Not-so-rapid transit: CTA says disability access will take 20 years to complete

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- 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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