The MTA last week announced the “Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility” plan, an expansion of a current zoning laws that incentivizes developers of large-scale projects adjacent to subway stations to add accessibility improvements, either in their own building or on MTA-owned property.
In return, the developer would be offered flexibility in other zoning regulations, such as floor-area ratio or parking requirements.
A smaller-scale version of the Zoning for Accessibility plan is already in use, but is limited to Lower Manhattan and Midtown. The MTA would like to see it expanded to more parts of the city.
Despite the pandemic, in 2020 the MTA updated 11 stations in the system to make them ADA compliant, the most ever in a single year for the agency. This year it plans to update nine more.
Pretty impressive, until you realize that means only 132 of the 472 stations citywide are ADA compliant.
Making subway stations more accessible doesn’t just help New York City’s disabled community, it also aids the elderly, parents with strollers, or just someone on crutches recovering from knee surgery.
The MTA shouldn’t have to rely on give-backs to private developers to make sure the city subway system is usable for every New Yorker, the money should be available to make one of the world’s largest mass-transit systems fit the needs of the 21st Century.
But if this is the only way that can be accomplished, then we say the city should give approval to the MTA’s plan to expand the program.