Working together to elevate transit accessibility

MTA and New York City Department of City Planning are collaborating to update the city's zoning regulations to help achieve systemwide accessibility more quickly and at lower costs.

Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility is a City-wide zoning proposal that will help make more subway and railroad stations in NYC accessible, and do so faster and cheaper.

We’re working with the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP), the New York City Council, and the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities on this initiative.

Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility

The current situation

State of the system

Not enough transit stations in New York City are accessible. Out of 493 total subway and Staten Island Railway stations, there are currently 136 accessible stations (28 percent). Among all commuter rail stations in our system, 68 percent of Metro-North Railroad (MNR) stations and 86 percent of Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) stations are accessible.

How we make stations accessible

We invest money from our capital plan to renovate and remodel stations to make them accessible to riders of all abilities. But these projects take time to develop and require massive amounts of funding. We allocated $5.2 billion in our 2020-2024 Capital Plan toward station accessibility, a historic investment. Still, that will only be enough to make another 70 stations accessible. Elevators are incredibly expensive, and these projects often run into unexpected and costly obstacles, like unmarked utility services buried beneath streets and sidewalks. 

Current zoning regulations

Under current zoning regulations, developers build station elevators and other improvements for the MTA. But these programs are limited in scope and restricted to small parts of the city like Lower Manhattan and Midtown.

A solution

Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility will expand the areas in which MTA and DCP can work with real estate developers to build and create a new program where they can leave space in their developments for us to build an elevator or other station access point in the future.

Transit Easement Certification

  • Developers must consult with MTA to determine whether an easement (space) is needed in their development site to provide a new station access point.
  • Only applies to development sites adjacent to a station.
  • MTA would use easements to build an elevator or stairs in the future.
  • Lowest density residential areas are exempt from easement certification.
  • Zoning relief would be provided to the developer, possibly including:     
    • zoning floor area exemption,
    • modified parking requirements, and/or
    • flexibility with other zoning requirements.

Transit Improvement Bonus

  • Expands areas in which transit improvement zoning bonus applies, creating more opportunities for developers to build elevators and station access points for the MTA.
  • Developers in qualified areas may qualify for up to a 20% density bonus to help offset the cost of building improvements for the MTA.
  • Applies to development sites within a certain distance of a station.
  • Each bonus application requires its own land use review and approval.
  • Accessibility improvements achieved at no cost to the MTA.

This change is good for everyone

People with mobility disabilities: Every additional accessible station makes it easier for folks with mobility disabilities to explore and enjoy their city. Currently, a person with a mobility disability often must take a convoluted, circuitous route to make what should be simple trip. Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility would help reduce those indirect routes and make public transit an easy, convenient option for everyone – which is what it should be.

Senior citizens: There are about 1.2 million seniors in New York City. More elevators will help seniors run errands, see loved ones, and hit up their favorite City destinations.

Families with young children: Parents and caregivers with their kids around in strollers can get some relief with more elevators. Carrying strollers up and down stairs is not easy even with perfect conditions. If the stairs are slippery or there’s a sudden deluge of passengers, it’s even worse. More elevators mean more parents and young kids able to enjoy the city.  

All transit riders: We’ve all been in a crowded station at rush hour. More access points to a station typically means less crowded entrances and exits and better passenger flow. Also, elevators can be used by anyone, like riders carrying heavy or bulky packages or those with temporary injuries who might struggle with the stairs.

MTA: Elevators are expensive, and we face a number of big challenges when we build them on our own: available funding, enormous costs related to relocating buried utility services, and finding space on the sidewalk, to name just a few. With this program, MTA will be able to decrease the costs of making a station accessible, saving the taxpayers money. And we’ll be able to do it more quickly.

 

What you can do to help

Explore this website. Read up on the parts of this that interest you. And contact your local representatives in city government and your community board and let them know you support Zoning for Accessibility.

Next steps for us

Zoning for Accessibility will go through a formal land use review process starting this Spring. That means it will be reviewed by Community Boards and Borough Presidents, and hopefully get the approval of the City Planning Commission and the City Council. In the meantime, we’re trying to spread the word and let everyone know the importance of Zoning for Accessibility for our customers.