A mother’s tragic death while carrying a stroller down a subway stairwell highlights major problems with public transportation
The New York Times reports that 22-year-old Malaysia Goodson died after falling down a flight of New York City subway stairs while carrying her one-year-old baby in a stroller. While the cause of death hasn’t been verified yet, the accident brings attention to the deplorable access issues in the NYC subways, as well as in public transit systems around the country.
Officials said that Goodson was navigating the stairs at the Seventh Avenue subway station, at 53rd Street, around 8 p.m. on Monday when the fall took place. She was unconscious and unresponsive when emergency responders arrived, and pronounced dead at Mount Sinai West hospital upon her arrival. It’s not yet clear if she had a medical condition or if she died from the fall. NBC News 4 reports the heartbreaking detail that she was still holding the stroller in her hands when she was found unconscious.
Her daughter, Rhylee, was conscious and treated at the scene. She’s now with her father and grandmother.
This is 22 year old Malaysia Goodson. The Stamford mother fell down the stairs at a subway station in NYC last night and died. Her one year old daughter was with her in a stroller but is ok. @News12CT pic.twitter.com/4mRmwOAZKx
— Marissa Alter (@MarissaAlter) January 29, 2019
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said through a spokesperson that they would investigate the death and called it a “heartbreaking tragedy.”
As news of Goodson’s death spread, a spotlight has been shone on how inaccessible the subway system is in New York – and throughout other cities as well. The station where Goodson fell did not have an elevator, just like 75 percent of stops along the system. Even the stops that do have elevators suffer from equipment breakdowns an average of 53 times a year, according to a study. Even when elevators are present and working, they’re often cramped, poorly kept, and far away from the trains.
Imagine commuting in NYC with this map, via @Guardian.
— Azi™ (@Azi) January 29, 2019
If you think this all sounds totally illegal, you might be right. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently facing a lawsuit regarding how inaccessible its stops are – there are some stretches where there’s not a handicapped accessible station for ten stops in a row. The lawsuits say that the subway system violates the city’s human rights laws in addition to violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Only a quarter of the subway system is accessible, keeping thousands of elderly and disabled NYers from the system and leading to horrible incidents like this. Riders deserve a specific time frame on the agency’s plans to achieve full accessibility. https://t.co/ipZoxu48J8
— Gale A. Brewer (@galeabrewer) January 29, 2019
But this is not just an issue in New York City. While San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have fully accessible stations, other cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago are only doing slightly better, with 74 percent, 68 percent, and 67 percent accessibility respectively.
In addition to serving an essential purpose for people with disabilities, surveys show elevators are widely used by parents with strollers and older people who struggle with stairs. They're not just nice-to-have, they're essential. And yet… https://t.co/oIy12ojGG8
— TransitCenter (@TransitCenter) January 29, 2019
It’s worth noting that most people need elevator service to the subway at some point in their lives, whether they’re parents with bulky strollers, people with injuries, or the elderly.
Already, just a day after the incident, some officials were calling for fully-ADA-compliant stations, like Jeffrey Dinowitz, a New York State Assemblyman from the Bronx.
This tragedy highlights a very real fear that many people have when they commute.
— Jeffrey Dinowitz (@JeffreyDinowitz) January 29, 2019
At the same time, parents on social media shared stories of how hard it can be to navigate public transportation with kids under four – and at times, how it’s dangerous or even impossible. Others urged everyone to help moms who are attempting to carry bulky strollers up or down stairs when there isn’t an elevator available.
New York is a city of elevators that lead up, up, up, into penthouses and conference rooms, but very few lead down into the subways, and those that do smell like bathrooms and feel like death traps. See a mother carrying her stroller down the stairs? Help. https://t.co/W8z0TvwDFL
— Briän Ries (@moneyries) January 29, 2019
Twitter, I've nearly done this with Elijah. I've carried his stroller down New York subway steps, thinking to myself: "if I slip, I'll fall backwards with the stroller on top of me & wrap my body around it so he's okay." Maybe offer to help people carrying strollers. https://t.co/bT1texlEpl
— Hannah Moscovitch (@moscotweets) January 29, 2019
Of course, relying on the kindness of strangers is nothing in comparison to having a transit system that takes the needs of all people into consideration.
If you’d like to help Goodson’s family in the wake of her passing, there’s a GoFundMe set up to help support her little girl.