MTA’s New Chief Accessibility Officer Doesn’t Think All Subway Stations Need Elevators


Regardless of a precarious monetary scenario going into the brand new yr, the MTA has created a brand new high place: Chief Accessibility Officer, reporting on to Chairman Pat Foye. The brand new position will probably be stuffed by Quemuel Arroyo, the previous head of accessibility on the NYC Division of Transportation.

Former New York Metropolis Transit President Andy Byford created an analogous place in 2018 with the primary senior Advisor for System Huge Accessibility, and employed Alex Elegudin to report back to him. Arroyo, who makes use of a wheelchair, will probably be liable for accessibility throughout the MTA, together with Metro-North, Lengthy Island Railroad, and Transit.

Arroyo’s job would require him to steadiness being an advocate for the accessibility neighborhood, which frequently requires nothing lower than full accessibility, and a consultant for MTA management, with all of its monetary and bodily limitations.

However not like his predecessor, who backed Byford’s bold accessibility plan for making certain riders won’t ever be greater than two subway stops from a station with working elevators, Arroyo mentioned the MTA wants to consider alternate options, like ramps.

“I don’t assume saying that each station doesn’t require elevators is controversial in any respect,” Arroyo advised Gothamist. “Elevators break, that’s simply the truth, and I do know that ramps by no means break.”

Presently, about 29 % of the MTA’s 472 subway stations are accessible, or 135 stations (though 9 of those are solely partially accessible). The MTA had hoped to create 70 newly accessible stations by 2024, earlier than pandemic losses compelled the company to place its capital plan on maintain.

The MTA has regarded into ramps up to now, however in Manhattan anyhow, there usually isn’t sufficient area.

Advocates aren’t in opposition to Arroyo’s plan, however say they’ll proceed to push to create a subway community that’s totally accessible to everybody. “It is a civil rights concern and I believe individuals with disabilities need to have the identical entry to the subway as individuals with out disabilities,” mentioned Jessica Murray, the chair of the advisory committee for transit accessibility at New York Metropolis Transit and an organizer with the group Rise and Resist Elevator Motion Group.

It’s additionally a authorized concern.

“The MTA is preventing our lawsuits as in the event that they by no means heard of the American With Disabilities Act. And as in the event that they’ve by no means heard of the New York Metropolis Human Rights Legislation,” mentioned Joe Rappaport, Govt Director at Brooklyn Middle for Independence of the Disabled (BCID) and a plaintiff in three lawsuits in opposition to the MTA over its lack of accessibility.

“They’ve made no actual effort to settle the lawsuits, in any respect, and so they’re attempting to pull this out eternally, so far as anybody can inform,” he added. Rappaport mentioned he’s hopeful the appointment of “Q,” the nickname mates and colleagues use for Quemuel Arroyo, is an indication the MTA would possibly take one other method. “However to this point, when there’ve been different accessible advisors on the New York Metropolis Transit, that simply didn’t occur,” Rappaport mentioned.

The MTA has a historical past of being sued for not putting in elevators when making repairs or upgrades to a station. The company has usually mentioned it prices an excessive amount of and isn’t possible given the age of the stations and complex possession of road area.

Arroyo confirmed to Gothamist that he would weigh in on the continuing lawsuits, however wouldn’t remark particularly in regards to the instances or how he’d advise MTA legal professionals.

The continuing concern of tips on how to scale back the price of the Entry-A-Experience program will even fall on Arroyo to navigate. Earlier than the pandemic, the MTA had deliberate to curtail the favored e-hail program. Now this system’s future stays up within the air. Arroyo says he doesn’t continuously use Entry-A-Experience, however prefers to experience the subway.

The MTA at present has about 20 initiatives so as to add elevators in both the planning or building section.

Arroyo, who beforehand labored on the DOT for six years, and in addition labored on new accessibility initiatives on the Jay Avenue station, mentioned he desires to make use of expertise to assist riders. For instance, discovering a approach to make use of bluetooth expertise to tell riders with listening to issues about service modifications similtaneously different riders.

“New Yorkers with disabilities have received an enormous battle at present by getting their voices, their experiences represented on the desk on the most senior stage on the MTA,” Arroyo mentioned.