Home New York City Transit PCAC praises and critiques NYCT handicapped access

PCAC praises and critiques NYCT handicapped access

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

New York City Transit – Subway Recommendations

  • Post floor plans in all key stations with the location of the elevators at that station. They should be placed at the entrance to the station near other maps or passenger information centers and on platforms.
  • Paint yellow strips completely across all top and bottom stairs at all stations.
  • Revise the Rules of Conduct to create noise regulations that are sensitive to context. Rather than a blanket regulation based on decibel level, noise regulation should reflect the disruption that musicians create during peak rush hours for customers trying to maneuver through crowds and/or hear announcements.
  • Ensure that vertical gaps between trains and platforms meet the three-inch ADA standard at all points on the platform in all stations.
  • Make gap awareness announcements on board subway trains. As a general safety feature, passengers need to be reminded to watch their step as they leave the train.
  • Place the ”Watch the Gap” decal on subway doors.
  • Move the Compliance Coordinating Committee (CCC) to the Department of Government and Community Affairs and find ways to reach a wider audience. Since the CCC involves the public and since Government and Community Affairs already handles the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee which has similar issues, PCAC feels that Government and Community Affairs should be responsible for both and CCC meetings should meet monthly. Because many people in this audience have mobility problems, NYCT should find ways to reach more of the disabled community, i.e., by webcasting, posting summaries of proceedings on the MTA website, etc.

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rhywun October 30, 2008 - 12:01 am

Y’know, I’ve lived in NYC for 11 years, and I have *never* seen a wheelchair in the subway system. I fully support the low-cost improvements mentioned above that help everyone, but I honestly have to question some of the vast expenditures required by the ADA that nobody uses.

Bridgid November 13, 2008 - 10:26 pm

Thank you for posting this. I am a full time student attending NYU. I do not live on campus and travel everyday by train from New Jersey in order to attend class. Therefore the usage of the subway system would be particularly bifocal. Unfortunately i can not use the service because most stations lack accessibility. I hope to see some strides made soon. In addition, the reason “rhywun” has never seen a person using a wheelchair on the subway is not due to lack of interest but lack of accessibility. Furthermore, ADA laws help to improve the lives of the 49.7 million Americans who live with a disability, no matter the “cost”.


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