Subway Accessibility Report
Cleanliness: The cleanliness of many of the subway elevators is very bad. Some smell awful and the humidity of the subway stations makes the smell even worse. Elevators should be cleaned as often as the rest of the station. People with disabilities, seniors and mothers with baby carriages should not be treated like second class citizens having to travel in such smelly conditions.
Usefulness of Elevators: Many people may complain that elevators should not be installed in subway stations because there are not going to be enough people using them. Their argument is that people with disabilities are not going to use the subway anyway, so what is the point of installing elevators? In the elevators I used I rarely saw other people in wheelchairs, but I saw many mothers with strollers and people transporting heavy equipment. Even if people with disabilities do not use the elevators often, installing elevators helps the entire community.
The MTA Subway Map and Accessible Stations: Some of the stations that are marked accessible in my report are still not marked on the map as being accessible and others are marked as being accessible when they are not. One example of this is the Coney Island/Stillwell Ave. Station on the W line. I traveled all the way to Coney Island, which was marked as accessible on the map, and I ended up being stuck on the platform. I had called the accessibility phone line before I went and the representative had told me there was a ramp to the street at the Coney Island station. However, I discovered that this ramp went to steps. The representative I talked to did not know what he was talking about. On the other hand, the wheelchair accessible Prospect Park station on the Q line is not marked as accessible either on the MTA map or on the MTA website. The printed maps, the MTA website, and the accessibility phone line should be as up to date as possible. Disabled customers cannot use the subway system to its full advantage, because the MTA is not informing the public well enough about the conditions of subway stations.
Transfer Points: The MTA used to publish a list of accessible transfer points within the NYC subway system. However, this is not being published anymore for some reason. Because of this, mobility impaired customers may be able to get to their destination without knowing it.
Broken Elevators: Elevators break down fairly frequently in the accessible subway stations, stranding mobility impaired customers. This unreliability may be one reason why disabled customer of the MTA do not use the subway system more. The intercoms to report broken elevators and speak to a representative are not always responded to and sometimes do not even work. Lights marking an elevator as broken are not always lit up either. The number to call for broken elevators is not listed on the MTA subway map and has to be searched for on the webpage (The phone number to call is 212-424-4023). Many of the elevators I encountered were not in very good working condition and the doors had to close a number of times before the elevator began to work. Other elevators were very slow. At the Woodside station on the 7 line, the elevator was marked as broken by caution tape. However, upon entering the elevator it began to work. The MTA should have checked to make sure the elevator was really broken. Because of the problems with elevators, I have also marked which stations use ramps instead of elevators in my report. These stations are the most reliable for people with disabilities.
The Platform Gap: Even after getting down to the platform by elevator many of the trains are still hard to get onto for a wheelchair user. Some of the gaps onto the train are quite large. I am happy to say that the MTA is brainstorming ideas to try to solve the problem of closing the gap. In the meantime, however, they are not trying to help riders with disabilities get over these gaps. The time that I asked for help from an MTA employee I was told that they could not do anything to help me bridge the gap. Because of an insurance or union reason, the conductor on the train could not get off to help me and the one outside of the train could not go inside the train to help me. I have had to ask friendly New Yorkers since then, to help me bridge the gap. Conductors should be helping people with disabilities get on and off the trains. It should not be a burden for disabled riders to try and find help from people who are not qualified to do such a thing. The waiting areas marked with the international access symbol on the platforms do not seem to make a difference in the gap and the conductor does not respond any differently if you are waiting in such a spot.
Elevator Signs: The location of the elevators subway stations is not always clearly marked. Sometimes signs do not even exist pointing to the elevator. In some of the bigger subway stations like the one at Yankee Stadium it is easy to get lost and not be able to find the exit.
Accessible Entance: The accessible entrance is a gate that opens (Autogate). A button must be pressed to alert the attendant. However, the attendant is not always paying attention and someone else may have to alert him or her. For people without a reduced fare card, the MetroCard must be swiped through a regular turnstile that is hard to reach. Regular MetroCards should be allowed to be used in the accessible swiping machine, It is also easy for someone who hasnt paid to go through a gate that is being opened.
What the MTA is doing right: The newer subway stations that the MTA is opening are much friendlier towards riders with disabilities, and I think that they are learning from their mistakes. The newer cars are also much more accessiblendly, with designated seats for disabled riders and smaller gaps between the cars and the platform.