Here in New York, public transportation is integral to daily life. Most of us must descend multiple flights of stairs or hop on an escalator to get to our train, after which the whole process repeats itself on the other end and then again at the end of the day. This is all fine for young, active commuters, but anyone with a disability, injury or even a stroller can be in for a huge hassle. And compounding the issue is the fact that subway accessibility varies from station to station.
In Brooklyn, many subway riders were dismayed to learn that after a $32 million renovation, the Smith and 9th Street station still lacked complete accessibility. The station reopened in late April after the renovations, which took nearly two years.
At 88 feet above street level, the station’s platform is the highest in the world, and yet, there are no elevators or escalators that reach the very top. Instead, riders must travel up two long flights, taking the stairs or an escalator (though all of the station’s escalators are not currently operational), only to be met by another flight of 36 steps with no escalator or elevator option.
“We have escalators that take you to a certain level, then once you get to that level, it’s every man and every woman for themselves,” State Senator Eric Adams said.
What is perhaps most frustrating about this oversight is that the renovation actually removed a ramp located at the station’s entrance. Now, stairs are also the only option for entering the station from the sidewalk.
The MTA says that making the station fully accessible would be too expensive. Instead, they encourage riders to take a bus to one of the city’s nearly one hundred accessible subways. (There are 20 in Brooklyn.)
This isn’t enough for Adams, who is running unopposed for Brooklyn borough president. He wants the MTA to provide free shuttle service to the nearest accessible stop on the F/G lines at Church Avenue and has plans to speak to the members of the Senate Transportation Committee in Albany about the subway accessibility problem.
In the meantime, you can find the accessible stations on the MTA website, many of which are equipped with AutoGate, an automatic entry/exit gate that allows riders with ambulatory disabilities, wheelchairs and those accompanied by a service animal to more easily enter and exit the subway system.