NBC 10 I-Team: Accessibility concerns at Mansfield train stop
Hopping on the commuter train to Boston gives riders a no stress alternative to traffic and gridlock.
But, when Charles Allard, 69, came back to the Mansfield station on a recent trip, the Woonsocket man's journey really began.
“It was very demanding. At some points, I didn't know if I was going to make it,” he said.
Allard has had three surgeries over the last eight months. An operation to his spine has caused him to walk with a cane.
Allard’s complaint is a simple one, with no immediate solution in sight.
In June, he got off the train like other riders coming from Boston. He found himself on one side of the tracks. His car was parked on the other side. His only option was to follow the detour signs and, for a man who has trouble walking, he encountered two sets of stairs -- 44 steps total -- a walk under the train tracks, and a longer hike back to his car on the inbound side of the depot.
“I had to stop and rest, of course. I could never do that in one fell swoop,” he told the NBC 10 I-Team.
Regardless of where Allard parked, riders cannot cross the tracks in Mansfield because of 100 mph moving Amtrak trains. So, even if riders anticipate parking where the train drops them off, one would still have to get to the other side of the tracks by going down the stairs, under the bridge, and up more steps to get on an inbound train.
“My greater concern is for people like myself, or even worse than myself, that are in a wheelchair or maybe have breathing problems that can't do the stairs at all,” said Allard.
There's no question the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority station in Mansfield is undergoing construction. The $7.5 million facelift is being paid for with federal and state money and includes new handicapped ramps, among other significant improvements. However, the job won't be completed for another 16 months in December 2019, according to an MBTA customer service representative.
In an email, the T’s customer service team told Allard they were "sorry to hear" he had a difficult experience and mentioned the new accessibility improvements coming his way. Again, more than a year from now. The I-Team called, emailed, and texted the T to see if there have been complaints like Allard’s. That question was never answered.
Allard had asked about valet service or a shuttle to get folks from one side of the tracks to the other. The T doesn’t feel that is necessary.
“The MBTA, at this time, has no plans to operate a shuttle service from one side of the station to the other. There is no immediate indication that there is heavy demand for such a shuttle. The MBTA, however, is pleased to report that accessibility improvements are underway, with the construction of fully accessible ramps on both sides of the platforms for easier access between parking lots and the inbound platform. The MBTA appreciates its customers’ patience while the accessibility improvement work advances,” said spokesperson Joe Pesaturo in an email to the I-Team.
For limited mobility riders like Allard, he feels the response from the T to his complaint is as weak as his legs.
“Those people are completely disenfranchised here, there is no way they can do it by themselves,” he said.
Allard recently filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, as a local avenue for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.