Every few months, the issue of handicapped accessibility rears its head. Usually, the news focuses around how the MTA is slowly — very slowly — but steadily working to improve access for riders with disabilities, and today’s latest is no different.
Late last week, the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, the official MTA watchdog, released its assessment of the MTA’s accessibility efforts. The report gave mostly high marks to the transit agency but urged it to do more.
NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed a story about the report. As the PCAC did, Cuza highlighted how the MTA is actually ahead of schedule in bringing its subway stations in line with ADA requirements, but enforcement of these measures lags significantly. Cuza writes:
The report does acknowledge the significant progress the MTA has made. Back in 1992, the agency promised that 67 key subway stations would be made fully accessible by the year 2010 – a milestone the MTA reached this past summer, two years ahead of schedule.
But the report notes even so-called accessible stations often have broken-down elevators. And it recommends that stations display floor plans showing where elevators are located.
“We’d like to be able to use the elevators, but we need to know where they are,” said Dr. Jan Wells, associate director of PCAC. “And we think there should be diagrams posted in good places in the subway, and on the website.”
Despite these shortcomings, the PCAC did praise the New York City Transit for its recent efforts. “Given the magnitude of the challenge in making a 100-year old subway system accessible, NYCT should be applauded for the strides that have been made. Reaching the goal of 67 ADA accessible stations well ahead of the 2010 deadline is to be commended,” the report says.”PCAC recognizes, too, the support for improving accessibility expressed by current NYCT President Howard Roberts, especially in tight fiscal times, and we hope that this backing will continue.”
But despite this praise, the PCAC still urged NYC Transit to do more. I’ve included the full recommendations after the jump, but we’ve heard it all before. The agency should better present information about elevator outages, and the agency should quickly address elevator problems. Signage could be improved in stations, and train announcements should be clearly. For the most part, these are quality-of-life changes that would improve service for everyone while being of particular benefit to disabled riders.
Of course, the report hardly mentions the 800-pound gorilla in the room. “Despite the advances that have been made to date,” the watchdog committee wrote, “ensuring accessibility throughout the system is a long, costly, and continuing process.”
While the MTA must make any station it renovates handicapped-accessible and ADA-compliant, the agency doesn’t exactly have the money to voluntarily upgrade stations right now. In fact, if — or when — the MTA has to start cutting expenditures, voluntary services may be the first to go. We won’t see any steps backwards in addressing compliance, but the commendable forward progress may slow a bit over the next few years if funding starts to dry up.