New York News

Improving Accessibility: Ensuring Smooth Transitions for Wheelchair Users on New York City Buses

New Yorkers who rely on wheelchairs often hesitate to use MTA express buses due to concerns about boarding and disembarking. Mechanical issues with hydraulic lifts and drivers who are unfamiliar with their operation leave wheelchair users uncertain about their ability to navigate these buses.

Jean Ryan, an advocate for disabled individuals, has had firsthand experience with these challenges. On two occasions, she required assistance from firefighters to lift her 400-pound motorized wheelchair off of express buses due to lift malfunctions. Ryan believes that most wheelchair users avoid express buses altogether due to previous negative experiences.

Emergencies involving wheelchair users and faulty lifts have been recorded by the Fire Department. In one incident, firefighters took nearly an hour to unload Ryan from a bus with a malfunctioning lift. These incidents highlight the lack of trust and concern that wheelchair users have about the reliability and competence of bus drivers when it comes to operating the lifts.

The MTA reports that, on average, there are 113,177 lift deployments in a month, but this figure includes deployable ramps on local buses as well. Transit officials say that less than 5% of mechanical issues reported by bus riders are related to express bus lifts.

The MTA has made efforts to address these concerns. The agency previously tested express buses with ramps for wheelchair passengers, but the program was not successful due to concerns about safety and seating arrangements.

Accessibility officers and advocates have suggested ongoing training for bus operators and the placement of clear instructions on how to operate the lifts on buses. The MTA is actively working to improve accessibility by increasing maintenance and training for express bus drivers.

By enhancing their understanding of lift operation and implementing standardized protocols, the MTA can create a more inclusive and reliable system for wheelchair users. With increased awareness and improvements, express buses can become a viable transportation option for all New Yorkers.


Why do wheelchair users in New York City avoid using express buses?
Wheelchair users often avoid express buses due to concerns over malfunctioning lifts and drivers’ lack of familiarity with their operation.

What measures has the MTA taken to address the issues faced by wheelchair users?
The MTA has conducted pilot programs and provided ongoing training for bus operators. They are also placing decals with lift operation instructions on buses.

Are there any statistics on the frequency of mechanical issues with express bus lifts?
According to the MTA, less than 5% of reported mechanical issues on buses are related to express bus lifts.

What can be done to improve accessibility on express buses for wheelchair users?
The MTA can enhance accessibility by increasing maintenance cycles, improving operator training, and implementing standardized protocols for lift operation. These measures will help create a more inclusive and reliable transportation system for all passengers.