URBAN NATION: Ensuring Fair Transit Options for the Elderly and Disabled – Next American City

A couple of months ago I injured my foot and was treating myself, in a manner of speaking, to a ride on each of the elevators at the Brooklyn Bridge /City Hall subway station. I waited with a young man in a wheel chair and as we speculated as to whether the elevator was working, I suddenly thought, “How does he get upstairs if the stupid thing is broken, as it so often is? I could limp upstairs with a broken toe, but he really would be stuck.”

So I asked him what he does, and he said that he goes back downstairs and takes the subway another stop or two  (or more) until he finds a station with a working elevator. Then he  gets back to where he has to go, some way or another: by wheeling himself if it’s close enough (from Canal Street to Chambers Street for example), or he finds a bus stop and waits for a wheel chair accessible bus with room for him, or sometimes he just goes home. This, of course, can only add a lot of stress to a handicapped person’s life and makes commuting to a job even more tenuous.  Unfortunately,  the challenge to fill in the gaps in accessible public transport remain.  The Mayor of New York recently announced that the taxi of the future, as discussed in this story by Ben Adler in Next American City, (relationship disclosure – Ben  is my son), does not have to accommodate wheel chairs,  representing an  opportunity missed.  London is leading the way by example – 100 percent of taxis in London are accessible.  On the other hand, most of us remember when the city buses did not accomdate wheelchairs and there were no elevators in the subways at all- evidence that progress is being made.

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2 Comments on “URBAN NATION: Ensuring Fair Transit Options for the Elderly and Disabled – Next American City”

  1. alexsommer June 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    This is definitely one of NYC’s dirty little secrets, and something that many cities face. Urbanists and density-lovers alike often suggest that proximity to services can help our seniors and person’s with disabilities, but we are not all so lucky to live in elevator apartments above full-service grocery stores next to our job sites and doctors. Originally hailing from Florida, I know first-hand that our senior citizens often find it easier to drive their private vehicles directly from their house to parking lot. I find my brownstone stoop amazing and an integral part of the community, but a family member with a walking disability sees it as Mount Everest; a painful and tiring ascent. As we continue to add bike-lanes, focus on transit-oriented development, and encourage multi-story walk-ups (aka contextual R5-R7 residential districts without parking), we need to make sure we don’t push out our family and friends with special needs. This is the beginning of a wonderful discussion and should totally receive a lot more attention into the future!



  1. Walkers (the living non-zombie ones): part 2 | PlaNYourCity - July 11, 2012

    […] out different walking experiences depending on their moods, desires, health, and economic status (Beth’s broken toe, as an example). I believe Sam is therefore just one example of a mode of walking, and while his […]


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