Twenty-two-year-old Malaysia Goodson was in New York City on a shopping excursion, along with her one-year-old daughter Rhylee, making her way to the subway platform at 53rd Street and 7th Avenue with the infant and stroller in her arms. Like a vast majority of subway stations in New York City, this one did not have an elevator. In a nightmare scenario, Goodson fell down a flight of steps and onto the platform, to her death.
Goodson’s baby survived and is in stable condition. Medical examiners have yet to declare whether the fall itself or a separate medical condition was the cause of death; her family had informed authorities that she had a thyroid condition that may have triggered the fall.
Dismal Record of Accessibility in Major International City
The young mother’s death has brought international attention to an accessibility issue that New Yorkers and its visitors have been contending with for years. New York City literally has the worst subway system in the entire world in terms of accessibility: only about 25 percent of its stations have elevators that allow people with medical conditions, injuries, disabilities, strollers, and other needs to access the subway platform from the street. For comparison at the national level, Boston and Chicago both have subway systems as old as New York’s — but both cities’ metros have about 70 percent accessibility.
Only a quarter of the subway system is accessible, keeping thousands of elderly and disabled NYers from the system and leading to horrible incidents like this. Riders deserve a specific time frame on the agency’s plans to achieve full accessibility. https://t.co/ipZoxu48J8
— Gale A. Brewer (@galeabrewer) January 29, 2019
What’s more, stations in New York City that do have elevators are unreliable, with elevators facing an average of over 53 breakdowns each year. The city has tried to fill in its accessibility gap with its “Access-a-Ride” paratransit service but, it’s notoriously unreliable. Many of its riders complain of hours-long waits or cars who fail to show up at all, making it difficult for the elderly, disabled, or injured to arrive on time for work and appointments. This critical public service barely gets more than a star on Yelp, with many of its reviewers sharing horror stories of their family members’ experiences.
Changes Are Afoot for Subway Accessibility
Andy Byford, the current head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is currently pushing a plan to update the transit system so that by 2025 no rider will have to travel more than two subway stops in order to access an elevator. As of today, some stations are up to ten stations away from another elevator, making it impossible for riders to utilize the subway system without taking significant detours through other modes of public transportation.
Alex Elegudin, NYC @MTA's first-ever accessibility chief, is working to make the city's #subway more #accessible for those with disabilities. https://t.co/orNVP35CkM
To give back in your community visit https://t.co/1SjAtCxNS1.#volunteer #community #livablecommunities pic.twitter.com/XJRLFFbrra
— Create The Good (@createthegood) January 16, 2019
Alex Elegudin, Byford’s appointee for accessibility, noted that Byford has expressed interest in an overhaul of the system that includes full accessibility rather than incremental changes, which was how management had addressed those issues in the past. (Elegudin, himself, is in a wheelchair.) “That has changed. We need to do it fully and quickly and for everyone. That’s become the new conversation and the new standard we’ll be held to,” said Elegudin to the New York Times last summer.