BART adds disability access at Lafayette station

November 2, 2011 10:10:16 AM PDT
Bay Area Rapid Transit officials have installed curb access connecting the Lafayette station's south parking lot to a new $2 million ramp for wheelchairs and bicycles leading to the station entrance.

The curb access initially was left out of the plans ? an omission that raised eyebrows among disability rights advocates and BART riders when California Watch first reported it last month.

Officials pledged to fix the situation within six months. But construction crews moved faster than a BART train on a long stretch of straight, well-oiled track. The $10,000 addition was started and nearly finished in a matter of weeks. The concrete was poured last Thursday, and the paint was added this week, leaving only some signage and touch-up work remaining, according to BART spokesman James Allison.

The new curb access will enable those using wheelchairs and bicycles to move from the south parking lot to the sidewalk connecting to the zigzag ramp leading to the station.

The featured ramp opened in April, built with a combination of federal transportation dollars and local matching funds. It allows wheelchair users and bicyclists to enter the station once they get to the sidewalk. But reaching the sidewalk was the sticking point. The new ramp had opened without any way for a person in a wheelchair to access the ramp from the parking lot. The lack of access also made it more difficult for BART riders to wheel luggage up and down the curb and limited access for bicycles heading to and from Happy Valley Road ? until now. To build the new curb access, BART sacrificed one parking spot in the permit-only south lot.

"I am very pleased that BART has responded rapidly to install a curb cut for easier access to the new ramp at the south entrance to the Lafayette station," said Gail Murray, the BART director whose district includes Lafayette.

She said the system also has added improvements on the north side of the station, including lowering the fare machines to make them more accessible to those in wheelchairs and widening the fare gates for wheelchairs, luggage and bikes.

"All these improvements will better serve the seniors and people with disabilities who live in the nearby housing complexes," Murray said.

BART officials had said they initially avoided altering the parking lot because of concerns that the lot's owner would raise objections. The land beneath the lot is owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. BART has operated the south lot since before the system carried its first passengers, paying annual rent to the water provider. Officials at the water district told California Watch that they did not object to any changes.

"It's fine by us," said water district spokeswoman Andrea Pook. "The configuration of the lot and the curb cut are things that are up to BART."

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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