Most (but not all) MTA subway stations will be fully accessible by 2055 under class action settlement agreement

June 23, 2022
The agreement will see the MTA steadily invest in station accessibility efforts that will average out to about 10 stations per year for the next 33 years.

Nearly three million New York City residents either live with a disability, are over the age of 65 or navigate the city’s transit system with a stroller for young children. With 131 out of 493 subway and Staten Island Railway stations fully accessible, using one of North America’s largest transit networks becomes much more challenging for residents to fall into one or more of these groups.

A class action settlement agreement announced by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on June 22 between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and accessibility advocates will see MTA accelerate its efforts to make 95 percent of its subway stations accessible by 2055.

The governor’s office says the agreement will resolve two class action lawsuits Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, et al. v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, et al. No. 153765/2017 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.) and De La Rosa et al. v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority et al. No. 19-cv-04406 (ER) (S.D.N.Y.)), and is subject to court approval, a notice period where class members will have the opportunity to comment, and a fairness hearing.

"No New Yorker should have to worry about whether or not they can safely access public transportation," Gov. Hochul said. "This agreement between the MTA and accessibility advocates is a critical step towards further expanding accessibility in our subways and serving the needs of New Yorkers with disabilities.”

MTA’s 2020-2024 Capital Plan includes $5 billion for station accessibility projects. Last December, MTA said it was using a “modernized approach” to delivering capital projects to achieve ADA improvements. The MTA has completed accessibility projects at 15 subway stations across four boroughs since 2020; the authority has awarded contracts for another 22 stations and has an additional 13 station projects in procurement.

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, "Even during the dire financial crisis brought on by the pandemic, the MTA prioritized accessibility, leading to the completion of 15 accessibility projects. There will be 81 more projects in progress by the end of the 2020-2024 capital plan, which includes a historic $5.2 billion dedicated to accessibility upgrades. These commitments, combined with recently enacted zoning that incentivizes private developers to incorporate station accessibility projects into their buildings, will help us achieve a fully accessible transit system much faster than ever before imagined."

The agreement terms will see MTA add elevators or ramps to create a stair-free path of travel at currently inaccessible stations. Under the agreement, MTA has committed, subject to extensions of time based on funding commitment caps and other contingencies:

  • To procure contracts to make accessible 81 stations by 2025;
  • Another 85 stations by 2035;
  • An additional 90 stations by 2045; and
  • 90 stations by 2055.

"This is a seminal moment for accessibility in the New York City transit system. For far too long, the MTA and accessibility advocates have appeared at odds over a goal that we in fact share, making the transit system fully accessible. This settlement is not just the unveiling of a gameplan, but the start of a closer collaboration between the MTA and advocates to achieve our shared goal, to ensure that everyone has the ability to ride mass transit without needing to plan around accessible stations,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer and Senior Advisor Quemuel Arroyo.

NYC Transit President Richard Davey added, "Millions of New Yorkers rely on accessible stations to get to their destination daily, and currently have to travel farther and for longer to get to an accessible station. It is our job to make this a thing of the past, providing as seamless a commute as possible for all riders by continuing to increase the number of accessible stations in the subway system."

Advocates from the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Bronx Independent Living Services, Harlem Independent Living Center, Disabled In Action New York and others offered their praise of the agreement noting it marks a historic day and a move toward universal access to transit.

"This settlement builds on decades of disability rights work, by countless advocates, activists and allies. People like Rise and Resist Elevator Action Group, rallying at every hearing, from courthouse steps to MTA board meetings -- you all made a difference,” said Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, who uses a wheelchair. “We're grateful, humbled and can't wait to ride together."

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.