Committed to Making Every Chicago Transit Authority Station Accessible to All ASAP

Committed to Making Every Chicago Transit Authority Station Accessible to All ASAP

The Chicago Transit Authority developed the comprehensive All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP) to achieve a 100% accessible transit system that accommodates people with disabilities.  

As part of a working group that developed this blueprint for future construction, LCM Architects advised on disability community issues and the technical approach for retrofitting or rebuilding all 42 inaccessible rail stations within 20 years. This approach includes plans to renovate or replace 162 existing elevators for vertical accessibility.

Up to the Challenge

Making a station accessible requires more than the addition of an elevator. As one of the oldest transit systems across the country, the CTA faces a range of challenges that require creative approaches to making its existing stations accessible to riders with disabilities. One of the biggest hurdles being funding. 

Time variables for planning, construction, utility work, agency coordination, public impact feedback, and land acquisition were complexities considered. Stations also were evaluated based on multiple need criteria, including station ridership, distances between accessible stations, connections to other transit routes, population and employment data, and proximity to public services and urban amenities.

Prototypes stations designs, a potential time and cost saving approach, are not an option for the CTA. Some stations date back as far as 1895 and have historic designations. Most of the inaccessible stations have site constraints, such as adjacent roadways, rail track lines, or buildings, making it complicated to add one or more elevators. Inconsistent or insufficient platform lengths and widths present other accessibility obstacles.

LCM’s architects and accessibility specialists advised the CTA on the development of custom designs required to accommodate each station’s unique configuration and features.

“The All Stations Accessibility Program gives life and a roadmap to our commitment to ensure everyone has equal access to public transportation options across Chicago … We take action to ensure individuals with disabilities are afforded the same opportunities to travel, work, and thrive in a world-class accessible city.”

– Karen Tamley, Former Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

Early Concept for Austin Green Line Station

Creative Solutions for Enhanced Accessibility 

LCM investigated opportunities beyond accessible routes and elevators for enhanced accessibility to serve a wider group of the disabled community, specifically deaf/blind, visually impaired, and cognitively impaired individuals.

“By ensuring that every CTA station in Chicago is accessible to all Chicago residents, we are creating a world-class transit system that makes public transportation a convenient and viable choice for everyone. The investments we are making in the CTA will benefit Chicagoans of all abilities for generations to come.”

– Former Chicago Mayor Emanuel

Wayfinding solutions LCM recommended to improve accessibility for an even greater number of public transit users include the following elements, which typically go beyond required codes or standards for public transit:

  • Tactile ground surface indicators
  • Floor graphics
  • Directional signage
  • Tactile maps
  • Pedestrian routes to bus stops
  • Audible or vibrotactile accessible pedestrian signals
  • Digital wayfinding applications

Goals for Prioritizing

ASAP outlines both short- and long-term station accessibility projects. Acknowledging the magnitude of the work ahead, ASAP prioritizes immediate and future station work using criteria within the parameters of available or potential funding. The ASAP working group identified stations for accessibility alterations in the first phase and proposed an implementation schedule for alterations at remaining inaccessible stations. 

Once all phases are complete the CTA will likely be the first legacy transit system in the nation to make all of its train stations completely accessible to people with disabilities.

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