Uphill battle: One-third of CTA stations not disability compliant

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff via WLS logo
Thursday, November 19, 2015
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The ABC7 I-Team looked into why one-third of CTA 'L' stations still do not have elevators.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team looked into why one-third of CTA 'L' stations still do not have elevators, making it difficult or impossible for some passengers to get to and from the trains.

The I-Team received complaints about dangers due to limited access at the Clinton Blue Line station downtown, an antiquated stop with no elevator and lots of stairs.

CTA officials say they are aware of these issues and are working to make all CTA train stations fully accessible, but passengers say they are losing this uphill battle.

Kenetha Robinson is a regular CTA rider, but says she usually avoids the Clinton stop.

"I only do it when I have to transfer to Metra because this is the one closest to Union Station but this one has the most stairs," Robinson says. "There's no handicap accessible. There's nothing!"

The I-Team received complaints from passengers about problems they have navigating these steep stairs at the Clinton stop. Over the past few months we visited the station numerous times to watch people come and go.

"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," says rider Rebecca Hinsdale.

We witnessed dozens of people struggling to carry their suitcases. Some had a hard time just walking up so many stairs. One man slipped and almost fell while carrying his child in a stroller.

"This is the closest station to the Amtrak line," says Kath Rooney, a tourist. "It's an easy walk here but an elevator would be very helpful for those of us with suitcases and of course those who can't use the stairs."

Elevators at two nearby stops were out of service on the days we inspected. Tourists visiting from London say they couldn't believe there was no elevator at the station.

"We were walking around," says Imogen Ptacek, "and there were just stairs going up."

There are 146 CTA train stations - 100 of which are accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, 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," says CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase. "That's a goal. We've been working on that for a very long time."

CTA says funding and space constraints are obstacles, especially at the 57-year-old Clinton station.

"It would need significant work and reconfiguration to accommodate an elevator and meet all of the safety and zoning codes," says Chase.

But even some newly renovated stations, such as the Blue Line Damen stop, have limited access to the platform and no elevator.

"Because it's surrounded by historic properties, because the layout of the station, it's nearly impossible to do without acquiring properties around," Chase says.

An elevator is being added at the Addison station, part of an $8-million modernization project.

"We have to prioritize which stations we can make accessible next," Chase says. "It depends on federal funding, state funding."

Many passengers told the I-Team the Clinton stop should be a priority based on its proximity to the Greyhound, Amtrak and Metra stations.

"It seems pretty logical that this station would be a priority to make easily accessible," Hinsdale says.

"We recognize customers do have difficulty. We do understand. That's why having an elevator at every station is so important," says Chase.

The Americans with Disabilities Act required that key stations be accessible by certain years and the CTA met those requirements.

Local advocacy groups continue to push CTA to become 100 percent accessible.

Plans are in the works to modernize all 12 stations of the Forest Park Blue Line branch, including the Clinton stop, but those upgrades could be many years away.