Handicap accessibility on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
(MBTA or "the T") system is limited but improving. As is true for most mass transit
systems, much of the Boston subway
and commuter rail
lines were built before wheelchair
access was a requirement
. Fortunately, the Boston system underwent significant expansion in the 1980s and 1990s and all the new facilities are ADA
compliant. The MBTA has also refurbished many stations and these too are accessible. More improvements are in progress or expected as part of planned construction. In addition, on April 4, 2006 the MBTA announced the settlement of a class-action lawsuit
, Joanne Daniels-Finegold, et al v. MBTA
, under which "the T will undertake major improvements in equipment, facilities and services that promise to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities while improving service for all T passengers. ...approximately $310 million in funds will be programmed into the T's Capital Investment Program to improve services and infrastructure."
Accessibility on the T generally means that some combination of elevators and wheelchair ramps connect the street and station platform. The MBTA provides recorded elevator, wheelchair lift and escalator status updates by telephone: 1-617-222-2828 or 1-800-392-6100.
Subway and commuter rail
- All stations on the Orange Line and Red Line (except Wollaston and the Mattapan Line, see below) are accessible and all have high level platforms on the same level as train car doors.
- Stations on Blue Line are wheelchair accessible except for Maverick, Government Center, Bowdoin, and State Street. As of 2008, only the outbound Blue Line platform at State Street is wheelchair accessible to the street. Inbound wheelchair users must take the Blue Line to Government Center and cross the platform there to an outbound Blue Line train and then take it to the accessible State Street platform. All Blue Line stations have high level platforms on the same level as train car doors. The MBTA has plans to make the remaining Blue Line stations fully accessible (except for Bowdoin, which will soon be closed permanently); reconstruction of the State Street station started in 2005.
- The Green Line runs trolley cars and only newer vehicles (MBTA Type 8) have low-floor, wheelchair accessible entrances.
- Access to the older high-floor vehicles requires either a portable lift or a wayside ramp equipped with a bridge that can be lowered into the vehicle through one of the doors. Only a few stations currently have matching platforms, although a few stations that lack such platforms have been equipped with portable lifts or wayside ramps. Use of the portable lifts to load and unload wheelchair-bound passengers requires considerable physical effort from the operator (usually the driver) and may require several minutes.
- The low-floor wheelchair access is by means of a bridge plate that extends from the vehicle to the platform (which requires that the platform have been upgraded to match). This is much less demanding upon the operator and requires much less time than use of the portable lifts; however, it is often necessary to remind the driver of the need for the ramp to be extended when you have reached your destination; the blue button with the universal disabled symbol is for this purpose.
- Low-floor Type 8 vehicles are expected to run on the D branch of the Green Line in 2008, after a track upgrade to accommodate them without danger of derailment.
- The Mattapan portion of the Red Line run runs older, high floor PCC trolley cars. Wheelchair ramps with hinged metal bridges have been installed at each station, but as of March 2008, were not yet in service. Until they are, only the first and last stations are accessible, using the same type of portable lifts as on the Green Line.
- Of those MBTA commuter rail stations that have wheelchair access, most only have a short elevated platform that serves one or two cars. The short elevated platforms are located at the end of the station away from Boston. A few commuter rail stations do have full length high platforms. These include:
See individual station articles for more information.
Center island stations
Most MBTA subway stations have side platforms
but a few have island platforms
. The latter make it easier for wheelchair passengers to reverse direction, either because they missed a stop, or because the elevator on one side of a station is out of service. Some of these stations are not accessible to wheelchair users wishing to leave or enter them, but nevertheless play a vital role in the handicapped accessibility of other stations, which may not (yet) have a complete set of elevators. Center island MBTA subway stations are:
- Bowdoin (currently, no elevator access is available to or from this platform, so wheelchair users can only use it to transfer between inbound and outbound trains; this station will never be modernized, and is scheduled to be closed permanently a few years from now, once the MBTA begins to run 6-car trains on the Blue Line)
- Government Center (currently, no elevator access is available to or from this platform, so wheelchair users can only use it to transfer between inbound and outbound trains; this station is scheduled to be rebuilt to include handicapped-accessibility within the next few years; even though this station is not itself currently accessible, it plays a critical role in wheelchair accessibility of State Street station, which on the Blue Line only has an elevator on the outbound side)
- Maverick (currently, no elevator access is available to or from this platform, so wheelchair users can only use it to transfer between inbound and outbound trains; reconstruction of this station to include handicapped-accessibility started in late 2005)
- North Station (inbound track: in this case, the island platform is between the Green Line and Orange Line inbound tracks; elevators provide access to the outbound tracks of both lines)
- Government Center (three track island: the platform is a distorted triangle between the southbound and two northbound tracks, of which one is a through track and the other is a turnaround loop that receives southbound trains from Haymarket and sends them back north; as of 2005, this platform is not handicapped-accessible, but a rebuild is scheduled to start within the next few years)
- Park Street (2 islands, one between the two southbound tracks and one between the two northbound tracks, the outer of which also has a side platform; separate elevators are available from the northbound platform to both the Red Line island platform (see below) and a pedestrian tunnel that has been built solely to connect Green Line passengers from one platform to the other, which is connected to the southbound platform by a third elevator; changing between the Red Line and the southbound Green Line platform without using stairs requires the use of three non-redundant elevators)
- Kenmore (2 islands, one between the two outbound tracks and one between the two inbound tracks; as of 2007, neither platform is handicapped-accessible, but reconstruction of Kenmore Station started in 2005, scheduled to be completed in 2007, at which point the station should become handicapped-accessible; so far this station has an elevator from the surface to the unpaid part of the fare collection lobby, but no elevators thus far from the paid part of the fare collection lobby to the platforms)
- Harvard (actually a hybrid island/side platform station, in which both platforms are on the west side of their respective tracks; platforms are connected by a sequence of two ramps that run downhill from the outbound platform to the lower turnstile area and thence to the inbound platform)
- Park Street (has both island and side platforms; only the island platform has elevator access; see description under Green Line above)
- JFK/UMass (there are separate islands for each branch of the Red line)
- Savin Hill (last center island on Ashmont branch)
- All stations between North Quincy and Braintree; however, Wollaston is currently not accessible
All bus service is normally accessible, although some of the older trackless trolleys do not have lifts on them (although they are used only when not enough low-floor trolleybuses are not available).
The T also has paratransit program, called The Ride which provides lift-equipped vans to transport people who cannot use general public transportation because of a physical, cognitive or mental disability, including those who use wheelchairs.
Blind and visually impaired
"Service animals are allowed on the T during all hours of operation, but must be kept under control at all times. No certification is required, nor is the animal expected to wear a special harness, scarf or other identifying markings."
Most, but not all, train stations have yellow detectable warning strips with truncated domes running in a two-foot (60 cm) band along the edge of the platforms.
Buses and trains are supposed to have either recorded announcements or driver announcements of station stops, but these announcements are often muffled, inaudible, or omitted, particularly on the Green Line and buses. The Red Line's "01800" series of trains have become infamous for their tendency to announce incorrect stops.
The MBTA has a TTY number for "T" information: (617) 222-5146. Many stations have TTY pay phones; the MBTA web site has a list.