New Syracuse Transit Hub discriminates against people with disabilities

In September, the new Centro Transit Hub bus station is set to open in downtown Syracuse. It will be several blocks down from the current bus hub, which is directly in the middle of downtown.

Aside from being a part of an overall gentrification project in the city—including the closing of the Ida Benderson Senior Center by Mayor Stephanie Miner last year—the Transit Hub is inaccessible, particularly for the elderly and people with disabilities. This is despite the fact that several community activists were told by representatives of Centro that universal design would be used to make their facility accessible to all riders. Universal design is an engineering concept that goes beyond compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Sally Johnston, President of Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse, told Liberation News: “They said that they wanted to make the hub as user-friendly as possible for all of its riders, and that includes people with disabilities, seniors, people with kids, and people out there that don’t read. All of a sudden, they decided not to do that.”

There are a myriad of problems with the new Transit Hub. First, there is the effort to restrict and limit seating. At the current hub, there are only 39 seats provided by Centro, but there are an additional 70 seats around the area, including the low walls of Perseverance Park, which was home to Occupy Syracuse before their eviction.

At the new Transit Hub, there are only 47 seats. An informal survey done between the hours of 9:30 am to 5:30 pm found that, on average, there are approximately 94 people waiting for buses during those hours.

Johnston said that it’s clear that they are “discouraging the poor and elderly from hanging around there.” To add insult to injury, there are reportedly going to be security officers at the hub to ensure that no one stays seated for too long.

The signs above each bay that indicate which bus is arriving or departing are 14 feet above the platforms, making it impossible for those who are visually impaired to see them. In addition, the color-coded signs are not in compliance with the ADA, which requires high contrast, such as light color print on a dark background.

Johnston was told earlier this year that there would be a pole at each bay containing digital information about bus departures and arrivals, including an audio option for the visually impaired. Centro did not install these.

According to a letter sent to Centro on Aug. 9, written by Johnston and signed by a number of community groups, including the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), when Johnston and others complained about the lack of accessibility, they were told by Centro officials that people with disabilities can be “trained” on how to find their buses and get around the facility. The letter correctly states that the remark “is demeaning and condescending and therefore a highly inappropriate approach for Centro to take to its riders who do have disabilities.”

Not only is the new Transit Hub in violation of the ADA, it’s also in violation of the first amendment. There will be severe restrictions placed on free speech, such as the designation of “free speech zones,” which are limited areas where groups can hold protests and pass out leaflets.

According to Johnston, “It’s an insult to the entire community, not just people with disabilities.”

Johnston is giving Centro 10 days to respond to the letter and agree to a meeting to talk about how to correct these discriminatory and illegal wrongs. If Centro does not comply, she will be calling for a community-wide mobilization. The Party for Socialism and Liberation and the ANSWER Coalition stand ready to take up such a call.

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