Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility

Two people in wheelchairs moving from an elevator to a transit station

Zoning for Accessibility (ZFA) seeks to make our transit system more accessible, more quickly and better coordinated with the streets and buildings around it.

Through ZFA, developers would work with the MTA to set aside space where needed for station elevators. It would expand incentives for developers to build elevators and related station upgrades in new, high-density buildings.

It is a collaboration between the Department of City Planning and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) alongside the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. The proposal also builds on recommendations from this 2019 City Council report.

Why Is Zoning for Accessibility Needed?

Not enough of our stations are accessible.

Out of 493 total subway and Staten Island Railway stations, currently about 30% are ADA accessible. Within City limits, 68% of Metro-North stations and 86% of Long Island Rail Road stations are accessible. 

Elevators are expensive to build and often difficult to fit within publicly owned property. ZFA will help us reach a 100% accessible transit network faster by harnessing opportunities within developments that are adjacent to stations.

Developers can already build station elevators for the MTA in exchange for a zoning bonus under current regulations. However, these opportunities are restricted to small areas of the city, such as Lower Manhattan and Midtown, and have only been used less than 10 times since the 1980s.

ZFA will expand the areas in which the MTA and City Planning can work with developers to  build and maintain elevators for the public, or leave space in their developments for the MTA to build an elevator or other station access point in the future. 

How Zoning for Accessibility Works

There are two pieces to ZFA.

One would apply to most areas of the City surrounding transit stations. Here, developers would be required to work with the MTA to identify needed space for accessibility improvements in or around new buildings next to stations. Such space would be reserved, in the form of an easement, for the MTA to build a station elevator, or stairs or passageways to reduce crowding in the future. 

These dedicated spaces can improve the way stations fit into neighborhoods and prevent crowding on sidewalks. They can also avoid the high costs of relocating underground utility services, which is often necessary when installing an elevator.

The other piece of ZFA is an expanded transit improvement bonus program and would only apply to the highest density areas of the city near subway and railroad stations. In these areas, the MTA would coordinate with developers to plan station access improvements, for which the developer could earn a zoning bonus with approval from the City Planning Commission.

For example, the developer may build an elevator for the MTA, as well as stairs or passageways.

Learn More About the Zoning Proposals

See where the key provisions of Zoning for Accessibility would apply within each community district. Map sets include a general applicability map of easement and bonus provisions by community district followed by specific maps of easement applicability for each transit station.

Not sure of your community district? Search for a neighborhood or use the map on Community District Profiles.


Who Benefits from Zoning for Accessibility?

People with physical disabilities: Every additional accessible station makes it easier for riders with mobility disabilities to explore and enjoy the city. Currently, a person with a mobility disability often must take a complicated route to make what should be simple trip. ZFA would help reduce those indirect routes and make public transit an easy, convenient option for everyone – which is what it should be.

Senior citizens: There are more than 1.5 million seniors in New York City. More elevators will help seniors run errands, see loved ones and visit their favorite City destinations.

Families with young children: Parents and caregivers with kids in strollers can get some relief with more elevators. Carrying strollers up and down stairs is not easy even with perfect conditions. If the stairs are slippery or there’s a sudden deluge of passengers, it’s even worse. More elevators mean more New Yorkers able to enjoy the city.  

All transit riders: We’ve all been in a crowded station at rush hour. More access points to a station typically means less crowded entrances and exits and better passenger flow. Also, elevators can be used by anyone, like riders carrying heavy or bulky packages or those with temporary injuries who might struggle with the stairs.

All New Yorkers: Supporting productive partnerships between new developments and the MTA can help provide station improvements that meet the street better and avoid sidewalk crowding, but can also help achieve this at lower costs and more quickly. a

Next Steps

ZFA will go through the City's formal land use review process starting this Spring. It will be reviewed by Community Boards and Borough Presidents with public meetings for New Yorkers to learn more and give their feedback.

For more information and to ask questions, please contact accessibilitytext@planning.nyc.gov