Assemblyman Dinowitz Celebrates New Law to Promote Equitable Selection of Subway Accessibility Improvements

The newly signed law from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and State Senator Andrew Gounardes establishes public criteria to select subway stations for ADA accessibility improvements

New York, NY – The fight for full compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) throughout New York’s subway system has surely taken a hit from the COVID-19 economic crisis, but it will move forward in an equitable and transparent method thanks to just-enacted legislation from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. The new law, which was also carried by State Senator Andrew Gounardes, requires the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to develop and make publicly available criteria to “determine how to best prioritize subway stations for accessibility improvements.”

These criteria, which were developed in conjunction with disability advocates and transit riders with disabilities, must include at minimum:

  • citywide geographic coverage,
  • transit transfer options,
  • annual ridership volume,
  • census tract data for senior and disabled populations and percentage of those populations in poverty,
  • residential density of surrounding neighborhoods; and
  • proximity to medical centers, schools, parks, business districts, cultural hubs, and senior centers.

The current MTA capital program for 2020-24 went into effect on January 1, 2020 but it has been paused by the MTA due to a dramatic reduction in MTA revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The future of this capital program is dependent on the delivery of federal relief funding for the MTA and the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as currently described it includes $5.2 billion for station accessibility efforts in New York City Transit subways and Staten Island Railway. The new criteria will ensure that any modifications to the 2020-24 capital program as well as all future capital programs maintain the equitable practices that are currently used by the MTA to determine where station accessibility improvements are made.

The enactment of this law is described as a key step forward in the fight for full subway accessibility. Dinowitz and Gounardes also carry another bill (A7753/S6150) that would codify key elements of the Fast Forward subway action plan from former NYCT President Andy Byford, including a timeline for complete station accessibility in all 472 subway stations operated by the MTA. Under the proposed bill, the MTA would have to make accessible 50 stations in the 2020-24 capital program, and 130 new accessible stations in the 2025-2029 capital program, and the remainder of subway stations would need to be completed in the 2030-2034 capital program. That legislation, which has already garnered the support of at least two dozen Assemblymembers, would also improve elevator outage communications, facilitate the provision of accessibility information to third-party smartphone apps (such as Google Maps or Apple Maps), mandate full-accessibility for any major station work that lasts longer than six months, and other key elements to help riders with disabilities gain equitable access to mass transit.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D - Bronx) said: “Although our fight for full mass transit accessibility is long from over, I am very proud to have secured this victory to ensure that future MTA decisions on subway station accessibility continue to be made in an equitable and transparent way. There are simply too many New Yorkers who are being left behind by inaccessible subways, especially in communities like those in the north and northwest Bronx, and for too many years. Along with State Senator Gounardes and all of the advocates who helped shape these criteria we will continue to work towards progress, but today I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law.”