For the first time ever, New York City Transit will have a dedicated accessibility chief.
On Monday, NYCT President Andy Byford announced the appointment of Alex Elegudin as Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility. He’ll be tasked with overseeing and implementing the Fast Forward Plan initiative to expand accessibility to subway and bus customers, as well as improve Access-A-Ride service.
Elegudin, a longtime accessibility advocate, will serve as MTA NYC Transit’s innaugural Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility, an executive-level position reporting directly to President Byford. His first day on the job is Monday, June 25.
“Advancing the cause of accessibility is one of my top priorities and Alex’s new role will pull together all of our accessibility-related work streams, touching all Fast Forward projects and all NYC Transit departments,” President Byford said.
“I’m incredibly excited to be joining President Byford’s executive team,” Elegudin said. “The vision set forth in the ‘Fast Forward’ plan will make NYC Transit work better for New Yorkers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on improving accessibility quickly. I look forward to being a part of making the plan a reality and helping to make New York City the most accessible city in the world.”
“Expanding accessibility is a priority for all MTA agencies, with the subway serving millions of people a day having particular urgency,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who has convened a special working group of MTA Board members to advise on improving accessibility. “President Byford’s creation of this new position and Alex’s appointment are a victory for all of our customers who need more accessible subway, bus and paratransit service.”
ABOUT ALEX ELEGUDIN
In 2003, when Elegudin was an undergraduate in college, a deer-related car accident led to a spinal cord injury, and today Elegudin uses a wheelchair. After his injury, Elegudin continued his studies, receiving a J.D. from Hofstra University Law School, passing the bar exam and becoming a patent attorney while also pursuing a successful career as an accessibility advocate.
In 2011, Elegudin co-founded Wheeling Forward, a non-profit organization with a mission to help people with disabilities to integrate into the community by learning to overcome barriers. In 2014 he co-founded the Axis Project, an innovative multidisciplinary center specifically designed to empower and motivate people with disabilities. In 2015, Elegudin became the Accessibility Program Manager of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission.
Elegudin was awarded, along with Wheeling Forward co-founder Yannick Benjamin, as 2017 Person of the Year by New Mobility magazine. He received the Association of Academic Physiatrists Public Service Award in 2017, and was a NY1 New Yorker of the Week in 2015.
A 34-year-old Brooklyn resident, Elegudin commutes via express bus and Access-A-Ride.
ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY AND THE FAST FORWARD PLAN
Currently, 118 stations are wheelchair accessible, and 25 more are currently in progress to become so. Nearly $5 billion has been invested to make subway stations accessible, including $1.4 billion in the 2015-19 MTA capital program. The 2015-19 capital program also includes $479 million to replace 42 existing elevators and 27 escalators. Future capital programs will include funding for additional stations.
On May 23, NYC Transit President Byford unveiled “Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York City Transit” – which among other initiatives, proposes to add in the span of five years enough new elevators to ensure that all subway riders will not be more than two stops away from an accessible station. The plan proposes the addition of 180 elevators over the course of 10 years. The plan also proposes modernizing the subway’s signal system on a significantly accelerated timeline, redesigning the entire city’s bus network, and improving customer service and communications.
Harlem subway derailment cost MTA $3.4M in new train cars, track work: report
A subway rail improperly attached to the roadbed led to 39 straphangers getting hurt, two subway cars wrecked — and the MTA on the hook for $3.4 million.
That’s the conclusion of an MTA probe into the June 27, 2017, derailment of an A train in Harlem.
Most of the expense of the crash — $3.1 million — was what it cost to replace the two cars that had to be scrapped.
The rest included $194,047 in parts and labor from the Division of Signals, $105,637 from the Division of Infrastructure and $2,144 in labor from the Division of Track.
The derailment turned a routine morning commute into hell on wheels.
Before the accident, track crews worked to replace a 26-foot piece of rail that had a defect.
To make the fix, crews cut down a new 39-foot piece of rail to 26 feet.
But they failed to properly secure the new rail to the track bed, investigators found. They stowed the unused 13-foot piece of track and another 39-foot track section in the middle of the track bed.
The southbound A train was rolling at between 20 and 25 mph when improperly fastened rails and the loose rails on the trackbed combined to trip the train’s emergency brakes.
The wheels and motors of two train cars derailed as the train slammed into a wall.
Hundreds of straphangers were forced to evacuate through dark subway tunnels.
None of the 39 people hurt in the crash suffered life-threatening injuries.
The derailment was quickly blamed on human error before the start of the rush hour. Two supervisors at the scene during the track work were suspended. The MTA did not provide an update on their suspension and employment status.
After the derailment, MTA officials checked the subway system to make sure materials were stored on the tracks safely, and that crews were instructed on procedures.
