Landmark Settlement to Make 95% of New York City Subways Accessible by 2055
Americas, Transportation, June 25 2022
Only 25%, or 113, of New York City’s 472 subway stations are currently accessible to individuals with disabilities who are unable to use the stairs.
But by 2055, at least 95% of those 364 inaccessible subway stations will become accessible following a landmark settlement agreement between disability advocates and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
The MTA has committed to dedicating 14.69% of each of its five-year Capital Plan budgets to station accessibility – baring any unexpected critical needs. However, should unexpected needs arise, the MTA is still committing to no less than 8% of its total Capital Plan monies for subway station accessibility.
“This took a collaborative approach and dedication by numerous disability advocates who envisioned a more accessible city for all New Yorkers,” McLennon-Wier said.
DISABILITY ADVOCATES SUE MTA
The first lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court in 2017 alleged violations of the New York City Human Rights Law because of the vast inaccessibility of the New York City subway system.
“People who use wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, or other mobility devices, or who are unable to use stairs due to disabilities related to muscle, joint, heart, or lung function, are blatantly denied access to 360 subway stations (almost 80%) in New York City, due to Defendants’ failure to install elevators and otherwise ensure vertical access at the majority of stations,” the complaint said, in part.
“The discriminatory result leaves hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors to the City with mobility and other disabilities blocked, limited, and/or deterred from equal use of the City’s subway system,” it continued.
The second lawsuit filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York in 2019 alleged that the MTA consistently renovates and rehabilitates subway stations without adding stair-free access for individuals with disabilities as part of the renovations.
“Nearly three decades after the passage of the ADA, less than 25% of New York City’s subway stations are accessible to persons with mobility disabilities – the lowest rate of any subway system in the United States. As a consequence, people with mobility disabilities are often excluded from the City’s subway system entirely,” the complaint read, in part.
It continued, in part, “The ADA clearly states that when a public entity alters ‘an existing facility or part thereof’ in a way that ‘affect[s] or could affect’ usability, it must ensure that the altered portion is ‘readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.’ Failure to abide by this requirement is unlawful ‘discrimination’ against people with disabilities.”
The settlement agreement resolves both lawsuits but must be approved by both Courts before taking effect.