NJ Transit plans to fix five stations for disability compliance. Here’s where and why

NJ Transit has agreed to update five of its train stations to make them more accessible for people with disabilities, according to a settlement from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

New Brunswick, Newark Penn, Princeton Junction, Metropark and Trenton train stations will receive wide-ranging improvements to bring these “intercity” stations into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The five stations identified by the US Attorney’s office are all considered wheelchair-accessible, but the 51-page settlement identifies more than 200 violations and fixes that must be made.

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“In ways large and small, people with disabilities were denied full access to transportation services — whether it was the lack of access to restrooms, no signs, bad ramps, poor access to elevators, or that parking spaces were just too small for those who needed wheelchair access,” the press release announcing the settlement said.

Drone image of the New Jersey Transit headquarters seen from the Passaic River as a passenger train leaves Newark Penn Station on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021.

“NJ Transit has swiftly recognized these deficiencies and already begun to bring its intercity rail stations into compliance with the ADA.”

NJ Transit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The settlement from an on-site survey conducted in May 2017 of the stations, which revealed the accessibility deficiencies.

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Meanwhile, more than half of the 167 rail stations used by NJ Transit customers are not wheelchair-accessible, according to its map, which was updated in recent years to identify the stations that are accessible. Some of those stations are owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or Amtrak. Only the Atlantic City line is accessible at all of the route’s nine stations.

Of the five stations the agency agreed to update, New Brunswick and Newark are receiving a combined $240 million through the state’s debt defeasance fund to complete myriad capital projects. Six other NJ Transit facilities are also receiving hundreds of millions of dollars through the fund for capital projects.

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Amtrak agreed to a settlement in 2020 with the US Attorney’s office over similar accusations and failure to make stations accessible, according to a lawsuit brought by the Disability Rights Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division.

As part of that agreement, Amtrak must design at least 135 stations to be accessible, complete construction at 90 of those stations, and have at least 45 more under construction in the next 10 years. They also set up a $2.25 million settlement fund for those who could not travel at certain stations and the company will train employees in ADA compliance.

The timing of that settlement came 11 months after Amtrak attempted to charge two wheelchair-users $25,000 — and then rescinded the decision — to travel from Chicago to Bloomington, Indiana.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ Transit agrees to ADA fixes after violations at five stations