The MTA Pledges To Make The NYC Subway 95% Accessible.  It will take 33 years.

The MTA Pledges To Make The NYC Subway 95% Accessible. It will take 33 years.

New York has lagged behind other major US cities in making its subway system accessible to people with disabilities over the years: just 126 or 27 percent of its 472 stations have lifts or ramps that make them fully accessible.

But on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would add lifts and ramps to 95 percent of Metro stations by 2055 as part of a settlement agreement in two class-action lawsuits over the issue.

The settlement, which still requires court approval, will establish a clear and long timeline to address a problem that has affected the city’s transit system, New York’s social and economic life, and people using wheelchairs and mobility devices. Completely blocked from reaching the spinal cord. ,

Under the settlement, the Transportation Authority will make 81 additional Metro and Staten Island railway stations accessible by 2025. Thereafter it will make another 85 stations accessible by 2035, 90 more by 2045 and 90 more by 2055.

Metro stations scheduled for changes include nine that are currently partially accessible, in which passengers who cannot use stairs have access to trains traveling in only one direction.

“We don’t have equality, we don’t have equality, if people are put off by their ability to use a mass transit system, for so many people – more than half of New Yorkers – have to go around. There is only one way out, said the authority’s president, Jano Lieber.

Mr Lieber and disability groups both acknowledged the agreed timeline was slow. Transit officials have said engineering concerns, construction time and cost all require long-term planning.

And even when the job is done — more than six decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which outlawed discrimination against people with disabilities in public facilities — the Metro is still 100 percent accessible. not eligible.

“We would like to soon,” said Jean Ryan, president of Disabled in Action, a nonprofit organization that is a plaintiff in the lawsuits. “But they say they can’t do it quickly. And you don’t promise anyone to do something they can’t.”

The changes will benefit a wider range of riders who struggle to access narrow fare gates or climb subway stairs, in which parents carry babies in strollers, shoppers carrying large items home, and luggage. with airport passengers.

But the most transformative effects of the settlement will be felt by people with disabilities, who have long been excluded from the wide areas of New York’s subway system and, by extension, the parts of the city it serves.

Samuel Jimenez, 65, who uses a cane, said he expected to see significant improvements in the system. The Montrose Avenue station in Brooklyn where he usually boards doesn’t have an elevator, which makes traveling difficult.

“I have to go down the stairs to my station, which takes me an hour and a day,” Mr Jimenez, who was traveling for a dialysis appointment, said Wednesday at Union Square station. “I would say it slows me down a bit. I miss a lot of trains because of it.”

Many individual subway lines have significant sections that are out of range for wheelchair users, including areas outside Manhattan where the difference between accessible elevators exceeds 10 stops. These include large sections of the G and J lines, part of the F line, and most of the 6th line running through the Bronx.

Ms Ryan, who rode the Metro for 25 years before starting to use a motorized wheelchair, said those gaps force many disabled people to use modes of transport that are less convenient and reliable than the Metro. Sometimes more expensive.

“It goes on 24 hours, and it’s effortless,” she said. “You can change your plans. You can do anything with the subway.”

Disabled rights activists have tried for years to improve access to transit officers, with a particular focus on the lack of lift service. In 2017, a group of organizations and residents with disabilities filed a lawsuit in state court saying the lack of elevators in the transit system was a violation of the city’s human rights law.

Two years later, another group of plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit accusing the transit agency of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act when officers used subway stations without installing lifts, ramps, or similar accommodations. was renewed.

When the Act was passed in 1990, it required any public facilities built after 1993 to be accessible. Although most of the subway system is much older than that, in 1994 the transit agency made an agreement with the federal government to make 100 “major stations” accessible by 2020, a goal.

Newer transit systems, including those in San Francisco and Washington, are fully accessible compared to New York. And other older metro systems have significantly higher access rates than New York. More than two-thirds of stations in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New York transit officials were criticized for the slow pace of reform, which riders with disabilities said was inadequate given the breadth and scope of the subway system. It operates round the clock and has the largest number of stations in any city in the world.

“They have been fighting us over these lawsuits for over five years,” Ms Ryan said.

In late 2019, as court cases were being debated, officials approved a $5.2 billion plan to add lifts to 70 stations by 2024, a speed at which the agency had “never operated” before. , Mr. Lieber said.

The settlement agreement will carry forward that commitment. The transit authority will have to spend about 15 percent of the metro’s capital budget – which is used for construction, upgrade and maintenance projects – for specific efforts to improve access.

“It’s going to take billions of dollars, it’s going to take a lot of sweat and muscle, but we’ll get it done,” Lieber said.

The agreement will represent a significant financial outlay for a transit authority that has faced increased financial pressure as a result of the pandemic. The transit system has long struggled to keep capital expenditures low, paying some of the highest construction costs in the world for projects.

Transit executives already have a long list of costly projects and system upgrades in their capital planning. A crowdfunding pricing plan that was expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for those reforms has been delayed, with Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mr. Lieber blaming officials in Washington for an extensive federal review process.

Even with the financial investment required for this, the settlement would not bring the metro system to full reach. Mr Lieber said the remaining 5 percent of stations not included in the agreement have difficult engineering issues, including concerns over stability or extra weight, which would make adding lifts or ramps impossible.

The settlement also won’t address the current elevator situation, the focus of another lawsuit. Passengers who rely on lifts say that they are poorly maintained and those that are running properly are also overcrowded, unclean and foul-smelling.

Milagros Ortiz, 69, who has a heart condition and uses a walker, said Wednesday morning that Union Square’s elevators are often out of service, limiting his travel.

And even when they were working, she said, seemingly simple trips can be a daunting ordeal.

To travel from her home in Alphabet City to a goal in downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday, she took a bus to Union Square, then went two elevators down to the subway platform.

Arriving at Atlantic Avenue station, he needed to take three elevators to reach street level, with a long walk between them.

But still, she said, it was better than the alternative.

“I can’t do the stairs,” she said. “If you look up the stairs, it’s like you’ll never reach heaven.”

Olivia Bensimon contributed reporting.

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