An overwhelming majority of subway stations in New York City will be made accessible by 2055 under a new settlement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The agreement announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul this week, marks a transformative change for the city’s sprawling subway system, which has long been criticized for being inhospitable to commuters with disabilities who cannot climb stairs or face immense difficulty doing so.
The deal stems from two class action law suits and is subject to court approval.
The agreement outlines a pledge by the state to install elevators or ramps at 95 percent of currently inaccessible stations over the next few decades, positioning the city’s heavily trafficked underground transit system to make amends to scores of New Yorkers who have historically felt alienated in their own City.
“I say that we live everywhere and we go everywhere,” said Jean Ryan, a president of Disabled In Action who uses a wheelchair and is one of the plaintiffs involved in the settlement. “That’s why we need the entire system. And right now, the system is not very workable.”
It will take more than 30 years to make the state’s goal into a reality.
According to the state-run MTA, the deal aims to make 81 stations accessible by 2025. It will add 85 more accessible stations 10 years later, in 2035, and transform another 90 by 2055.The last 90 stations will become accessible within the final stretch.
Just 131 stations are currently accessible to all commuters, including five stations on the Staten Island Railway, a release from the MTA reads. The authority has 493 stations in its system, overall.
“If we’re down on the platform and we can’t get out then we either have to go to some other station or we have to call 911 or the fire department and be carried out,” Ryan said. “My chair weighs 398 pounds — without me — so I don’t know how they would rescue me.”
Advocates cited the importance of having a court-enforceable agreement that can withstand changes in leadership or other mitigating circumstances that could otherwise weigh on an outcome promised over several decades.
“I think the ongoing litigation didn’t always make it easy to work together because it’s hard to trust someone who says one thing and does another,” said Jessica Murray, chair of the transit authority’s Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility. “I’m glad we’re at least on the same page now.”