Two people were killed Friday morning when a subway train hit them at a Manhattan station, the police said, the latest in a spate of such deaths and a sign of what transit officials describe as a worrying rise in unauthorized people venturing onto the tracks.
The collision happened just before 10:45 a.m., when a southbound No. 1 train pulled into the 145th Street station in Hamilton Heights and struck a man and a woman who were on the tracks at the time, the authorities said.
The two were pronounced dead at the scene. Their names and ages were not immediately released, nor were additional details about the collision. The police said the victims were walking through the tunnel when they were struck and may have been homeless.
The subway, a crucial engine of the New York economy, is at the nexus of a number of problems — including crime and homelessness — confronting officials as they try to hasten the city’s recovery and lure riders back to a system battered by the pandemic.
As part of those efforts, the city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the subway, have taken new steps meant to clear homeless people from trains and platforms. Officials have also intensified their focus on keeping people off the rails, after a spike last year in so-called track intrusions, or instances when people are on the tracks without permission.
The authority reported 1,267 such intrusions last year, a 19 percent increase from 2020. Two hundred of the 2021 intrusions resulted in people being struck by a train and 68 deaths.
In addition to the safety concerns intrusions pose, even those that do not lead to collisions can cause delays that snarl the system. At an authority board meeting this week, the agency’s safety chief, Patrick Warren, said that the number of intrusions so far this year was “still well above” last year’s figure. “There’s more work to do there,” he said.
In response to the collision on Friday, Mr. Warren said in a statement: “We shouldn’t have to keep saying it: Tracks are dangerous and walking on them is illegal, obviously life-threatening and can impact thousands of other riders.”
Most people who wind up on the tracks, including those who are hit by trains, are there voluntarily, according to transit officials. Many are people who jump off platforms to retrieve things they have dropped. Others cross the tracks, hoping to quickly travel from one platform to another. Some are mentally ill.
Compounding the problem, transit officials say, are encampments established by homeless people in subway tunnels and stations. In a report about “track trespassing” that was discussed at a board meeting in February, officials said that over two days in February, transit workers found 89 such encampments in stations, and 29 more in subway tunnels.
The transportation authority has been exploring new methods for keeping people off the tracks, including a pilot program under which platform barriers will be installed at some stations. The authority is also planning to test detection systems that signal when someone has ended up on the tracks.
Officials hope that increasing the number of police officers patrolling the system — a move ordered by Mayor Eric Adams as part of his drive to make the subway feel safer — will deter people from stepping onto the tracks voluntarily.
Mr. Adams’s subway safety plan also includes the deployment of social workers and outreach specialists to help homeless and mentally ill people who take refuge in the subway get the services they need.
The deaths on Friday followed several similar incidents this month. Around 6 p.m. on Wednesday, a homeless person was fatally stuck by an express train on the tracks near the Spring Street station in Lower Manhattan, transit officials said.
Last week, a train operator found the bodies of two French tourists under a No. 3 train as it pulled into a station in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. According to a French media report, the two were graffiti artists who had come to New York in hopes of tagging a station.
Several days earlier, another man, who the police said may have been homeless, was found dead in a subway tunnel in Queens. He appeared to have been hit by a train, the police said.
Ana Ley contributed reporting.