MTA officials unveiled a new elevator at Penn Station today, pledging that it will improve access to and from the Long Island Rail Road. Three existing elevators at the station serving the 1, 2 and 3 trains have also been replaced.
“This is particularly important for me as a New Yorker with a disability,” MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo said at a press conference. “Now more than ever, that demand for our accessible features like elevators and ramps is the highest it's ever been because accessibility is truly universal.”
Penn Station is among New York City's busiest mass transit hubs; more than 9 million people passed through its subway in 2021, according to the most recent data available from the MTA.
The MTA has pledged to make 95% of the city’s subway system accessible over the next three decades as part of a settlement from two class-action lawsuits brought by people with disabilities and advocacy groups.
MTA officials and disability rights organizations alike have acknowledged sluggish progress toward accessibility in the subways.
Jean Ryan, one of the plaintiffs and president of the group Disabled in Action, said that any new elevators were a positive — though they would only benefit a fraction of people who needed access.
“If you live in a part of New York City where there are no elevators on the subways, or no subways at all, you’re not going to be even able to get to Penn Station,” she said. Ryan, who uses a wheelchair, said she has not been on the subway since 1994.
Cara Liebowitz, advocacy coordinator for Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, said elevator maintenance and proper signage should also remain top of mind. Liebowitz, who identifies as mobility-disabled, primarily uses a wheelchair.
“I have almost missed trains trying to find elevators in Penn Station, and I grew up going back and forth to the city on the Long Island Rail Road,” she said. "I know what I’m doing in Penn — especially if I’m in a less familiar area of Penn to me, sometimes I still can’t find the elevators.”