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ADA Signage Requirements for Metro Trains: Platform Safety

Platform safety is a common concern for the millions of individuals that use commuter trains every day throughout our country.  According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Administration, over 8,000 fatalities occurred in train-related accidents in 2010.  Persons with disabilities are perhaps even more vulnerable, considering the absence of specific federal requirements for platform construction or modification. 

ADA signage requirements are applicable to train platforms all across the country.  Entries and exits, as well as emergency areas must be clearly labeled so that persons in wheelchairs know where to go.  No matter how large the entity providing railway services, compliance with the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, is expected.  For instance, Amtrak—one of the nation’s largest providers, serving more than 500 stations in the U.S. and Canada—submitted plans to modify or construct stations in accordance with ADA requirements.  Amtrak provided services to more than 28 million people, and modifications were made to more than 480 stations, with the exception of stations located in Canadian provinces where ADA compliance is not required by law.  These modifications were to be completed by July 26, 2010; however, Amtrak estimated that compliance for the number of stations listed above are not attainable until September 2015.  This illustrates the difficulty of complying with ADA requirements in a timely manner for some service providers.   

In general, metro train platforms must have wheelchair access, meet ADA signage requirements and have other reasonable accommodations to allow persons who are disabled to safely navigate the area.  This requirement includes all stations within U.S. borders and applicable territories, with the exception of flag stations.  When it comes to train platforms, however, ADA compliance is not an exact science.  There exists little specific guidance on how to construct or modify platforms to be acceptable for individuals who are disabled. At minimum, certain signs are required in order to delineate such potentially problematic areas as steps, thresholds, restrooms, between train cars, doorways, and handrails. Lighting is also important, in addition to providing pathways wide enough to permit wheelchairs to pass one another, or turn as necessary. 

Train accidents are an inevitable part of the business of providing transportation to passengers across the country on a daily basis.  Thousands of fatalities and/or injuries occur every year and those most vulnerable are persons with disabilities.  The ADA ensures that these individuals are treated fairly and are afforded accommodations to make their train travels as safe as those who do not need special requirements to travel.