In the face of increasing criticism over station inaccessibility, the MTA was the subject of a stair-free pledge by transit advocates and politicians who traveled to stations and exposed the lack of options for people with disabilities.
TransitCenter, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving transit systems, led the “Elevate MTA” effort to highlight the plight of people with disabilities by commuting via the subway without using stairs. Their demonstration showed that the lack of accessibility especially plagues Coney Island and southern Brooklyn, where, despite being home to a significant senior population, there is only one nearby handicap-accessible station — the Coney Island-Stillwell Ave. station.
“In southern Brooklyn there are so few accessible stations that it really highlights the need for more accessibility,” TransitCenter’s Mel Plaut said to Coney Island News. “Brooklyn is really hard-hit with this.”
Assemblymember Pam Harris, whose district includes Coney Island, was among those who participated in the pledge. She posted photos on social media to document her travels throughout local stations.
“I encountered numerous elevators that were out of service,” Harris told Coney Island News. “This is simply unacceptable. We must modernize our public transit and ensure that everyone can ride safely and comfortably.”
In response, MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz claimed that accessibility still remains a “a key priority” for them and that they’re addressing it “on multiple levels” — even as these problems continue to mount.
“We’re spending more than $1 billion in our current capital plan to build new elevators and escalators and replace older ones and our entire bus fleet is ADA-accessible and provides reliable service that can only improve if the city aggressively moves to begin reducing congestion on its streets,” he said.
But TransitCenter sees the MTA’s plan as short-sighted because they say it only looks ahead to the next few years. Plus, amid elevator malfunctions and other setbacks, they wonder if there will be contingency plans in place once accessibility is improved.
“Our concern is what happens after 2020?” Plaut said. “We don’t see any evidence of a plan. If [accessibility] is one of the top priorities, that’s great and we celebrate that and look forward to working with them on that and seeing what their plan is after 2020. But there’s a real problem. Something is breaking in the agency that is resulting in scores of broken elevators throughout the system.”
Plaut said there is an average of 25 outages per day throughout the city’s transit system and that every accessible station experiences outages. In the meantime, she said these malfunctions present such a challenge for riders that they need to be addressed now — in the short term.
“We have a problem with not enough elevators, but the ones we do have break down so frequently,” she said. “They need to go ahead and fix this.”