For 34-year-old Dustin Jones to head up to East Harlem to see a friend, he first has to travel downtown.
He would first take a 3 train from Penn Station downtown to Fulton Street, where he can transfer to a northbound 5 train that will take him back uptown to East Harlem.
“We’re going downtown because the elevator on 125 on the west side is notoriously out of service and I really don’t wanna chance that,” he said.
What You Need To Know
- Last summer, the MTA and disability advocates, who sued the agency, reached a settlement that would make the subway system at least 95% accessible by 2055
- The settlement covers two lawsuits — one in state court, one in federal court — that must be approved by judges
- Another lawsuit over the MTA's maintenance of existing subway elevators is still pending
Jones is a Queens native who has used a wheelchair for 12 years.
He sued the MTA with a coalition of activists in 2017, claiming the agency violates the city’s Human Rights Law by not providing them with the same access to the transit system as everyone else.
Now, just a quarter of the 472 stations across the five boroughs are accessible.
Last June, both sides agreed on a settlement that covers the state lawsuit and a federal one over accessibility.
The agency said it would spend billions of dollars to make at least 345 more stations accessible by 2055 — that would mean access at 95% of the subway system.
Quemuel Arroyo, MTA’s chief accessibility officer, called it a historic agreement.
He said in a statement that “no agency has ever made a stronger commitment to making its entire system accessible for all riders.”
A federal judge in Manhattan on Friday approved the settlement, saying that he recognized that this would be difficult for the MTA to accomplish in a century-old subway system and that the right result had been reached. A state supreme court judge must also approve the settlement at a hearing later this month.
“We have to make sure everything is working in order for us to move around the city and then if things are not working, we then have to find our own way, on how to reroute ourselves. So, I can’t wait for the day to come where that’s no longer a thing,” Jones said after Friday’s hearing.
Jones says he’ll be in his 60s by the time the MTA builds all the elevators promised but believes the improvements will be worth it for the next generation.
There is another suit in federal court, which Jones is a plaintiff in as well, that is still unsettled.
The complaint accuses the MTA of failing to maintain the elevators that are already in the subway.