Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Against wheelchair lifts

This had to happen. A column in the Glen Falls, N. Y. station says what many were thinking about the list of proposed Amtrak stimulus projects. Ken Tingley figures 19 people use the Fort Edward station every day.

He also dissects improvements at every small town station in New York state.

But Sen. Schumer seemed to think this is key to reviving our economy.

“This critical funding will ensure that our Amtrak rail systems across the Adirondack/North Country are safe, accessible and up to date for the people who depend on them,” Schumer was quoted in a press release.

You mean all five of them?

This is the type of stuff that drives me crazy.

This is the type of stuff that scares the living hell out of me when I think of all that stimulus money in the hands of people so ridiculously lacking in any common sense.

Some of this money is being spent on wheelchair lifts and disability access to make the train stations compliant with disability access laws, but is that what the stimulus money was intended for? Will it help turn our economy around?

Schumer has been here seemingly dozens of times, but I’m guessing he never arrived by train at Fort Edward.

Who has?

Some thoughts.

The list of Amtrak projects was compiled by Amtrak, so it seems a bit unfair to nail the Senator with it.

Maybe Mr. Tingley is in a wheelchair, maybe not. I am not and can not imagine what it must be like. There is an Americans with Disabilities Act. It was passed by the people’s representative body in the Congress and signed by (if I remember correctly) a Republican president (Busy 41(. ADA is the law of the land and I presume Amtrak was sued by somebody injured getting on or off a train without proper equipment. Hence, I am imagining that Amtrak is “on the hook” for these improvements.

I’ll bet the people who make those lifts think it is a stimulus.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Regional USA Passenger Rail

3 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    I urge you to borrow a wheelchair from somebody, or pick one up on craigslist and try it out for a day. More specifically, try taking a train into one of those small towns without a means of getting on/off the train in a wheelchair. Then consider writing an article with your findings.

    Access improvements are unfortunately deemed by many as non-essential. However in order for wheelchair users to live productive lives (i.e. get and hold down jobs, thus reducing their reliance on government financial support), it is necessary to create incentives for making access changes.

    Additionally, I think many wheelchair users would consider using the trains if they were made more universally accessible, which might contribute to your apparent mission to increase train usage. Here’s why:

    -When flying, wheelchair users must surrender their chairs upon boarding the plane, risking damage to the chair and requiring others to assist with boarding / deplaning. This is very costly to the airline industry. On a train, it is possible to remain in one’s own wheelchair.

    -Local/Regional transportation in the U.S. for non-driving wheelchair users is sparse and expensive, if existent at all. Even in large areas like NYC, the accessible taxi service is minimal and inefficient compared to the subways.

    Unfortunately your view regarding access improvements is all too common. It’s like the owner of the ice cream store I was trying to get to once, but couldn’t because it had steps outside. I suggested that he get a ramp so wheelchairs could get into his store. “But I never see wheelchairs in my store! Why would I spend that money?” he said.

    All I could say was “Of course you never see wheelchairs inside your store, because they can’t get inside in the first place!” Then I left and spent my money somewhere else.

  2. patlynch says:

    Dan, I agree with you completely.

    I think the editorial cited was questioning the need for improvements at all the smaller stations. Of course, those necessary facilities to handle wheelchairs have been ignored for decades.

    Amtrak should benefit greatly. This is a marketing opportunity if all the people who use wheelchairs are aware of the wide availability of equipment to safely handle them in even the smallest stations.

    Again, I am on your side.

  3. Joe says:

    I agree with Dan, and as a recently laid off architect, I can tell you that accessibility upgrades do keep some architects and builders employed. Also, one thing I noticed about a lot of the money on accessibility in the list I saw for Amtrak is that much of it if for detectable warning strip at platform edges – the yellow strip with bumps (what we call truncated domes). These assist people who are vision impaired but that probably includes older folks with diminished eyesight as well as blind people who use canes to get around. I would also like to see what percentage of the funds is actually for accessibility upgrades, vs. the $750 million for a Sacramento station area real estate project.

    But one thing that is apparent in the ADA accessibility guidelines is that accessibility for trains is heavily regulated, while there are almost no codes regulating the accessibility of airplanes and intercity buses. Ever been on an airplane that had the space of several seats reserved for a wheelchair? No. Airlines do make accommodations for passengers who use wheelchairs, but I read an article once that sais that a person in a wheelchair has to changes chairs several times to get on a plane – his wheelchair goes into checked baggage, then he changes to an airport wheelchair, then to a rolling chair that can fit into a plane, then into the fixed airplane seat, then in reverse to get off the plane. Obviously the airline lobby was successful in preventing any sort of standard from being part of the ADA, while a quasi public corporation with minimal funding and a publicly mandated mission to uphold could not do that.

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