MTA, disability advocates reach settlement to improve subway accessibility, seek 95% compliance

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After reaching a settlement with New York disability advocates, the MTA vows to have at least 95% of their subways stations accessible to riders with disabilities.
Photo courtesy Getty Images / David Becker

MTA riders with disabilities scored a major win after New York disability advocates agreed to a settlement with the transit authority to increase accessibility in their subway stations.

Only, 25% of the MTA’s subway stations — 113 stations of the city’s 472 — have usable elevators or ramps, and in the Bronx, only 15, roughly 21%, have full-ADA accessibility, which is the lowest amount in New York City.

A benchmark for the MTA in regards to accessibility, as laid out by the settlement, is a goal to make at least 95% of NYC subways accessible stations by 2055. Under the settlement, the MTA will dedicate 14% of its each of its 5-year capital plan budgets to station accessibility and devote no less than 8% of its total capital plan to station accessibility.

Jessica De La Rosa, who requires the use of a wheelchair, said that increased transit accessibility will help usher a new ridership of those with disabilities, a group that has been underserved in the city’s public transportation infrastructure.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment since I was 15 years old,” said De La Rosa.“I am thrilled that the subways will be more accessible for the next generation of 15-year-old disabled children to ride the subway in their city like every other New Yorker. But it doesn’t stop here MTA, let’s keep going.”

Van Cortlandt Park-242 Street, Tremont Avenue, Parkchester, East 149 Street, Brook Avenue and Mosholu Parkway stations are set to become fully ADA-accessible stations, according to the MTA’s $54.8 billion 2020-2024 Capital Plan.

Under the settlement, the transportation authority will make an additional 81 subway and Staten Island Railway stations accessible by 2025, MTA officials confirmed with the Bronx Times.

Calls for increasing accessibility in MTA subways has been a longtime battle for advocates and handicapped commuters, and those battles had made their way through legal arenas in recent years.

In 2019, a lawsuit filed by national nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates sought a court order requiring the MTA to install elevators or other accessibility alternatives in all station renovations, along with a declaration that the MTA’s practice of “ignoring accessibility during renovations” is unlawful, according to the suit.

“The MTA has consistently engaged in major renovation projects to improve station usability for non-disabled riders — spending millions of dollars and closing stations for months to conduct the work — while systematically failing to install elevators or other stair-free routes,” read the lawsuit, which was filed in state court.

The suit mirrored a similar lawsuit filed in 2019, that charged the MTA with violating the ADA when it overhauled the Middletown Road station in the Bronx without installing elevators. That same month, U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that the station renovations triggered the MTA’s obligation under the ADA to add elevators unless doing so would be technically impossible.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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