Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Community & Society
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Published on December 20, 2023
Settlement Ensures Accessibility Upgrades for BART, Bay Area Disabled Commuters to Benefit from Elevator with Escalator OverhaulsSource: Pi.1415926535, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Big win for disabled commuters in the Bay Area—BART is making a major commitment to accessibility improvements. A class action lawsuit filed in 2017 accusing the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) of skimping on accessibility features has reached a settlement. This move could make life easier for those with mobility disabilities, BART announced.

Under the proposed deal, set for review in April 2024, BART promises to overhaul its stations' elevators and escalators, keep fare gates working for all, and even staff call-boxes and helplines. They don't just stop at hardware; BART's rolling out new training for personnel on disability access and etiquette and a hearty dose of emergency preparedness. The settlement notice details, "BART will train station agents and operation control center workers on disability access, disability etiquette, BART’s emergency preparedness plan, and BART’s elevator mitigation plan."

For starters, over the next 16 years, BART's committed to renovating 40 elevators. When one's kaput, they'll aim to have a repair crew on the scene within a speedy one hour. The escalator fix-up plan is equally ambitious, with a target of 40 in downtown San Francisco plus one for good measure by mid-2034, spreading to other key areas later. BART pledged to keep the public in the loop with real-time updates through texts, emails, and platform announcements.

Not to be glossed over, the settlement calls for a noteworthy push on cleanliness—System Service Workers have agreed to get to certain stations within 30 minutes of reported soiling. The deal also includes some perks for plaintiffs: Senior and Disability Action and Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco are eyeing a $15,000 service award, while individuals Pi Ra and Ian Smith could snag $7,500 a piece. They've put in the work and are now getting a pat on the wallet for their services rendered, a confirmation BART provided.

While the settlement is about setting things right, it isn’t just setting the stage for financial reparations; this agreement doesn't dish out monetary relief to class members, but it does clear the air of past and future claims under accessibility laws for the duration of the agreement. The final approval hearing on this potential game-changer is set for April 18, 2024. Objections to the settlement need to be in by February 23, 2024.