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Transit funding to improve accessibility for people with disabilities

Disabled man in wheelchair outdoor in the sun

Transit in the USA should become more accessible very soon with almost $2B being distributed to travel agencies across the country.  

This is all due to the passage of new bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

“We’ve never had a separate fund set aside for disability access improvements for mass transit stations,” Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth told CBS News. “This is really significant. We are going to see real improvements very soon.”

According to the Federal Transit Administration, about 20% of all transit stations in the USA are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because they aren’t accessible to people with disabilities. It’s a problem that Duckworth, who is a double amputee, knows all too well.

“I still to this day can’t ride the subway in New York. I can’t ride the L in Illinois, in Chicago, I can’t get around on it very well because half the time there may not be an elevator,” she told CBS News, explaining, “I tried accessing the subway in New York once and could not get on because the elevator was not working, and the next one didn’t have an elevator — or the one after that.”

The bipartisan infrastructure measure sets up a $1.75 billion five-year grant program for transit and commuter rail agencies to make their stations more accessible, and it is based on legislation Duckworth introduced earlier this year.

Her proposed ASAP Act requested $10 billion over 10 years to help legacy transit systems like those in New York City, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C., to begin the expensive work of upgrading stations after tremendous financial losses from decreased ridership numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m going to come back and the other $10 billion over the five years after that — I’m not done yet,” she said.

The program is just a small part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that also demands accessibility improvements at Amtrak stations and a permanent disability advocate on the Amtrak board of directors.

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