CTA makes progress on accessibility 20 years after law's passage

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act. Here’s a look at the progress the CTA has made in making its facilities and vehicles more accessible for those with disabilities.

Bus fleet

  • In 1990, buses were not wheelchair accessible, and there no automatic voice or visual announcements.

CTA bus wheelchair ramp.JPG
  • Today, the entire fleet of almost 1,800 buses accommodates
    wheelchairs by ramp, and feature wheelchair securement areas. Plus,
    there are automated voice announcements, and LED signage on all buses.

Rail stations

  • In 1990, just 11 of 142 rail stations (8%) had elevators to the
    platforms. Stations had no gap fillers to bridge the space between the
    platform and rail cars to allow for wheelchair boardings.
  • Today, 91 of 144 stations (63%) have elevators or ramps to the
    platforms. All stations have gap fillers, plus tactile edging and
    customer call buttons. The Midway branch opened with accessilbe stations
    in 1993. And since then, station work made stations accessible on the
    Green, Pink and Brown lines.
  • Elevator work continues at the Cermak Red Line station and will be
    complete by the end of the year. The Grand/State Red Line station rehap
    will provide elevator access by 2011.

Rail cars

  • In 1990. only about a quarter of 1,200 cars had sliding doors and
    flip seats that could accommodate a wheelchair. There was no Braille
    signage nor automated voice announcements.
  • Today, all trains have cars accessible to wheelchairs. Most of a
    designated wheelchair securement area. And all rail cars have Braille
    signage and automated voice announcements

Clearly, there’s more to do though. The CTA is testing the new Series
5000 rail cars
. More than 400 are under contract. Each car will feature
two wheelchair securement areas and LED signage at both ends. All old
CTA rail cars with accordion-style doors will be replaced by the new

Without capital funding, odds are long for the approximately 50 rail stations not currently accessible to be rehabbed. We should continue to press both state and federal lawmakers for more money.


Leave a comment
  • Aside from the more money point in the last paragraph is the chicken and egg situation. There is a federal requirement that if a station is substantially changed, it has to be made accessible, yet a number on the Dan Ryan got work but were not made accessible (Garfield, 63rd, 87th), so I guess it depends on how substantial the work has to be.

    The chicken and egg is whether a station was made accessible because it was upgraded, or the upgrade was to make the station accessible. Some of the Ravenswood only portion of the Brown Line seems to have been touted as the latter.

    Of course, both are needed for the stations on the north portion of the Red Line, especially straightening out the tracks at Wilson and rebuilding the station there and those on the embankment portion. That should be where the thrust for the capital money should be directed.

  • Wilson's one of the few stations where I can see them being able to do a lot with relatively little money. It's the only station on the far north side with a platform that's safely wide enough for modern requirements, for one thing. Second, the station house is huge, if they'd ever resist the temptation to lease most of it out to seedy fast-food joints, so there's potentially plenty of room for improvements there. Basically, it needs a fairly modest renovation, an up escalator, and an elevator or two. Of course, if they ever decided to restore Purple Line service at Wilson, now that would be a major project.

    The rest of the far north line is a nightmare waiting to happen. The station platforms need to be wider, yet there's no room on the right of way. Sheridan is a long-term planning disaster, and they may be faced with a choice between massive demolition and outright closure of the station. And how they access the crumbling retaining walls of the embankment with all the development right up to the sides is anyone's guess.

    Oh -- and can someone please shame the CTA into actually performing regular mechanical maintenance on their trains? I've simply never seen another rail operator anywhere, not even 60-year-old rolling stock on tourist lines that run preserved steam engines, that doesn't bother to do basic things like truing wheels. This kind of stuff is essential for making the trains run smoothly and quietly and ride comfortably, and it would dramatically improve the experience of both people who ride the trains and people who live next to CTA lines. As it is, the bumpy ride and needless noise strains customers and has convinced everyone that a train line by their home is a noisy detriment to their property values. Metra offers the good example locally of what to do; the fact that a heavy diesel-hauled Metra train is substantially quieter to neighbors than a CTA train ought to be simply embarrassing to CTA managers and staff alike.

  • In reply to dblissmn:

    I have said for years that the CTA needs to use eminent domain to get the land southwest & northeast of the current Sheridan station so a new one can be built & also remove the current S curve.
    I've been laughed at & attacked online for saying that on the old Tattler site!
    There is zero possibility of adding elevators at the current station, there's no room!

  • In reply to dblissmn:

    Speaking of accessability improvements,one station that is in bad need of improvements is the Purple Line Central Street station. This station is in close proximity to the Evanston Northshore hospital and serves a large number of mobility impaired customers yet it does not have elevators. Also there has been no mention of improvements planned for the Purple Line Central Street station not even in the Red / Purple line vision proposal. WTF? Ask any employee who works at this station about people with crutches and canes struggling up the stairwells here. If anyone is reading this comment please go to the Central Street station and see it for yourself! Then let Red eye,CTA Tattler,Chicago Transit Authority,RTA and your congressman know and view the evidence themselves! In review: 1.The Purple line station at Central street is NOT USER FRIENDLY for people with mobility impairments and DOES NOT SUPPORT wheelchair access. 2.The stairs are STEEP AND DANGEROUS. 3.According to several CTA maintenance people, elevators would be relatively easy to install, the station could be RETROFITTED WITH MINIMAL HASSLE. 4.The Purple Line Central Street station is in CLOSE PROXIMITY to the Evanston Northshore hospital. Please investigate and give a holler!

  • In reply to dblissmn:

    Agree with most of the above statements, especially on the Wilson Red and Central Purple stations.

    But concerning accessibility requirements at most of the Red Line stations north of Addison, I think there is an alternate that can allow for improved accessibility, yet not endanger adjacent businesses surrounding the limited Right-of-Way. How?

    Two of those stations, Granville and Loyola, still have equally narrow platforms like their Red North neighbors, but yet are still ADA Compliant. Why? During their renovation, platforms were realigned to allow for elevators at the platform ends, directly above the station house, thus preserving an ADA compliant accessible right-of-way (ROW) on the platform. There's no reason that this option can't be done at all the inaccessible stations north of Wilson. It might work at Sheridan as well, provided there's a conversion to a single island platform from the two that exist now. Or just close it and rebuilt the station just north of the intersection of Irving & Seminary, where sufficent ROW exists for ADA compliance

    They messed up badly at Fullerton and Belmont with this (and allowing for some bizarre curves in the tracks). They need not make it north of Wilson, or the CTA will be in deep trouble.

Leave a comment