Mind the Gap: Accessibilty Decision for Light Rail Transit

The Corridor Management Committee and Rail Transit Committee will soon make a decision on methods reducing or eliminating the maximum three inch gap between the platform and the vehicle. The current options include the installation of a sacrificial edge on the platform which would reduce the opening to 21/4″. This edge made of solid rubber would be designed to fall away should the vehicle exceed its standard tolerance for sway and impact the platform.

Our primary concern with the sacrificial edge is that the gap continues to be 2 1/4 ” in width, thus allowing small wheelchair tires, canes, crutches, and other mobility aids to be caught in the opening and have the doors close on them.

The maintance of the sacrificial edge is of secondary concern since we were initially informed that timely replacement of the strip would be carried out in a period of time which we did not feel reasonable.

The advocate’s recommended solution which has support from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) and the Transit Access Advisory Committee (TAAC) would be to install spring loaded metal plates at each door that would deploy when the door opened and retract when the door closed. This metal plate would entirely eliminate the gap and provide for the safest entry onto the light rail transit.

This solution is being opposed by Metro Transit project managers on the basis of cost and safety. The estimated cost to install the spring-loaded metal plate at each door in every vehicle in approximately two million dollars, this cost compares to $170,000 for the sacrificial edge. Metro Transit’s second issue is one of safety. Their concern is that if a spring-loaded metal plate malfunctions for any reason, they would have to take the entire vehicle out of service. In addition, they have expressed concern about snow and ice build up in the spring mechanism under the vehicle. This is a familiar argument to disability advocates who have heard similar statements made in regard to metro mobility lifts. Advocates believe that Metro Transit staff has not presented convincing evidence to support these concerns.

A final decision on this issue will be made soon. It will go before the Hiawatha Corridor Management Committee on Monday, December 4 for a vote and then depending on what happens at that meeting, on to the Rail Transit Committee later in the month. It’s critical that if you have an opinion you contact the appropriate committee representatives and express it. To find out where the issue is in the process, please contact Jennifer Lovaasen, Communication Specialist at the Metropolitan Council, 651-602-1493 (voice) or 651-291-0904 (tty).