The Daily News obtained the report on the crash from the state Public Transportation Safety Board.
The MTA also investigated two derailments on the 7 line near the Mets-Willets Point station in January 2017.
Inspectors found wheel flanges on both derailed trains were so worn down, the cars slid off the tracks. Further checking revealed the flanges were worn down on half of the 7 train fleet.
Subway officials believe the flanges were worn down by a new curved section of track north of the 34th St.-Hudson Yards station that opened in September 2015, the PTSB says. MTA officials are working on a solution to that problem.
Fixing the cars and other damage of the 7 train derailments cost the MTA $50,019.
“Safety is our top priority and though these instances are very rare, any mishap is one too many,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said.
“The complete modernization of New York City Transit requires relentless attention to both physical assets and our procedures, and we’re laser-focused on improving both.”
Cuomo demands de Blasio pay $18B subway fixes
Just a few months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced the city to foot half the cost of emergency subway repairs, he is now demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio cough up more than $18 billion to help pay for long-term fixes in the system.
Cuomo said the city has the money to split the costs of a planned massive overhaul of the subway system, which is expected to cost about $37 billion over 10 years.
“Fifty-fifty. Let’s solve it. Let’s stop arguing. Fifty-fifty,” the governor said during an unrelated press conference on Thursday when asked how much the city should pay for the plan. “I don’t think there’s anything more reasonable than fifty-fifty.”
Cuomo has said that the state took over paying for the subway years ago when the city was in financial crisis, but now that the coffers are flush, it should pay its share.
City officials said the governor’s request is ridiculous.
“After failing miserably to secure a sustainable revenue source, we knew the governor would be back for more,” said de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips. “The mayor has contributed a record amount bailing out Governor Cuomo’s subway mismanagement. Rather than constantly asking for more from all our riders and taxpayers, the governor should pass a millionaire’s tax to fix the trains he’s run into the ground.”
Transit advocates skewered Cuomo’s statements, saying he’s not taking responsibility for the subway.
“Governor Cuomo controls the MTA. He also dominates the state budget process, the only legal mechanism that can raise the tens of billions of dollars it will take to fix the subway,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance. “The MTA now has a modernization plan but the governor still hasn’t put forward a funding plan for the Legislature to vote on, and riders continue to suffer through regular breakdowns and delays.”
Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon also took the opportunity to knock the governor over his words.
“Straphangers are sick of this political blame game,” she said. “It is the governor’s legal responsibility to fund the subways. Period. But instead of accepting his responsibility, Andrew Cuomo tries to place the blame on everyone else, including, now, the taxpayers.”
Cuomo and de Blasio fought for 10 months over whether the city should pay $418 million for half the cost of MTA Chairman Joe Lhota’s Subway Action Plan, a program launched a year ago to staunch delays.
Cuomo finally asked the state Legislature to pass a law requiring the city to pay and the de Blasio administration coughed up the cash.
MTA unveils new travel app for public testing
The MTA now has one app to rule them all.
A new app that covers all modes of travel at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — subway, bus and rail — was released Monday, as the agency also updated its main website to make it easier to navigate.
It details delays, planned work, service changes and real-time arrivals, while letting riders plan trips and find nearby stations. It’ll also track escalators and elevator outages.
Riders can download the app and test out the beta version — MTA officials will be collecting passenger feedback.
“This is about getting to our customers and putting information in their hands,” MTA managing director Ronnie Hakim said.
Riders who use the MYmta app will be able to buy Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road tickets by the end of the summer.
There is currently separate MTA apps called eTix to pay for commuter rail trips and Subway Time for train trip arrivals and disruptions.
The app will also let subway and bus riders use their phones to pay for trips once the MetroCard is retired.
The MTA had avoided getting into the app game — agency officials instead handed its trip data to third-party developers, leading to a proliferation of apps.
“One of the things our customers have said, they like to hear from us directly,” Hakim said. “They have a sense that there is an integrity to the data we’re providing.”
Nick Sifuentes, director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, was an early tester of the MYmta app. He appreciated how it combines helpful travel information into a single app, instead of making riders look for different apps.
“Riders, millions of them, every single day, are going to say, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know how I got around without being able to use this app for my trip planning,’ ” Sifuentes said.
The MYmta app will also get an update this summer to let people who use wheelchairs or have disabilities book an Access-A-Ride trip.
Access-A-Ride traveler John Hatchett, 58, helped the MTA test out the app and gave feedback. One feature he appreciated is that an accessibility section was included in the app, instead of a separate app.
“I really felt like we’ve been listened to about not only what’s not working but what we would like to see to make it work better,” Hatchett said.
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