BART and disability advocates finally came to a compromise over a vertical metal handrail aboard the transit agency's “Fleet of the Future,” hundreds of new trains which will replace BART's aging fleet in the coming decades.
The BART Board of Directors voted Thursday to approve a plan removing one of the tripod-shaped handrails from the center of the new BART cars' floorplan, and instead place them at either end of the cars.
“It's critical that we build our new BART trains to be universally accessible for all, especially for families, seniors, those with disabilities and cyclists” BART board Director Nick Josefowitz, who represents San Francisco, told The San Francisco Examiner.
Some disability advocates were up in arms over the pole designs, arguing their original placement blocked access to wheelchair users, among other grievances. A group of disability rights organizations threatened BART with a lawsuit. But the handrail problem was complex, as BART juggled moving wheelchair spaces, seats and bike racks, which all involved constituent groups.
After working with BART's Accessibility Task Force and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a compromise train layout was proposed and approved. In addition to removing a pole, the new layout has two wheelchair accessible spaces in the center of the train car, and bike racks at one end.
BART will also places decals near the doors of the train to indicate where the bike racks and wheelchair spaces are located.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition also advocated at the board meeting for a 10-car trial run of flexible wheelchair/bicycle spaces, a solution it said could offer more dynamic options to riders.
“This is a proposal that we believe makes the most sense for everyone by allowing the space in BART cars to be utilized as needed,” SFBC Policy Director Tyler Frisbee said. “Whether it's providing additional space for passengers or for storing bikes, luggage and more.”
That flexible space plan was additionally approved by the board Thursday.
“This is definitely a compromise position, one for both people with disabilities and those who ride bikes,” said Jessie Lorenz, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center, “because BART has a real inability to plan.”
Still, she noted, “I'd much rather try this compromise than go to court.”