The MTA has found itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit by the feds for failing to make its subway stations wheelchair-accessible. On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman joined a lawsuit accusing the agency of not adding assistance for disabled riders when renovating stations, the New York Post reports. The suit began in 2016 when a civic agency in the Bronx accused the MTA of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not creating wheelchair access at the Middletown Road station. The suit should come as no surprise; as 6sqft previously reported, fewer than 1/4 of New York City’s subway stations are fully wheelchair-accessible–only 117 out of 472. In fact, NYC ranks the least accessible out of the country’s ten largest metro systems–all of LA’s 93 stations and DC’s 91, for example, are fully accessible.
Berman said, “There is no justification for public entities to ignore the requirements of the ADA 28 years after its passage. The subway system is a vital part of New York City’s transportation system, and when a subway station undergoes a complete renovation, MTA and NYCTA must comply with its obligations to make such stations accessible to the maximum extent feasible.”
Disability advocates have spoken up on the subject at every monthly MTA board meeting for the past year. The agency’s official response is that they are, in fact, working to add more accessibility, but that the cost of making every station wheelchair accessible has proven insurmountable. MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said, “The MTA and NYC Transit are committed to adding and maintaining accessibility for the century-old subway system, and working hard to do so by investing more than a billion dollars over the current five-year capital plan alone.”
An aging system is often to blame when cities fail to offer sufficient accessibility. The London Underground, which dates to 1863 and is the world’s oldest metro, has only 50 fully accessible stations out of 260. Paris, where the metro opened in 1900, is even worse with only nine fully accessible stations. Barcelona, considered the most accessible system in Europe, boasts 129 of 156 stations classified as fully accessible. The metro there began operation in 1924, and as of 1992 all stations built there must be made accessible.