Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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Expo Highlights Transportation Options for NYers With Disabilites

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Navigating the streets and the subway can challenge any New Yorker, but for those with disabilities, a series of changes are underway to help open more doors through the end of the decade. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

More subway stations with elevators, pedestrian ramps on city streets and the Taxi of Tomorrow are all in the works so more people with disabilities can get around more freely, no matter their mode of transportation.

"Look, of course, we always need to keep doing better and setting further goals for ourselves. But it's just great for people to know what is available, between buses, taxis, sidewalks, you name it," said Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the city's Department of Transportation.

So on Tuesday, the city Department of Transportation and other agencies marked Access to Independence Day. The expo highlighted available and future transportation options for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers like Dustin Jones, who gets around on the subway in his wheelchair.

"Obviously, I have to plan everything out a little bit better," Jones said. "I have to make sure that my station elevator is working. I got to make sure that my exit elevator is working as well."

That's in a more-than-100-year-old subway system where 82 of 468 stations are fully accessible, with 18 more set to meet that standard by the next decade.

Also making it somewhat easier is that the city is putting ramps for wheelchair users on almost all its curbs, up from 67 percent a decade ago. In addition, more buses are coming into service with easier boarding options.

"That's exactly what we want. The same opportunities that everybody else has. Nothing special, nothing just for us, just equal like everyone else. And that's exactly what we see coming down," said Quemel Arroyo, policy analyst for accessibility at the city's Department of Transportation. "We're really excited for those changes."

Big changes are coming to the taxi cab fleet, too, which was targeted in a lawsuit filed by disability rights advocates.

The city hopes to have half of its yellow taxi fleet accessible to people with disabilities by the year 2020. As for those green Borough Taxis, the hope is to hit the 50 percent mark by 2024.

It's a job with a price tag, though, with taxi riders set to get a 30-cent fare increase in the coming months to help fund accessibility improvements to the fleet.

"Becoming accessible, making a more accessible city takes sort of change and adaptation on everyone's part," said Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

So all can ride.

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