Let us all celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This was signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has done an excellent job during this period when it comes to improving public transit to be in compliance with ADA. Billions of dollars in FTA grants to more than 900 transit agencies across America have paid for thousands of buses, paratransit vans, light rail, subway cars, commuter rail and ferries that are ADA accessible. Numerous subway, light rail and commuter rail stations, bus and ferry terminals along with other transportation facilities are accompanied in many cases with elevators. Ramps have also become ADA compliant.
Here are three ways the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the nations largest transit agency, can obtain financial support to pay for bringing more New York City (NYC) Transit subway, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North Railroad stations into compliance. NYC Transit subway has 126 of 472 stations, Staten Island Railway has five of 21, LIRR has 108 of 124 and Metro-North Rail Road has 60 of 85 stations that are already in compliance with ADA. The MTA receives $1.8 billion in annual assistance from various FTA formula grant funding programs. Most of these funds are eligible to be programmed to pay for for ADA station or vehicle equipment purchases.
The FTA will announce Notice of Funding Availability some time soon. This is an opportunity for the MTA and other transit agencies around the nation to apply for a share of the $333 million under the new national competitive All Stations Accessibility Program. Funds can be used to pay for station rehabilitation work, including elevators, ramps, along with visual or audible aids to assist riders in accessing the system. The deadline to apply will probably be Sept. 30, 2023. The program will total $1.75 billion over five years.
The NY MTA could also ask any major business, college or hospital who benefit from many of the 472 NYC Transit subway stations adjacent to their facility to sponsor installation of elevator(s). Let them split the cost 50 percent with the MTA NYC Transit in exchange for naming rights to the elevator(s). This could stretch both federal and local MTA dollars to bring even more stations into compliance with ADA.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for New Jersey Transit, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, NYC Transit bus, subway and Staten Island Railway, Long Island and Metro North railroads, MTA Bus, NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry along with 30 other transit agencies in New York and New Jersey.