Biden administration to invest $1.75B to improve accessibility at train stations

The Biden administration will provide $1.75 billion to modernize train stations and make it easier for people to get on board, the White House announced on Tuesday on the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The investment comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law with $343 million of it will be available to transit agencies this year. 

The funding, which will be provided by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), aims to retrofit subway stations so people who need an elevator or ramp, including people who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility, can reliably access rail systems. It will focus on the over 900 transit legacy stations, which were built before 1990, that are not fully accessible.

“While our country has made enormous progress in the three decades since passing the Americans with Disabilities Act, too many people with disabilities still don’t have access to reliable public transportation,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

“This often means that affordable, public transportation by rail is not an option,” Buttigieg said. “That is what we intend to change through ASAP.”

The funding creates a new grant program, called the All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP), which is the first dedicated public program to help communities make rail and subway stops accessible.  The deadline for transit systems to submit applications for the $343 million in 2022 funding is Sept. 30 and a 20 percent local match is required for approval.

The ADA, which former President George H.W. Bush signed into law on July 26, 1990, allowed for conditional exceptions for existing stations, Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu told reporters.

“Accessibility should never be a barrier,” Landrieu said.

Landrieu and Buttigieg pointed out that the new investments will also help elderly people, people with a temporary injury, parents with children with disabilities, and parents with strollers. 

“As a father of five, I can’t tell you how important that is,” Landrieu said.

Additionally, ASAP aims to make Americans less dependent on vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the ASAP Act in the Senate that was included in the infrastructure law. The senator told reporters she is “sick and tired” of hearing from friends and families that they had trouble with public transit because of a disability or because they have a baby in a stroller.

“I was proud to lead the effort to include the ASAP Act in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and I’m thrilled that the DOT is making ASAP funding available to transit agencies today—it will go a long way toward helping make the roughly 900 inaccessible rail and subway stations fully accessible to all Americans,” the senator said.