Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility

Two people in wheelchairs moving from an elevator to a transit station
Update: October 7, 2021 – Approved
On October 7, 2021 the City Council adopted the Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility text amendment. The text is now in effect.

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 will work with the MTA to set aside space where needed for station elevators. It will 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.

The first part is a systemwide easement provision that 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 second 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

Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility was approved by the City Planning Commission on and adopted by the City Council on October 7, 2021. The text is now in effect. View the adopted text.

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.

ULURP Milestone Dates
The City Council approved Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility. PDF Document View the adopted text.
October 7, 2021
Revised Environmental Assessment Statement published. View Technical Memo 002 October 1, 2021
The City Council held a Public Hearing on the proposal. September 10, 2021
The City Planning Commission approved Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility View the CPC report September 1, 2021
Revised Environment Assessment Statement published View the Revised Environmental Assessment Statement: (Technical Memo 001 as Appendix). August 27, 2021
The City Planning Commission held two Post-Hearing follow-ups.
View the Department of City Planning Post-Hearing presentation July 12, 2021
View the Department of City Planning Post-Hearing presentation July 26, 2021
July 12, 2021 and
July 26, 2021
The City Planning Commission held a Public Hearing on the proposal. Watch the CPC Public Hearing. June 23, 2021
The City Planning Commission held the Pre-Hearing presentation. View the Department of City Planning Pre-Hearing presentation. June 21, 2021
Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility was referred out to all Community Boards, Borough Boards and Borough Presidents. View the Department of City Planning Referral presentation. April 5, 2021

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

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