This story from CBC’s MontrÃ©al affiliate caught my attention because its an issue I’ve been considering for some time. The MÃ©tro of MontrÃ©al was not originally designed for the disabled, and the STM has been trying to fix this problem for the last few years. You’ll notice there are elevators at the main junction stations (Lionel-Groulx and Berri-UQAM) in addition to Bonaventure Station, a principle downtown station with excellent access to the Underground City. Not exactly convenient for the disabled among us. However, its not as though the disabled are completely without transit options. Aside from the fact that most of the Underground City is accessible (with the exceptions of the MÃ©tro network) notice that the STM’s bus fleet is largely wheelchair accessible, and there is an adapted transit network, both public and private.
It seems as if the City isn’t planning on sticking to its former time-table, with three new elevators installed at three stations per year until the whole system is deemed ‘accessible’. They have taken a shaky first step several years ago by removing seats from MÃ©tro cars (which really only mean they could jam more passengers in during rush-hour since the system still isn’t suited for wheelchair access in general). The lobby group RAPLIQ wants the City to do more to make the MÃ©tro accessible, though, with elevator costs coming in at an estimated $15 million per, its unlikely too much money will be set aside to accomplish a full renovation of the system anytime soon.
What bugs me is this: exactly how many disabled people actually live in this city and have a legitimate need to use the MÃ©tro? If it were 1% that would mean there are 16,000 fully disabled people needing elevator access. Since I’m guessing the actual figure is less than 1%, we need to use the existing adaptive transit infrastructure as well as possible. Simply put, if RAPLIQ feels as though adapted transit isn’t up to par with their expectations, then perhaps the change ought to be made to the existing service, as opposed to the actual MÃ©tro stations.
A suggestion for an interim solution: individual-use lifts which can be fitted over existing staircases with a call-box to the service kiosk. It’s not ideal, and may prove to be a bit of a hassle for the STM employees called out to help people get down into the MÃ©tro system, but it will certainly be less expensive than an elevator. Moreover, the current elevators being used are awfully small, especially when compared to much larger express-elevators used in other major transit systems that can transport 40+ people at a time. If the STM wants to continue installing elevators in the MÃ©tro, then they should only consider very large capacity systems at a certain number of high-traffic systems. But, given how few disabled people actually live in this city, it makes me wonder whether this money wouldn’t be better spent on extending the system or hours of operation. That would benefit far more people, more often, than elevators.