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Who is safe on the subway?

A recent tragedy is highlighting the overdue need for accessibility improvements in New York's subway system.

On January 28, Malaysia Goodson attempted to carry her one-year-old daughter Rhylee inside a stroller down a flight of stairs in a Manhattan subway station. While walking down the stairs she fell and tumbled onto the platform. Rhylee survived but Goodson died from her injuries.

Accessibility accommodations are lacking

While the medical examiner is still determining if Goodson suffered a medical condition or was killed by the fall's impact, the tragic accident has left parents and disabled New Yorkers alike calling for better access to mass transit.

Only about 25 percent of the subway stations have elevators and they are regularly out of order. In contrast, Washington, D.C.'s subway system, has far more elevators despite being a smaller system.

One of the stations lacking an elevator is the Seventh Avenue station where Goodson fell. This station is a transfer point between three subway lines that span four boroughs.

Will accessibility improve?

This tragedy has drawn larger attention to the need for better accessibility in New York's subway system, which may help spark improvements.

In 2017, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) received a lawsuit that described the subway system as "one of the least accessible in the country" and alleged it violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. That case is still active.

The subway's leader Andy Byford proposed the Fast Forward plan last year to increase the rate of elevator installations and add enough that by 2025, no rider would be more than two stops from an accessible station at any time. Currently, many routes have a 10-stop gap between accessible stations. However, Byford's proposal could cost $40 billion and has not been funded.

The NYCTA operates the largest mass transit system in the country with more than 200 million riders every month. Continued inadequate accessibility leaves commuters vulnerable to injury and death.  

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