The MTA has settled a class action suit with disability advocates over its years-long and still-incomplete efforts to improve accessibility at New York subway stations, officials said Wednesday.
Transit officials are in the process of spending $5 billion over five years to add elevators to dozens of stations — the largest investment in accessibility ever in a capital plan.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, MTA CEO Janno Lieber said the authority had agreed to continue adding elevators and other accessibility measures at that pace until the entire system is covered.
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“We’re making a commitment that’s binding on future capital programs, future governors, future legislators — and most important, future MTAs — to continue to invest in ADA accessibility at the same level percentage wise that we have been investing in this program,” Lieber said.
“This capital program had a historic level of investment, both in dollar amount and in percentage, and we’re committing that we’re going to maintain that path.”
Barely a quarter of subway stations are currently accessible. The MTA’s new commitment would bring that number up to 95% or higher by 2055. Lieber said the authority would pursue “new engineering solutions” to add accessibility to the remaining 5%.
“There is some small universe of stations where it may be quote-unquote infeasible — which I believe is the term of art in the federal law — to do this,” he said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t shoot for 100% knowing that technology is going to change and maybe we can get every station into full accessibility.”
Disability advocates based in New York City filed their first suit in 2017, alleging the MTA’s lack of accessibility violated the city’s Human Right Law.
In 2019 they also sued in federal court under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
“For five years we’ve been at MTA headquarters, outside Judge Haggler’s courtroom, on the radio [and] in the newspaper doing everything we could to get the word out,” said advocate Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, who uses a wheelchair.
“Taking the New York subway today is still difficult and even dangerous for so many who need safe, stair-free access.”