Accessible NYC Transportation

By The Slatin Group
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There’s a phone number every visitor to New York City needs to know: 511. This toll-free call will connect you to a wealth of information on everything about getting around in the NYC Metro area, including mass transit and road traffic conditions, and is also the number to call with a complaint about service. For some basics on getting around the City, see the information below.

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MTA Bus Photo: Molly Flores

Accessible NYC Subways and Buses

There are a number of ways to travel around New York City, including via the City’s mass transit system. Every public bus is equipped with wheelchair lifts and seating; elevators provide access to about 25 percent of NYC subway stations. For official accessibility information, visit the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Guide to Accessible Transit.

Access has gradually increased across the subway system, which now has 225 elevators that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These elevators can, however, be out of service on any given day, which means it is essential to get real-time updates on what’s working. Note that a number of these stations have AutoGate access (an automated subway entrance and exit), and that the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue stop has entrances and platforms accessible by ramp.

Accessible NYC Transportation Apps

Practiced wheelchair commuters encourage visitors to look elsewhere than official City and State web sites or apps for this information. Victor Calise, a wheelchair user who is also commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, suggests two apps that keep a close eye on real-time elevator outages and other important transit info:

Wheely NYC is a privately built mobile app that not only keeps score of elevator outages but also shows, via Google Maps, where accessible entrances are. That’s especially useful because these may not be at the same location as pedestrian entrances.

• For a more official source, Calise recommends irideNYC, developed by the New York City Department of Transportation.

Other official resources include those from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the New York State authority that oversees the entire mass transit system. The MTA also maintains a list of these stations and a host of valuable information about accessible travel on its screen-reader-accessible website.

The agency strives to post up-to-the minute elevator and escalator operational status on both its website and mobile site, web.mta.info

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For those who prefer to use the buses, the MTA has produced bustime.mta.info, an app that keeps track of how soon your bus will arrive.

Access-A-Ride

Visitors who desire more personal service have public and private options, starting with the Access-A-Ride program. Like the mass transit system, this is managed by the transit authority. Out-of-towners who wish to use it will need to get started well before coming to the City and can learn how to apply at web.mta.info.

Taxi nyc Photo: Joe Buglewicz

Accessible NYC Taxis

Then there are New York City’s famous yellow taxis. According to the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), there are some 1,800 wheelchair-accessible yellow cabs in use citywide, and another 800 of the green cabs, which serve only Upper Manhattan and the other boroughs. All of these cabs may be hailed on the street, but there is also a dispatch program for acquiring accessible yellow cabs throughout Manhattan. The TLC says that will become citywide by year-end. For more information, visit the TLC’s web site at nyc.gov. A few items of note:

Accessible Dispatch allows visitors with disabilities to request wheelchair-accessible taxicabs. To use the service, call 311 from within the five boroughs; call the dispatch center at 646-599-9999; text a request to the dispatch center at 646-400-0789; use Accessible Dispatch’s mobile app, WOW Taxi (available in iTunes and the Google Play store); or book online at ridecharge.com.
Arro and Curb are other taxi-hailing apps that work with the TLC. Both are available in iTunes and the Google Play store.
• At NYC airports, wheelchair users may go to the front of the taxi line and request an accessible cab, which dispatch will provide. AirTrain (to JFK and Newark) is accessible as well.
• Taxicabs have Braille and raised lettering on the back of the dividing screen between driver and passenger.
• The interactive screens now ubiquitous in the taxi fleet also offer audio information about your trip, including the driver, taxi number and fare.
• Hearing induction loops are available in some cabs, particularly in the Taxi of Tomorrow model (the Nissan NV200).


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