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How We Set Up Our Accessible Station Lab

Updated Jan 27, 2020
We tested new accessibility features designed to make subway travel easier for riders of all abilities in a “living lab” environment in one of our Brooklyn stations.

We tested more than a dozen new features at New York City Transit’s Accessible Station Lab. Riders gave us feedback on physical infrastructure and smartphone apps designed to make subway travel easier for everyone, including people with vision, hearing, mobility and cognitive disabilities.

The pilot program was a “living lab” at Jay St-MetroTech Station in downtown Brooklyn, a busy transfer hub. We tested new floor treatments, tactile signs and maps, audio navigation and more. All of the physical features we tested remain in the station until further notice.

Why We Chose Jay St-MetroTech

We picked a busy station with multiple lines, entrances and levels so riders could really test the new signs, floor materials and more. We wanted as many people as possible to give us feedback, so we chose a station with elevators and lots of activity nearby.

Going Beyond ADA Accessibility Requirements

Jay St-MetroTech is an ADA-accessible station with elevator access to all three platforms. With the Accessible Station Lab, we wanted to demonstrate accessibility features beyond just elevator access.

Accessibility is about much more than ramps or elevators, and these features are designed to make the subway more accessible for riders across the spectrum of disabilities.

Why We Tested Many Features at One Station

Many featured we tested represented different approaches to achieve similar goals. We tested:

  • Multiple wayfinding apps for blind or low-vision riders
  • Four different materials for tactile guideways and stair warnings
  • Several types of signs
  • Two types of tactile maps

We wanted to be able to test and get feedback on features in the same environment, to compare their experience and tell us what worked best.

As part of the Fast Forward plan, we are committed to installing more elevators and new features like the ones we tested to help riders of all abilities access the transit system more quickly. The innovative approach of the Accessible Station Lab allowed us to try many features at one time to support this goal. Seeing features perform in the same environment helped us best evaluate their suitability for use across our system as well as their effectiveness in assisting our customers. 

Deciding Which Features to Test

We started by identifying some of the biggest needs and challenges for subway riders with disabilities. We talked with hundreds of advocates and subway riders with disabilities. Then we surveyed transit systems around the world to see how they are tackling these issues.

For example, tactile guideways are very common in Japan, while the Aira app is currently being tested on the MBTA in Boston. We incorporated as many features in the Accessible Station Lab as we could, and we’re exploring ideas for more testing in the future.

Have an idea for how to make our transit system more accessible? You can share it with us via email at accessibility@nyct.com, through our online form, or by calling 511.

Deciding Which Features Were Successful

Customer feedback was key to evaluating each feature in the pilot. We wanted to know not just which features customers liked, but which were the easiest to understand, which they would use most often, and which they felt need improvement.

We also did our own review. How did the new materials hold up to wear and tear in a busy station? Were new features easy or difficult to clean? How can they be maintained? We also checked app performance and reliability, along with how well the apps could integrate into our unique transit environment.

We are now working to analyze all of the feedback we received, from customers and teams across NYCT. The analysis will show us what worked best, and in what ways we can continue to develop useful tools for riders.

How People Participated

We invited riders and advocates to visit the Accessible Station Lab and to give us feedback in person or online. We also emphasized that many of these features could make transit easier for riders who don’t identify as someone with a disability. Our team was onsite to talk with riders and evaluate the performance and operations of these features as well.

Tell Us What You Think

Riders’ feedback was crucial to the Accessible Station Lab. We still want to hear from you. To provide feedback on the transit system, including accessibility features, email us at accessibility@nyct.com, use our online form, or call 511.