A reporter brought this page to my attention. It is a page off of the MTA website for the LIRR (Long Island Railroad.) To be honest, since I never travel to Long Island, I didn’t know it existed. However, I do have some friends who travel on the LIRR and they have confirmed that this is true. They have seen this with their own eyes.
Apparently, the MTA is quite aware of the gap issue with their trains. In fact, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, they even offer the following to their “mobility impaired customers”:
“Mobility impaired customers may enlist the help of a train crewmember when boarding or exiting trains. A sturdy, steel bridge plate can be placed across the gap for easy movement on and off trains. Mention your destination to train crewmembers so that they can provide you with assistance when exiting the train.” -MTA Website*
Now, this is only available on the wheelchair accessible train stations on The LIRR (Long Island Rail Road), because obviously what is the point of getting off at a train station, that a person in a wheelchair would have no way of exiting, but the fact remains that the MTA offers a ramp (the “sturdy, steel bridge plate”) PLUS mobility assistance to their LIRR customers who request this.
I was chatting about this with my mother (who lives in Connecticut). She frequently takes the MetroNorth (which is also run by the MTA) into New York City, and she has seen it many a time, where they get out this portable ramp, and make sure the person in a wheelchair gets on and off the train safely.
Which brings me to the question : If the MTA is aware that the gap is sometimes a problem for their mobility impaired customers, then why don’t they offer this on the Subways?
Of course, I can only theorize as to why the MTA would do this for some but not all of their customers, and do that by looking at what are the differences between subway services and the train service of the LIRR and MetroNorth.
1.) Having a reduced fare card, I pay $1.10 (one way), while the reduced fare for the LIRR customer can range from $3.50 to $12.50 (one way, depending on where their going) (source: mta website**)
Is it possible that because the MTA makes more money off of the LIRR customer - even when it’s reduced fare, and as a result, because customers are paying more money, they get a bit more service?
To that I would argue that safety is not a luxury service. Safety should be basic. It should not be something you get if you’re paying more for your ticket.
The other difference that comes to mind is
2.) The frequency of trains. Subway trains simply run more frequently then the trains of the LIRR and MetroNorth. I know when I used to live in East Norwalk, CT (which was a pretty big/popular stop), I could catch a train once every hour, and that was a big deal. Certainly compared to Danbury, CT where the trains ran every 3 hours. A subway (which of course varies per day and by line) will typically come once every 10 minutes.
Thus the odds are, that MTA employees would have to pull out the ramp more frequently then they would for the MetroNorth / LIRR.
One might think that this would slow down the subways and thus effect service.
However, it is without a doubt that it would take far less time for a properly trained MTA employee to pull out a ramp for a customer in a wheelchair, than it would if said customer were to get stuck (between the subway car and platform) and then people have to first get the customer unstuck. (Which does happen, and has happened to me many a time.)
Furthermore, the customer in a wheelchair (who uses the designated wheelchair accessible stations) deserves a safe and smooth entry onto the subway car! Does a person need to get seriously hurt in order for this to change?
Now, of course these are just theories, and I am in no way saying, these are the reasons. That being said, why the MTA does not offer mobility assistance and ramps to their NYC Subway Customers is something that needs to be explained and needs to change.