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Friday, January 8, 2016

Chicago's CTA Announces Next Step Toward Making its Rail System 100% Accessible - 'after 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act'

from a Press Release | Jan. 7, 2016
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)

CTA Announces Next Step Toward Making its Rail System 100% Accessible
New program will devise blueprint for making remaining stations wheelchair accessible within next 20 years

As part of Mayor Emanuel’s ongoing commitment to improve accessibility throughout the City of Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) today announced a new initiative that will establish a blueprint for making the nation’s second largest transit agency 100 percent accessible over the next 20 years.

During Wednesday evening’s ADA 25 Chicago celebration, CTA President Dorval Carter introduced plans for the creation of the new CTA Strategic Accessibility Program – a first-ever, comprehensive plan that will outline both short-term and long-term initiatives to make the CTA’s rail system fully ADA accessible over the next 20 years and plans to either repair and/or replace existing rail system elevators.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in the last 25 years, which has only been possible thanks to the strong commitment from Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago, as well as the involvement of the disability-rights community,” said Carter. “We do, however, recognize there is still more work to do and the creation of this new program will help map out a path for CTA to deliver on this commitment two decades from now.”

Over the next year, a working group consisting of City of Chicago, CTA, ADA and disability community members, architects and others will be responsible for outlining a high-level cost estimate and schematic schedule for achieving the goal of 100% accessibility – all of which will be dependent on funding. As part of this program, CTA will conduct public outreach to solicit feedback from the general public and disability community, which will be taken into consideration before the report is finalized sometime in early 2017. 

Nearly 70 percent of CTA’s 145 rail stations are currently wheelchair accessible. Of the 46 stations currently not equipped with elevators, many are well over a half-century old, built well before the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.  More than half of those stations are expected to receive ADA improvements in the coming years as part of larger capital improvement projects, including:

·         Wilson Station Reconstruction project
·         Red and Purple Modernization project
·         Your New Blue project to improve the Blue Line O’Hare Branch
·         Blue Line Vision Study for the Blue Line Forest Park branch
·         New Washington/Wabash station on Loop ‘L’
·         Retrofitting the historic Quincy Loop ‘L’ station with new elevators and other ADA compliant features.


While this is great news that finally the City of Chicago, and its transit agency the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has developed a plan for accessibility, of course the question of why it took so long for at least a plan to be developed. 
ABC7 Chicago has been doing reports on this, below is current the announcement.

Did You Know?

For people with disabilities, Illinois ranks near the bottom of all 50 states for quality of community living, education and employment.
ABC7 I-Team Investigation
By Chuck Goudie | January 7, 2016

Two months after the I-Team exposed dozens of CTA stations in violation of federal access laws, transit authority officials have new plans to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

There will be nothing rapid about the transit stations' overhaul. CTA officials say it will take 20 years for the agency to be 100 percent compliant with the ADA.

By the time the CTA is 100 percent compliant, the ADA will have been in effect for 45 years.

That means scenes like this will continue for two decades at some CTA stations where there are no elevators or escalators.

"Whew there's a lot of stairs," said Kenetha Robinson, a CTA passenger.

What the I-Team discovered was an uphill battle for passengers at dozens of L stations across the city. There are 146 CTA train stations - 100 of which are accessible in compliance with the ADA, which became law 25 years ago. That leaves 46 stops with no elevators.

"We agree 100 percent with our customers that all rail stations should be fully accessible to our customers. That's a goal. We've been working on that for a very long time," said Tammy Chase, CTA spokesperson.

The announcement Thursday makes it clear they will continue working on it for a very long time. Even though the ADA became law in 1990, this is the agency's "first-ever comprehensive plan" to abide by it. The "CTA Strategic Accessibility Program" will make the rail system fully ADA accessible over the next 20 years and plans to either repair and/or replace existing rail system elevators.

Among them is the Clinton Blue Line station downtown, an antiquated stop with no elevator and lots of stairs that even able passengers struggle to access every day.

"The Blue Line is super convenient from my house but this stop is always such a pain. I'm already kind of huffing and puffing and I'm in decent shape," said Rebecca Hinsdale, a CTA passenger.

Even though dozens of CTA stations are not accessible to people with disabilities, CTA officials say they have actually met every ADA requirement the past 25 years. In a statement late Thursday, CTA officials said that accessibility projects are complex and long-term and that full accessibility will take time.


We are fully committed to making CTA's entire rail system fully accessible, which is why we are developing a plan to update the CTA stations that are not currently fully accessible.

We are in compliance with the ADA standards, but we are committed to do more for those in need of accessible stations and continue to push for funding to make those improvements.

We're pleased that, under Mayor Emanuel, nearly 70 percent of our stations are now accessible, but we won't be stop until we reach the goal of 100 percent. When Mayor Emanuel took office, 94 out of CTA's 143 rail stations (66%) were accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. At the end of his second term, 105 stations will be accessible, with several others in the process of receiving accessibility improvements.

Making our system fully accessible will take time, for many of the reasons you noted in your story about the Clinton station. Accessibility projects are complex, long-term undertakings that require appropriate funding levels. Our stations are unique and require customized approaches that factor in their unique characteristics. And, many stations more than a half-century old with many pushing 100 years, long before engineers and planners contemplated modern accessibility standards.

We continue to work closely with disability community to identify priorities and develop plans to reach our goal.

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