New York MTA opens lab to test new accessibility features for subway

Posted: 18 October 2019 | | No comments yet

The living lab will test a host of potential new accessibility features for the New York subway, including physcial and digital wayfinding.

Jay Street MetroTech on the New York subway, which has been converted into a living accessibility lab

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has opened its first living lab dedicated to testing new accessibility features for the city’s subway network.

The Jay Street-MetroTech A C F R Accessible Station Lab in downtown Brooklyn will test dozens of new features – new smartphone apps for wayfinding, floor treatments, braille and tactile maps, digital signage and in-station navigation – that make subway stations more accessible for riders of all abilities.

The lab will allow customers to test these products and services in a live station environment and provide direct feedback to New York City Transit, while allowing NYCT to evaluate the durability and performance of such features.

“We all know that accessibility is about much more than elevators, and the Accessible Station Lab brings that idea to life. Whether you use tactile guideways or an audio app to navigate, benefit from our new Customer Information screens that provide service information in large, clear text, or care about clean elevators, this project shows that the subway is for you,” said NYCT President Andy Byford.

The accessibility pilot, which will run until the end of 2019, includes testing of the following:

  • Physical wayfinding
    • Tactile guideways: blue guidance tiles with raised bars or domes throughout the main mezzanine and supporting braille signage at decision points. NYCT is testing different guideway materials including hard plastic and rubber to determine which customers prefer
    • Tape guideways: three different brightly colored tape guideways on the floor to indicate accessible and transfer paths, especially helpful for those with cognitive disabilities and forms of vision loss; plus six Boarding Area floor markers
    • Stair warnings: 50 yellow warning strips with truncated domes at top of stairs and colored tape at bottom of stairs
    • Touch graphic maps: interactive tablet map on the main mezzanine showing station environment; plus tactile/braille line map on the R platform
  • Five new wayfinding apps
    • Waymap: uses beacons at entrances, exits and around key features to guide users through station; uses audio and “smart routing” for those who are blind or low vision; available in multiple languages
    • NaviLens & NaviLens GO: more than 100 QR-style unique codes (on signage throughout station) to turn signs into audio that provide wayfinding, train arrival, and trip planning. Navilens GO uses same codes to create virtual arrows to help translate signs and guide users
    • AIRA: service that connects users to trained live agents who provide digital descriptions to guide users to their destinations using smart phone camera
    • Magnus Cards: geared toward people with cognitive disabilities, each card deck provides step-by-step visual, audio and text instructions for navigating the station, using MetroCards, train rides and transfers and reading station maps and signs
    • Click & Go Wayfinding: large tactile station environment maps on mezzanines, dozens of pre-scripted audio routes provided via app with beacons for additional information and digital low-vision maps of routes throughout the station
  • New customer information centres: testing includes new ways to display escalator and elevator outage information to screens; information on Station Lab project
  • ADA pathway signage: 15 alternate route diagrams that map alternate routes in the event of an elevator outage; and station layout diagrams that highlight the accessible path of travel from street to platform.

Features that are deemed successful during the pilot-based both on customer feedback and operational performance will be considered for inclusion in future ADA station projects.

Accelerating accessibility is a top priority for NYC Transit; the 2020-2024 Capital Plan, recently approved by the MTA Board, includes a historic commitment of more than $5 billion to make an additional 70 subway stations ADA accessible. This will ensure customers will be no farther than two stops from an accessible station anywhere in the system. The MTA has also made it a priority to improve communication with customers on the real-time status of elevators and escalators, improve audio and visual access to information throughout the system, and explore new approaches to priority and courtesy seating on buses.

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