The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and disability advocates have reached an agreement to improve wheelchair access in its design for its new fleet of vehicles, set to launch in 2016.
The BART voted in favor of the agreement February 26.
“This compromise marks an historic moment and a win for the local disability community, many of whom rely exclusively on public transportation,” Disability Rights Advocates staff attorney Rebecca Williford said in a news release. “BART has done the right thing in working out a compromise to ensure that this access continues.”
Under the new design, the vehicles will have a 50 percent increase in priority seating for people with disabilities and the elderly. Since the design was first announced, however, disability advocates have been concerned that planned floor-to-ceiling poles in the middle of the carts would block access to wheelchair users.
Under the new plan, the poles will be installed near the door, in order to provide balancing support while keeping the lane open for wheelchairs and other people with mobility disabilities.
The new design will also congregate the wheelchair spaces near the middle of the car, to make it easier for people in wheelchairs to travel together.
The first 10 prototypes of BART’s “Fleet of the Future” is scheduled for 2016. The BART plans to replace 775 vehicles with the new design by 2021, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Disability Rights Advocates worked with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, Community Resources for Independent Living and the the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco in crafting the compromise.
“We recognize that this design is a compromise, and while many riders with vision and mobility disabilities would be best served by having no floor-to-ceiling poles in the new BART cars, we are pleased that the new fleet of BART cars will meet the needs of a diverse group of riders with disabilities,” Teresa Favuzzi, executive director of CFILC, said in the news release.