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Disabled down on T for lack of access

By Casey Ross | Monday, February 28, 2005

Despite a lawsuit and repeated complaints from disabled passengers, the MBTA is failing to maintain escalators and elevators that continually break down, denying access to thousands of people throughout the subway system, a Herald review found.

During the past week, elevators were found to be out of service at such critical hubs as North Station and Downtown Crossing, while escalators were closed down at stations along nearly every subway line in the city. Some of those facilities have been shut down for weeks, advocates for the disbaled say.

"They are essentially thumbing their nose at the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Rob Park, a disabled passenger who says he broke his leg Feb. 11 when a broken elevator at an Orange Line station forced him into the street to get to another station.

"The ADA was filed in 1990. That's 15 years ago," Park said. "Why are we still having these issues?"

A spokesman for the MBTA acknowledged maintenance of escalators and elevators must improve, but he also said the T has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to purchase low-floor buses and install new ramps and elevators throughout the system.

"The MBTA has made significant strides in making a 108-year-old system more accessible," spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. "Is it perfect? No. But we are making improvements."

However, MBTA figures showed that 14 of the agency's 143 elevators - 9.8percent - were out of service Friday morning. Pesaturo said the number was reduced to nine Saturday after overnight repairs. Meanwhile, 23 of the agency's 167 escalators - 13.8 percent - are also out of service.

One escalator at Park Street, a heavily traveled station where the Red and Green lines intersect, was shut down for at least 17 days, while an escalator at Maverick Square in East Boston has broken down repeatedly in recent months.

"With all the money the state has, you wonder why they can't fix it," said Frank James, who carried his daughter up the steps at Maverick Station this week. "It's always broken down."

Pesaturo said the current problem with the Maverick Station elevator occurred recently when something got jammed in one of the steps. He said it will be repaired by today.

Pesaturo also said the T has been working to improve maintenance through its contractor, KONE Elevator Co., which recently went through a management shake-up.

The MBTA was smacked with a federal class-action lawsuit in 2002 alleging the agency violated federal law by failing to maintain equipment and forcing disabled people to use filthy, unsafe facilities.

From The Boston Herald

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