MTA Plans to Spend $1 Billion to Ease Mobility for New Yorkers With Disabilities
By Yehudit Garmaise
As only 25% of the City's 472 subway stations provide ramps and elevators, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to spend more than $1 billion to make infrastructure improvements to help New Yorkers with disabilities get around more easily.
This week, the MTA will vote on a slate of contracts that seek to provide the work that will improve the subway stations' infrastructure to improve all New Yorkers' safety and mobility.
In addition to adding and replacing old ramps and elevators, other work will include reducing the space between platforms and train cars.
The MTA's recent commitment to increase accessibility for all New Yorkers has resulted in the completion of at least 15 subway accessibility projects since 2020, Gothamist reported.
After the pandemic briefly forced the MTA to pause construction, the transit agency redoubled its efforts to make subway stations more wheelchair-friendly after several advocates for the rights of people with disabilities filed lawsuits.
Part of the MTA's settlement with the plaintiff was to agree to make 95% of the system's stations wheelchair accessible by 2055.
"Our main goal is that these elevators go in on time, that the elevators work once they're in place, and we see many similar contracts over and over again," says Joe Rappaport, the executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, who was one of several plaintiffs who sued the MTA.
Rappaport attributed the MTA's recent motivation to get going on the subways' accessibility improvements to the many lawsuits the transit agency was forced to settle.
"Now [the MTA] got [the mandate of] religion, and that sometimes happens when you're sued," says Rappaport, who expressed optimism about the slate of improvements contracts on which the MTA will vote this week.
At Borough Hall station, MTA officials are seeking approval for a $106 million contract that will make the entire station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Among the infrastructure improvements proposed for the Brooklyn station are three new elevators and the reduction of the gap between platforms and train cars.
Another $965 million contract seeks to install 21 new elevators at eight stations citywide and replace 14 elevators.
"Accessibility is one of MTA's top priorities, which is reflected in the unprecedented commitment of more than $5 billion in our 2020-2024 capital plan," MTA spokesperson David Steckel said.