Greater New York Council of the Blind
A chapter of the American Council of the Blind of New York;
An affiliate of the American Council of the Blind
Follow-Up from New York City Transit
March 13, 2020
First, we would like to thank you and your group for organizing the two meetings we attended in February. We had a great time presenting to your group
and learned a lot about how to ensure that our system is accessible to customers who are blind or low-vision. Below you will find follow ups from the meeting
outlining details about subways, buses, and Access-A-Ride. While we covered a great deal of information during the meeting, and did our best to research
and answer all the questions that came up, we could not cover everything in this follow-up email. We encourage everyone to reach out to us with any additional
questions, comments, or concerns that they may have at
Tactile Warning Edges:
Currently, over 350 stations across the system have a tactile warning strip. NYCT is currently working to create a plan for installations for tactile warning
strips at the remaining stations. Working closely with our partners at MOPD and the community, we are working to identify priority stations where this
feature would benefit high numbers of blind/low-vision customers, such as 23rd St on the C/E lines. If you feel there are additional stations that should
be prioritized for installation, please email us and provide a brief explanation as to why this station should be prioritized. If you would like to know
whether a specific station has a tactile edge or a plan for installation, please reach out directly and we're happy to look into that specific station.
During the meeting, several people raised concerns about the challenge of navigating a station not knowing if the station has an island (single) platform
or two side platforms. Some people requested a list of platform types for the entire system, which would be a hard list to provide as many stations have
multiple platforms and conditions can change over time. Again, if there are specific stations where it would be helpful for you to know the platform configurations,
please let us know and we can provide that information.
Accessible Station Lab:
In October 2019, we launched our Accessible Station Lab. The Station Lab, located at the Jay St-MetroTech (A/C/F, R) station, tested over a dozen accessibility
features designed to make subway travel easier for everyone. The features included several wayfinding apps designed to assist blind and low-vision travelers,
tactile guideways, braille signage, and two types of tactile maps. While the formal evaluation period is over for the lab, many of the features are still
in place, and we encourage people to check out the lab and learn more about the features we tested
Please share your feedback with us once you have tested the features.
We have taken the request for a "door opening" noise back to our Car Equipment team, and are researching how other systems such as the Chicago Transit
Authority tackle this issue. Specifically, we are looking at ways to incorporate door opening information into the train arrival announcement for new car
classes. Stay tuned for updates on this.
As we move towards newer car classes, there are more automated announcements in general, which are clearer and more reliable. We are also working on having
more automated announcements that will inform customers if the train will be running express or local or if the train will be running on another line.
We understand the importance of announcements and will continue ensuring every subway car has clear announcements that help people of all abilities navigate
In 2017, New York City Transit introduced the Wayfinder program, in which select stations staff roam our busiest stations during the busiest times to provide
customer assistance on a range of issues. Wayfinders can help you plan a trip, navigate a service disruption, or even locate the turnstiles and swipe your
MetroCard. The schedule for where and when you can find Wayfinders changes regularly as we allocate staff where they are needed most, but they are generally
at our busiest 20 or so stations, across the boroughs, from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. They are often found near staircases or escalators, and you can often recognize
Wayfinders by their NYCT hats and orange vests. If you are looking for a Wayfinder and cannot find one, or just generally seeking assistance, we always
recommend going to the 24 hour station booth. Booth agents can help you or locate a Wayfinder in the station if there is one available.
The Wayfinder program is specific to New York City Transit subways. Long Island Railroad has its LIRR Care Program.
This program is specifically for customers who use mobility devices or have limited mobility and would like assistance to board or exit a train. If you
need assistance on LIRR, you can call the number on the LIRR Care page at least 2 hours before your trip, and they will arrange to have a staff member
at the station to assist you, at any time on any day. They also provide real-time assistance on-site at Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, and Jamaica Station
from 6:00am to 10:00pm daily. You do not need to call ahead for assistance at these stations.
We received a number of questions about OMNY, the new fare payment system that the MTA is in the process of rolling out. You can learn more about the system,
how it works, and where it is currently available at
OMNY is already available at more than 150 subway stations and on Staten Island buses, and we are constantly working to improve the system and welcome
your feedback. Specifically, there was a question at the meeting about how blind and low-vision riders know whether their tap was accepted or rejected
via OMNY. This system, like MetroCard, gives audio feedback after you tap your device, and has distinct sounds for acceptance or rejection of your payment
method. The screens were also designed with large-text and high color contrast in mind, and you can see screen examples on the website. We did test this
extensively with a diverse community of users, but if you find that the tones are not audible or easy enough to distinguish, or screens are difficult to
read, please let us know.
We are also currently working with our partners at the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities to test the website for screen reader access, and have
this in mind as we roll out new website content and our forth-coming app.
