Despite recent progress–and a federal lawsuit–only 23 percent of New York City’s 493 subway and Staten Island Railway (SIR) stations are fully ADA-accessible, a statistic which puts the city dead last among the country’s 10 largest metro systems for accessibility of its transit stations. The MTA has made a commitment to funding accessibility in its much-discussed Capital Plan, but hundreds of stations are still without without plans for ADA access. On Friday Speaker Corey Johnson and the City Council released a report showing that the use of zoning tools to incentivize or require private development projects to address subway station access could speed up progress toward the goal of system-wide ADA access–and simultaneously cut public expense. The report, and an interactive map, show the current system, future plans and what the use of zoning tools could accomplish.
Speaker Corey Johnson joined Land Use Chair Rafael Salamanca, Zoning Subcommittee Chair Francisco Moya, and Committee on Aging Chair Margaret Chin to call for the expansion of zoning tools to better coordinate private development with expanding transit accessibility. Johnson said in a statement, “All New Yorkers deserve equal access to their city and we must do everything in our power to accelerate the implementation of ADA accessibility in the transit system,”
In the upcoming year the City Council plans to work with with the MTA, Department of City Planning, and the transit and disability advocacy communities to implement the proposals outlined in the report, titled “Zoning for Transit Accessibility.” The report, which can be seen here, references an interactive online map of system-wide accessibility–you can search by station name, choose a subway line and filter by accessibility status.
Although the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits public discrimination against individuals based on disability which includes access to public transportation the task of retrofitting a vast and aging subway system has presented a massive challenge. While the MTA has made a commitment to fund accessibility at 70 new stations, progress has been slow costs have been high.
The City Council highlights zoning as a “policy tool with untapped potential that could help accelerate implementation of ADA access and save hundreds of millions of public dollars” by the offering the potential to “require or incentivize new private development to align design and construction with the goal of improved access, including incorporating elevators to subway stations.”
Recommendations in the report outline how zoning for transit accessibility in New York City would speed progress toward realizing the promise of transit equity. The data and maps show the current state of accessibility as of summer 2019 with the hopes that it will inform the next phase of work. City Council will work with the Department of City Planning and the MTA to further study the ideas in the report to arrive at final recommendations with a 2020 implementation goal.
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