We're committed to making our system 100% accessible.
Thanks to strong leadership at CTA and the cooperative participation of Chicago’s disability community, we've made significant strides toward improving system accessibility across the city and neighboring communities we serve.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, less than 10 (about 6%) of our rail stations complied with accessibility standards laid out in the landmark legislation. In December 2009, with the completion of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project, we became compliant with what is known under the ADA as our "key" station upgrade requirements.
Today, our bus and rail fleet is 100% accessible to those who require step-free access to bus and train service and 102 of our 145 rail stations (>70%) are now accessible (plus four stations being constructed/upgraded with accessibility features) and plans underway to create the All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP), which will serve as a blueprint for making the entire rail system accessible.
It's challenging work, but we're up for it.
Upgrading stations to be accessible presents significant challenges. For example:
- Elevators are custom-engineered and specially-fabricated machines that need to fit perfectly into the space where they'll operate.
- Many stations need at least two or three elevators to get people from street level to a platform.
- Many platforms need widening before a station can be considered accessible, but open, adjacent space to do so may not be available. This is because even with an elevator, platforms need to safely accommodate wheelchairs and allow for safe passage, including around stairwells and elevator towers.
- For subway stations, adding one or more elevators can require relocating over a century of old utility lines and tunnels underground before we can begin excavating shafts and installing equipment. Determining where to add elevators from street level can also be a challenge due to where buildings are and how the surface-level streets and sidewalks are configured in relation to the spaces that exist underground.
Though these are serious challenges, we're committed to accessibility everywhere we provide service.
What we've done
Our ongoing work has led to regular upgrades to stations. In the last ten years, we've either upgraded or added the following stations to be accessible on the 'L' system:
- Chicago, Sedgwick, Armitage, Fullerton, Diversey, Wellington, Belmont, Southport, Paulina, Addison, Montrose, Irving Park, Damen, Rockwell, Francisco and Kedzie upgraded stations on the Brown Line as part of multi-year Brown Line Capacity Expansion project, which was completed in 2009
- Howard upgraded elevated station on the Red, Purple and Yellow Lines, completed 2009
- Cermak-Chinatown upgraded elevated station on the Red Line, completed in 2011
- Grand upgraded subway station on the Red Line, completed in 2012
- Oakton-Skokie new at-grade station on the Yellow Line, completed in 2012
- Morgan new elevated station on the Green and Pink Lines, completed in 2012
- Garfield, 63rd and 87th upgraded expressway median stations on the Red Line (during Dan Ryan Line Track Renewal/Red Line South Reconstruction project)
- Cermak-McCormick Place new elevated station on the Green Line, completed in 2015
- Clark/Division upgraded subway station on the Red Line, completed in 2015
- Wilson upgraded elevated station on the Red and Purple Lines with main entry accessible plus additional, accessible entrance at Sunnyside, completed in 2017
- Addison upgraded elevated expressway median station on the Blue Line, completed in 2016
- Washington/Wabash new elevated station on the Loop 'L', completed in 2017
- Quincy upgraded elevated station on the Loop 'L' (in progress, to be completed in 2018)
About the All Stations Accessibility Program
What is ASAP?
ASAP is a new planning effort introduced by CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., that will establish the first blueprint for making 42 remaining non-accessible rail stations accessible over the next 20 years.
This comprehensive plan will outline both short-term and long-term station accessibility project plans, which will include station concepts and cost estimates. The plan for the rehabilitation and/or replacement of 155 existing station elevators will also be included.
To help develop and finalize this program, we've created a working group that consists of representatives from the Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (also known as MOPD), the Chicago Transit Board, personnel from various CTA departments such as planning, ADA compliance, construction, etc., as well as consultants from LCM Architects, a Chicago-based design firm consisting of experts in accessibility and universal design.
Why will it take 20 years to make the remaining stations accessible?
Making a station accessible requires far more than the addition of an elevator. Like many older transit systems across the country, we face a wide range of challenges and opportunities related to making its existing stations accessible to riders with disabilities – the biggest hurdle being funding.
With an average age of 75 years, the remaining non-accessible stations all have their own unique set of needs and environmental factors that must be considered as part of the planning process, including: historic aspects of the station or adjacent buildings and/or infrastructure; significant structural changes to accommodate one or more elevators and wider platforms; possible property acquisitions; and complex design and engineering solutions to work within physical constraints of each station.
How are stations being prioritized for accessibility upgrades?
In general, non-accessible stations will be prioritized based on a score stemming from a needs and complexity analysis or in coordination with other anticipated projects (i.e. Red and Purple Modernization, Blue Line Forest Park branch Vision Study, etc.).
The criterion used in determining the needs score is similar to what was used in previous CTA accessibility analyses (i.e. the 2012 Infrastructure Accessibility Task Force plan.
Stations with higher needs and lower complexity scores will be prioritized for near-term improvement plans. Whereas, highly complex stations that will require more time for planning, design, construction, agency coordination and community input will be listed as part of long-term project plans.
What is the status of the ASAP?
The ASAP Working Group has identified the first several stations for more detailed analysis. Concepts have been developed and reviewed for each station, in order to determine feasibility. Once confirmed, these stations will proceed to 10% conceptual design. This will allow CTA to develop stronger cost estimates and advance those stations to be constructed within the first five years of the program, depending on funding availability.
We have also started working on programming the remaining stations, based on the needs analysis, as well as incorporating schedule information from other capital programs. High-level concepts and costs are being developed for each of these remaining stations. The Working Group has also reviewed programming for elevator rehabilitation and replacement, which will be incorporated into the program.
All of this will be reviewed by the Working Group for final recommendation.