Finally, OMNY is currently available for full-fare, pay-per-ride trips, with free transfers at OMNY-enabled subway stations, bus routes, and Staten Island
Railway locations. If you use a time-based or Reduced-Fare product, we recommend you continue using your MetroCard, which will be available until 2023.
Time-based and Reduced-Fare products will start to roll out next year. Please note that all programs including Reduced-Fare will still be available with
OMNY, we are just transitioning from MetroCard based payments.
The DOT is rolling out Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) poles equipped with audio buttons at bus stops across the city over time. These buttons provide
bus route, direction, and upcoming arrivals in audio form. There are currently 365 installed citywide. By the end of July 2021, there will be about 550
poles at bus stops with these buttons. If there are specific stops you feel should have these buttons, contact your local elected official to push for
Digital Information Screens/External Announcements:
To date, 1,750 buses in the existing bus fleet have been retrofit and almost 1000 new buses have been delivered with Digital Information Screens and automated
stop and other audio announcements that match what is on the screen. This brings the total number of buses with these new screen and announcement systems
to more than 2,700, which is just under 50% of the total fleet. The screens are being rolled out in phases, and each phase includes buses and routes allocated
across all 5 boroughs. The next phase of the retrofit program will add the Digital Information Screens to more than 1,000 additional buses, including 645
local buses and almost 400 express buses.
External bus route and destination announcements automatically sound when the front bus doors open (for example, "This is the M20 to South Ferry"), on
buses with the Digital Information Screens. Between the hours of 8PM and 7AM, the volume is lower to reduce noise pollution but the announcements are not
turned off. Bus operators do not have the ability to turn off the screens or automated announcements. If you are on a bus that has screens and they are
not working, or the automated announcements are not working, that may be due to a malfunction with the technology. Please let us know if you are on a bus
that has screens and announcements if they are not working, and include the bus number so we can follow up. In addition, please let us know if you are
on a bus without automated announcements and the bus driver is not making manual announcements. All bus operators are instructed to announce stops when
they do not have a Digital Information Screen, but we can always reach out and retrain individual operators. You can find the bus number on a small braille
sign behind the bus operator cabin or to the left of the rear door.
Select Bus Service (SBS) Buses:
During our conversation about buses, some people indicated that it is hard to differentiate a Select Bus and a local bus, and to find the off-board fare
payment machine for Select Buses. While we cannot provide the location for every single SBS payment machine, you can find a list of all SBS buses and the
stops that they make on our website here:
Again, if you have a question about a specific stop, just let us know and we can get you more information.
The next phase of the on-demand pilot is set to start in early April. We will be communicating to customers in the pilot in the coming weeks about how
to enroll in phase 2 of the pilot. Since there will be a $15 limit on the subsidy MTA provides on each trip in phase 2, we will provide upfront pricing
for customers in the pilot. The apps will let the customer know the trip price before booking, so the customer knows how much they will be expected to
pay and can make an informed decision about the trip. Customers will also be limited to 16 subsidized trips per month. We are also looking to service all
five boroughs in the next phase of on-demand service.
AAR dedicated pickup locations:
We followed up with NYPD about issues with vehicles blocking the designated AAR spot in front of the Heiskell Library, and they are aware of the issue.
However, we encourage group members to also follow up directly with NYPD, DOT, and your Community Board if this issue continues - direct outreach is the
fastest way to get resolution on this site-specific concern.
The AAR team spoke to both Curb and CTG (our main brokers) about pick-up and drop-offs at Selis Manor and emphasized the importance of communicating to
the drivers the exact location of the facility. We are doing additional field observation and phone surveys on this location to ensure pick-ups and drop-offs
are made correctly. Please let us know if you continue to have problems at Selis, with your specific trip information, so we can follow up with any individual
vendors and their drivers.
Call out and assist service:
We are also doing a broader push with our brokers on the importance of call out and assist service. We are doing more field surveys to ensure drivers call
out and assist where required and asking customers about this specifically in our daily phone surveys on broker service. We are also emphasizing call out
and assist in training for broker drivers. We are making this a focus area for all brokers and hope that our outreach and driver training will get through
to more and more drivers, especially as they do more AAR trips. Again, please reach out if you have issues with call out and assist on individual trips.
We've covered a lot of ground in this follow up, and would encourage you to check out our
Accessible Travel Guide online for more information on the accessibility features of our subway, bus, and AAR systems. The Systemwide Accessibility team also sends out a regular e-newsletter
with updates, which you can subscribe to by sending us your name and email address.
Thank you again for your time and interest in working with us to build a more accessible transit system. We look forward to providing more updates and
answering your questions.
All the best,
The NYCT Systemwide Accessibility and Access-A-Ride teams
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