The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the Boston Center for Independent Living signed an Amended Settlement Agreement that sets forth updated achievable goals in the MBTA’s plan to bring about a more accessible transit system.
Originally signed in April 2006, the MBTA/Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) Settlement Agreement called for sweeping improvements in the form of over 200 commitments and obligations to improve the MBTA’s fixed-route accessibility for people with disabilities.
Since the Settlement Agreement was entered into in 2006, the MBTA has worked collaboratively with the BCIL and the Independent Monitor, retired Judge Patrick King, in taking a systematic approach to address outstanding accessibility obligations.
Over a decade since the Settlement Agreement was entered into, many of these commitments have been fulfilled, including:
- The development of the MBTA’s Department of System Wide Accessibility in 2007;
- New and more reliable elevators (50 new elevators have been added to the system with 10 more under construction and 60 additional elevators currently in design) with enhanced design standards;
- An entirely accessible bus fleet with updated bus operator training, and continued emergency preparedness.
The MBTA has also proactively worked toward accessible initiatives beyond the scope of the Settlement Agreement, including:
- Digital Beacon Pilot: The MBTA piloted the use of Bluetooth "beacons" installed on bus stop signs along two routes to aid riders with visual impairments. These beacons transmit a signal to users of the BlindWays app, translating into voiceover narration and cell phone vibrations, with vibrations becoming more intense as a user approaches the beacon located at the bus stop;
- Priority seating signage with high-contrast colors, tactile lettering, multiple symbols, and clearer language to be installed across all modes;
- Ongoing Wollaston Station improvements, which, once complete, will make the Red Line 100% accessible;
- Identifying and prioritizing repairs for accessibility barriers at all MBTA stops and stations.
Going forward, the process and timeline for evaluating and achieving the compliance of the settlement’s remaining obligations will be streamlined with the MBTA directly submitting a report to the independent monitor every six months with terms that have been fulfilled.
Additional commitments are also currently underway and in various phases of completion. These commitments include, among others:
- Ensuring that customers with non-apparent disabilities are granted requests for assistance;
- Continued customer assistance at stations;
- Addressing issues with alternative service if an elevator is unavailable;
- The development of accessibility design standards, and;
- The installation of elevators directly connecting the Red and Orange Lines at Downtown Crossing.