Report: Many MTA subway riders with disabilities still denied access

Close to six million New Yorkers ride the subways daily. But a new report says too many are still denied access. NY1 Transit Reporter Jose Martinez filed the following report.

As straphangers sweat out a miserable summer, the MTA is feeling the heat from millions of unhappy riders, including those with limited access to the struggling subway system.

Not even a quarter of the city's 473 subway stations are accessible to riders with disabilities.

"With all the train delays that are happening now and people getting stranded at stations, finally everybody else is realizing what we've felt for the last, you know, 30, 40 years here." Chris Pangilinan, the program director of Transit Center.

According to "Access Denied," a new report by the watchdog group Transit Center, ten percent of the 248 elevators in the subways are out of service on an average day.

That is a huge, sometimes insurmountable problem for riders in wheelchairs.

"There's times when I have to go further away from my destination to come all the way back because the elevators are stuck," said one straphanger in a wheelchair.

"This makes taking the subway a game of Russian roulette for those of that depend on elevators," Pangilinan said.

The MTA has set aside more than $1 billion through 2019 to make 25 more stations accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Critics say that's not enough.

"Every day, we hear about MTA funds going to places that the MTA should not be funding," said Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris. "Well, here's something they should be funding."

The demands come as the MTA has pledged to improve Access-a-Ride, the bus and van service for those who can't use the subway.

While riders pay $2.75 a trip for that service, Transit Center says the cost to the MTA of each ride is closer to $70. Some of that spending could be eliminated if more stations are renovated to make them accessible to the disabled.

"The name of the game today is make elevators great, period," said Dustin Jones, the founder of United Equal Access.

Just one more challenge for the head of the beleaguered MTA, who has pledged to unveil a plan next month for modernizing the subways.

When new MTA Chairman Joe Lhota delivers his promised list of the agencies' most urgent capital needs, advocates for the disabled hope that accessibility upgrades will be very high on that list.

"It should absolutely be at the top," said one woman in a wheelchair.

In a system with a pile of problems that seemingly grows daily.

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