Much like its efforts to revitalize the MBTA’s systems and assets, the organization has made thousands of advancements to make public transportation more accessible than ever.  -  Photo: STV

Much like its efforts to revitalize the MBTA’s systems and assets, the organization has made thousands of advancements to make public transportation more accessible than ever.

Photo: STV

Over the past two decades, Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has progressed leaps and bounds in terms of improving accessibility for local citizens.

Much like its efforts to revitalize the MBTA’s systems and assets, the organization has made thousands of advancements to make public transportation more accessible than ever.

Stepping up Accessibility Efforts

According to the CDC’s census statistics, 1,348,913 adults in Massachusetts are currently living with a disability, which is equal to about one in four people, or 23% of the state’s total population. This high percentage makes accessibility absolutely critical to the state’s infrastructure, which is why the MBTA — fondly known as the T — has rolled out so many initiatives to improve the overall inclusivity of its regional transit system, serving 78 municipalities in Massachusetts.

As this important work continues year on year, here are five accessibility initiatives at the MBTA that underscore the organization’s commitment to building a fully accessible system in the future.

1) Elevator Replacements

One of the key ways the MBTA is driving positive accommodations for wheelchair users and other individuals with disabilities is through replacing existing elevators with accessible ones.

In 2023, the MBTA constructed more than 75 new station elevators that are fully accessible, with another 55 elevators in various stages of design and/or funding approval. These small but impactful replacements have already made some of the MBTA’s busiest stations more accessible for riders.

Launched in September 2023, the MBTA launched a first-of-its-kind marketing campaign called “Access in Motion” aimed at promoting awareness of accessibility and its benefits for all riders.  -  Photo: METRO Magazine

Launched in September 2023, the MBTA launched a first-of-its-kind marketing campaign called “Access in Motion” aimed at promoting awareness of accessibility and its benefits for all riders.

Photo: METRO Magazine

2) Other System-wide Improvements

Furthermore, other system-wide initiatives are being prioritized based on a number of considerations.

Factors such as the severity of existing barriers, overall ridership at a given station or stop, and an improvement’s “readiness” (or how quickly and easily it could be implemented) inform which of the following initiatives are most critical. For instance, improvements like automatic door opener installations, accessible parking expansion, detectable warning system installations, and sidewalk, ramp, or stairway installations and repairs have all been made in the past year to improve overall efficiency. These and other system-wide improvements will continue to be rolled out in 2024 based on priority.

3) Access in Motion Campaign

Launched in September 2023, the MBTA launched a first-of-its-kind marketing campaign called “Access in Motion” aimed at promoting awareness of accessibility and its benefits for all riders. In collaboration with MBTA riders with disabilities, the campaign’s main objectives include:

  • Communicate that accessibility improvements benefit everyone.
  • Raise awareness about key accessibility policies and services.
  • Share accessibility updates the MBTA has made over the past 15 years and future updates in progress.

People can see the efforts of “Access in Motion” in action while riding the T, where longtime advocates from the Riders’ Transportation Access Group are featured through advertisements in vehicles, stations, and online. These ads relay helpful “Did you know?” straplines, allowing riders to be educated about the MBTA’s accessibility initiatives and raise awareness across the board. For example, one ad reads: “Did you know? Our employee training includes perspectives from real riders with disabilities.”

4) Piloting Accessible Wayfinding Technology

Another accessibility initiative at the MBTA are the plans for the piloting of accessible wayfinding signs and technology improvements.

This would potentially include the implementation of a smart app that riders can utilize to find their way more easily through complex stations. Plus, with information available on IoT smart devices, riders can access real-time data on public transport schedules and delays, which can be extremely helpful for seamless trip planning.

5) Addressing Platform Gaps

Last but not least, the MBTA is also conducting a comprehensive investigation into existing platform gaps on the T’s Orange Line.

Riders — and especially those with disabilities — have expressed concern over the amount of space between the platform and the car on the Orange Line, citing it as dangerous and difficult. Thus, the MBTA is looking into ways to resolve this concern, which may include expanding the platforms so they more readily flow into the cars without the need for riders to exude any additional physical effort or strain.

According to the CDC’s census statistics, 1,348,913 adults in Massachusetts are currently living with a disability, which is equal to about one in four people, or 23% of the state’s total population.  -  Photo: MBTA

According to the CDC’s census statistics, 1,348,913 adults in Massachusetts are currently living with a disability, which is equal to about one in four people, or 23% of the state’s total population.

Photo: MBTA

MBTA Embracing Inclusivity

The MBTA is a model for other public transportation systems in the U.S. that are striving to build more inclusive communities.

With efforts such as accessible elevators, educational marketing campaigns, wayfinding technology, and other system-wide improvements being made, the MBTA is making progress to remove barriers to mobility. By embracing diversity, the MBTA is working to create a future where every individual, regardless of their abilities, can navigate the world with dignity and independence.

About the author
Lottie Westfield

Lottie Westfield

Contributing Writer

Lottie spent almost a decade working in the public transport sector before taking a step back to focus on her growing family. She has since rediscovered her teenage passion for writing and enjoys contributing to a variety of publications, both print and online.

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