urbanism – landscape – ideas – theory – whimsy

Subway platform barriers, the quick and easy way

A train sitting at Shanghai Science & Technology Museum station platforms on Shanghai's Metro Line 2

New half-height metal and glass platform barriers along Shanghai Metro’s Line 2 (green line) station platforms prove that you can improve subway station safety without the expense and complications of the full height sliding glass platform doors. What’s even more impressive (if you think about the TTC’s insistence that any form of platform barrier can’t be done without an automatic train driving system) is that these trains are still being manually driven. Admittedly, the trains tend to enter the station quite a bit more slowly than the TTC’s subway trains, and getting the alignment quite right manually probably slows down operation a little bit, but apart from that the simplicity and elegance of this solution is quite remarkable. Even though gaps to the track still exist, the feeling of security on the platforms is greatly improved by this solution and you can lean against the barriers comfortably and safely even while a train is entering the station.

Century Avenue station platforms on Shanghai's Metro Line 2

However, at People’s Square (see below, by far the busiest station on the Shanghai Metro network), because of the crowds always present on the platforms, they opted for half-height sliding glass platform doors which even more effectively address the safety issues, presumably at considerably less expense than the full height doors, and again alignment of the train does not seem to be a significant problem. The only limitations of this half-height solution is the difficulty of providing heating and/or airconditioning in the platform areas.

Line 2 platforms at People's Square interchange station on Shanghai's Metro during a typical rush hour - the doors have just closed and these are the people who couldn't fit in to the train, waiting for the next one

And of course, even on Shanghai Metro Line 1 (red line, which has full height glass sliding platform doors) they don’t always get the alignment quite right, and will occasionally back up a little, or just open the doors slightly misaligned (see below, where the yellow arrow pointing out from the door is at the centre of the platform doors).


Misaligned train doors with platform doors at Shaanxi Nan Lu station on Shanghai Metro Line 1

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Thanks for the photo evidence. Good design is possible. Your comments on the Shanghai v London subways are apt. It’s the same in Toronto, where you can commute faster to the city centre from Hamilton or Orangeville than from the east side to the west. Makes me nostalgic for the old ring rail line.

They look like those modern glass radiators.

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