MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Subway riders pay a lot of attention to the elevators and escalators at their stations. They also notice when there’s a lack of accessibility. 

So folks who live near the 181st Street A train station in Upper Manhattan were thrilled on Thursday when a project to upgrade the subway station finally wrapped up.

“I’m excited. There are a lot of people who can’t take the stairs,“ said Carmen, who lives in the area.

Last May, the MTA began an escalator replacement project at one entrance. Using this access point during the construction required subway riders to climb up or go down more than 80 stairs. Another entrance three blocks away has an elevator that connects to the mezzanine level. 

The project was initially expected to be completed by February 2023, but the new escalators were up and running by the end of March.

“It’s been a pain for a lot of people,” said Chandler, another neighbor. 

Full accessibility allows riders to travel from the street to all platforms via elevators or ramps. The station is representative of the challenges facing the subway system. Of the 472 subway stations in the system, about 70% are not accessible.

The MTA has a record number of projects in the works and agreed to a settlement last year with an advocacy group to add more fully accessible each decade. 

Officials describe the MTA’s 2020-2024 Capital Program as “the most ambitious accessibility program in MTA history, with $5.2 billion to make 67 stations accessible—more than the previous three Capital Programs combined.”

Led Black lives in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood near the 181st Street A train station. He appreciates the work and wants to see more. 

“If you want New York to work, the working people need to have the ability to get to where they need to get,” Black said. “Because our stations are far below ground, escalators and elevators need to be working.”

New contracts for accessibility projects at 13 stations were awarded in 2022, including eight stations as part of the agency’s first public-private partnership. Additionally, MTA planners report that construction is underway at 34 stations throughout the system.

A complete list of stations getting upgraded can be found here.