accessibility

Transit Officials Running Late on Accessible Subway Stations

An elevator at the Times Square-42nd Street station on July 19, 2019.
An elevator at the Times Square-42nd Street station on July 19, 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez /THE CITY

Subway on-time performance last month hit a mark it hadn’t reached in six years, as 81.5% of trains ran on time.

But when it comes to releasing a list of the next 50 subway stations to be made accessible to riders with disabilities, New York City Transit is running late.

In its quarterly “Customer Commitment” report, the agency pledged to identify the 50 stations between April and June, but advocates say they are still waiting.

“Promise made, promise not kept,” said Colin Wright of TransitCenter, an advocacy organization, referencing an old slogan used by some New York politicians. “At a time when the MTA needs to be building trust with the public, it needs to keep its word.”

With just about a quarter of the subway’s 472 stations accessible to riders with disabilities, the MTA is aiming to equip 50 more stations with elevators over a five-year period, a goal outlined in its yet-to-be-funded “Fast Forward” transit modernization plan.

Chelsea resident Robert Acevedo said he depends on elevators to ride mass transit, July 19, 2019.
Chelsea resident Robert Acevedo said he depends on elevators to ride mass transit, July 19, 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez/THE CITY

“If they actually do it, it would make such a big difference for me,” said Robert Acevedo of Chelsea, who uses a motorized wheelchair to commute by subway and bus. “It seems that many in the disabled community have just given up on the subway.”

While the MTA met most of its other commitments during the second quarter of 2019 — such as retiring its oldest buses and upping speed limits at more locations in the subway — the release of the 50 stations list is stalled.

“We continue to receive a lot of passionate feedback from key partners and stakeholders on this huge investment in accessibility, one that will make our system vastly more accessible to our customers,” said agency spokesperson Andrei Berman.

“We need to make sure every dollar we invest has the maximum possible impact, and we look forward to sharing this list after taking into account this valuable feedback.”

New York City Transit is already well into a study looking at how much it would cost each of the remaining non-accessible subway stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

‘It’s Lip Service’

Berman said more than 250 stations have so far been looked at as part of a study designed to figure out how much it would cost to make them accessible to those who can’t use stairs or escalators.

Dustin Jones, a wheelchair user who commutes from The Bronx by subway and bus, said he’s not expecting much.

“It’s lip service,” said Jones, 31.

The delay on identifying the 50 stations that could next be made accessible hasn’t left TransitCenter’s Wright optimistic.

“That promise, I’m telling you, has been lost in the tumult over Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s reorganization plan,” he said.

That “MTA Transformation Plan,” a new $4 million report produced by the consulting firm AlixPartners, calls for strengthening accessibility throughout the transit system, extending to the agency’s two commuter railroads.

But the report also says an executive-level position — the MTA Accessibility Officer — should be created to “raise the strategic profile” of efforts to make the transit system more welcoming for those with limited mobility.

Sign up for “THE CITY Scoop,” our daily newsletter where we send you stories like this first thing in the morning.

Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.