Home MTA Politics Handicapped riders navigate a limited subway system

Handicapped riders navigate a limited subway system

by Benjamin Kabak

Midtown is rather devoid of subway stops for handicapped riders. (Source: Smorgr)

A few months ago, the urban life Website Smogr posted a heavily-edited subway map showing the limited options available to riders of the subway who are faced with limited staircase mobility. Disabled riders have long tried to get their voices heard, and it is only as old stations undergo renovations that they must be made ADA-compliant.

At the beginning of last week, the MTA announced a long-term elevator outage at the World Trade Center-Chambers Street E station due to Port Authority construction. For the vast majority of us, this news goes in one ear and out the other; what does an out-of-service Port Authority elevator that provides access to the subway platforms have to do with us? But for a significant minority who can’t depend on stairs to get underground, this is big news. Here’s how the MTA presents it, in part:

Beginning Friday, April 11, 2008, customers who rely on elevator service at the WTC-Chambers Street E Station will no longer have access to elevators at this location due to ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site…

The West 4th Street and the 14th Street-8th Avenue stations are the closest ADA accessible stations along the E line to the World Trade Center-Chambers Street E station. Customers traveling uptown from the WTC site to West 4th Street ABCDEFV lines should board the uptown M6 bus on Church Street at Vesey Street and get off on 6th Avenue at West 3rd Street. Customers traveling downtown from 14th Street-8th Avenue to the WTC area should board the downtown M20 bus on 7th Avenue at 14th Street and get off on Chambers Street at Hudson Street.

For customers traveling between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., please note that the M6 and M20 bus routes do not operate during these hours.

So basically, the MTA has said that the nearest ADA-accessible stop to anyone trying to reach Lower Manhattan on the E is nearly a mile and a half away. Put yourself in the shoes, then, of the disabled. I know I wouldn’t be too happy finding out that my regular station is closed, and the nearest one is a mile and a half away. And, hey, the closest buses don’t operate for five hours each day.

As the MTA confronts a budget crunch, disabled rider complaints will have to compete with a plethora of other subway issues. While you and I may not think of them too often, these are real concerns for a lot of subway-riding New Yorkers.

After the jump, a broad — and small — overview of the subway map with only the handicap stations listed. Sadly, there is no larger version of this map, but as you’ll see, ADA-compliant stations are few and far between in the Outer Boroughs. In fact, after the Atlantic Ave.-Pacific St. stop on the D and N, the next accessible station is Coney Island.

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Kevin April 18, 2008 - 1:09 am

Any way to get a bigger map of this? Kinda hard to see with that tiny shot.

I do notice they’re missing a few stations that now have ADA access, such as Junction Blvd and Bowling Green. Flushing-Main Street is also missing, even though they’ve had ADA access since the late 90’s.

Benjamin Kabak April 18, 2008 - 1:11 am

Sadly, Smogr doesn’t have a bigger version of this one. There are a few stations missing in the Outer Boroughs on the small version. I guess I could make one when I have some time.

Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » View of the Subway for the Disabled April 18, 2008 - 4:14 am

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Mike April 18, 2008 - 12:09 pm

yes this map is missing a bunch of stations, not to mention that by summertime Union Turnpike, 47-50th street, Columbus Circle and South Ferry just to name a few will be ADA Compliant. And one day, the Fulton Street Hub and all of Second Ave…

Todd April 18, 2008 - 3:31 pm

To be fair, they get wheeled-chairs then can roll them wherever they need to go. Don’t they know how tiring it is to walk everywhere? We abled people need public transportation much more then those lazy disableds.

(totally kidding)

Quinn April 18, 2008 - 7:31 pm

Oh the connection between Times Sq 42 Street (7th Avenue & Broadway) & 8th Avenue 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal is nonexistent for physically handicapped people. It’s also hard for non disabled people to get through because walking underground through a small tube makes it seem longer than it is. Maybe had moving walkways? & Elevators or maybe a 40th Street Passage which is accessible.

Cap'n Transit April 19, 2008 - 8:40 pm

Quinn, in the past few years they’ve installed elevators between the IRT lines and the tunnel, I know, and maybe also between the BMT lines and the tunnel. Are these not usable by wheelchairs for some reason?

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n April 21, 2008 - 10:03 am

Does anyone know much about the MTA’s access-a-ride? How does it, if at all, manage to make up for the system’s failure to accommodate special needs riders?

Ed Ravin April 21, 2008 - 1:19 pm

“… it is only as old stations undergo renovations that they must be made ADA-compliant. …”

Not quite true – if it costs too much money to create ADA-compliant facilities compared to the rest of the cost of the project, the agency can leave it out. This is why the Metro-North station at West 225th Street and Broadway was renovated a few years ago and did not receive an elevator or even a ramp.

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