayed the same in 2011, the increase to 147 person vs. subway collisions raises the percentage to 0.000009163, or just under 1-in-11 million.

Based on the 50 people killed, the odds of any one subway ride resulting in death due to collision are about 1-in-32 million. I don’t believe that figure of 50 deaths takes into account that a certain percentage of those killed committed suicide, which certainly shouldn’t be counted the same as an “accident.” Factor out those suicides and the odds of an accidental person vs. subway collision become even more astronomical.

In addition to suicides, collisions with trains often involve people with medical issues and people who are intoxicated (as appears to be the case in several of the recent UWS incidents). Remove those from the equation and the chances of a healthy and cognizant individual on a subway platform getting struck by a train are infinitesimal.

By comparison, here’s a simplified list from of the lifetime odd of dying from a variety of causes. They range from heart-disease (1-in-5) to “fireworks discharge” (1-in-615,488).

I’m not quite sure how the math would work if you had a heart-attack while being involved in a fireworks explosion.

Given all the recent subway accidents in the neighborhood, I just thought I’d take a shot at putting it in perspective. You should be far more concerned about getting mugged, robbed, or groped on the subway than getting hit by a train.

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