Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast. People with #Disabilities and #Accessibility of the New SF #BART Rail Cars
Recently, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART revealed the new design for their rail cars. Considering that BART has probably the oldest fleet currently in use, many feel it is “long past time.” The new car design includes improved air conditioning, new announcement systems, LCD screens showing track and train information, color coded seating to better identify senior and disabled seats, bike racks, a third door for better people-movement in and out of cars…some great improvements.
However, one new innovation has raised concerns among the Bay Area’s people with disabilities… a pole located in the central open area in front of the doors and near the wheelchair area. Their specific concern is that this would potentially decrease wheelchair accessibility. Especially during high traffic periods. People would tend to “stake out” the center pole, crowding the pathways making it difficult for people in wheelchairs to move on to and off of the new cars.
Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco had this to say:
I really believe that people with disabilities have the right to move freely, particularly on public transportation. But this new design, particularly the pole in the entry area, is going to cause people with disabilities to often times not be able to board crowded trains, and when we are able to board, we are going to do it having to apologize, doing it with less dignity than the previous model.
In response to concerns, the transit agency said they moved the pole six inches away from the wheelchair access space, increasing the width of the path to 49 inches and has raised the point where three tripod branches meet the pole by 3 to 4 inches to eliminate “pinch points” for wheelchair users. In addition, they have changed the floor design to embed a wheelchair symbol in the floor to remind customers to yield that area to people in wheelchairs and added colored decals on the poles to increase contrast and make them more visible for visually impaired riders. They are also planning to test removal of poles in some locations.
That sounds like some good faith changes. In particular, I like the colored decals on the poles. Have rammed myself into the poles on Washington DC’s Metro a few times, those would be a nice addition.
BART also stated on its website that, “We also plan to actively remind customers to step aside to make room for wheelchair users to more easily enter and exit the train, especially when conditions are crowded.”
Okay, having been on DC’s Metro during rush hour I know exactly how useless that is and can personally attest to having to wait for 3 and 4 trains to pass before I can get on with my dog. I can squish my dog into some pretty tight places, I can’t quite picture a power wheelchair as something particularly squishable.
I can’t say that I believe announcements alone will address that particular concern. But it sounds like BART is listening.
Of course, it would have been better if the design hadn’t already gotten to this final stage before accessibility concerns were raised. An interesting point that Lorenz brings up in an article is that although BART claims to have sought out and received community input from both seniors and people with disabilities, she can find no local organization that was a part of any public process regarding feedback to the design of the new cars. In addition, several members of the BART Accessibility Task Force stated that they were never asked to vote on anything surrounding the new cars. Just something to ponder.
So….in the grand scheme of things, what does this mean? When people think of policy, they usually think of Federal legislation or regulations, judicial decisions, state budgets. However, policy is also in everyday issues relating to “design” and often, these can have far reaching implications. New York City’s choice in the design of their taxi cabs, not choosing an accessible model. Which would have a significant disparate impact on people with disabilities and of course, lead to a federal lawsuit. BART’s choice in rail car design, considering that their current fleet includes cars that are almost 40 years old, will impact people with disabilities, and all riders for a long time to come.
As always, I encourage you to read and come to your own opinion. Links are available in the comments. This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.
Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright. Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty Twelve Records.
Jessie Lorenz Audio Clip from Liam Gleeson’s “Bay Area Views” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4znV0jW_Qks
New BART car design prompts concern from disabled community – http://www.dailycal.org/2014/04/29/new-bart-car-design-prompts-concern-disabled-community/
BART unwraps future of transbay travel – http://sfbay.ca/2014/04/18/bart-unwraps-future-of-transbay-travel/
New Train Car Project – http://www.bart.gov/about/projects/cars
ILRCSF’s Executive Director Jessie Lorenz Continues Advocacy to Address Access Barriers with New BART Cars of the Future – http://www.ilrcsf.org/blog/2014/05/ilrcsf-advocacy-access-bart/
Judge approves city’s push for wheelchair-accessible cabs and 30-cent surcharge – http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/judge-approves-push-wheelchair-accessible-cabs-30-cent-surcharge-article-1.1941591