When rating a city’s accessibility for tourists with disabilities, one of the most critical factors that I consider is the availability of fast and frequent public transportation from the airport to the city center. With the historical unreliability of wheelchair taxis, disabled travelers must be able to count on public transportation to assure they won’t be stranded at the airport.
Even when public transport is available, I give preference to cities with a direct rail connection between the airport and downtown. The most accessible cities have trains or subway systems that allow wheelchair users to roll on and off unassisted — independence is the key to true accessibility.
In this article, I’ll look at the 20 U.S. Cities that offer wheelchair accessible trains from the airport to downtown — if you’re looking to select a vacation destination that makes getting around easy, this list is a great place to start.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is served by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) with its Red and Gold lines. The airport train station is connected to the terminal building and is located steps from domestic baggage claim.
The fare for a one-way trip is $2.50 and it takes around 20 minutes to get from the airport to the city center. MARTA is a wheelchair accessible metro system with level-entry boarding between train and station platform and elevators at all stations.
The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) operates a light rail service from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) to downtown Baltimore. One-way fares are priced at $1.90 to $4.20 depending on the distance traveled, and it takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the city center.
The city’s light rail trains are wheelchair accessible, with boarding at a designated wheelchair platform. The train’s operator must deploy a bridge plate to permit access to the cabin — wheelchair spaces are available on trains, via passengers seats that fold up and out of the way.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is connected to downtown Boston by the MBTA Blue Line subway. While the Blue Line’s Airport Station is located on airport property, travelers will need to take a bus between the station and terminal building.
The fare for a one-way trip is $2.40, and it takes approximately 30 minutes to get to the city center over the combined subway and shuttle bus rides. The Blue Line subway train stops at Government Center Station, which is located near many popular Boston attractions. MBTA trains are wheelchair accessible, with level boarding and designated spaces for wheelchair users.
Alternatively, travelers can board the Silver Line SL1 bus at the airport, riding it to South Station, where connections to Amtrak and the MBTA Red Line trains are possible. There is no fare collected on the Silver Line for departures originating at the airport.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates a Blue Line train service from O’Hare, with a transit time of approximately 45 minutes to reach the city center. Wheelchair users typically require a ramp to board blue line trains (see the photo above), including at the airport station — passengers should flag down a station staffer or operator to request use of the ramp.
Midway Airport is served by the Orange Line, with service to the city in approximately 25 minutes. Level-entry boarding is available on Orange Line trains and designated wheelchair spaces are provided onboard.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) operates the Red Line train service from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) to downtown Cleveland.
The one-way fare is $2.50, and it takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the Tower City-Public Square Station downtown. RTA trains are wheelchair accessible.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is connected to downtown Dallas by the DART Orange Line. The fare for a one-way trip is $2.50 and it takes approximately 50 minutes to get from the airport to the city center.
All DART light rail trains are wheelchair accessible with level entry boarding and designated wheelchair spaces onboard. In the downtown corridor, most stations re located at street level — throughout the network, all stations are wheelchair accessible with ramps and/or elevators.
Everything is bigger in Texas, as the saying goes, and Dallas does things BIG — check out these 18 Wheelchair Accessible Attractions in Dallas, including the JFK Assassination Museum, the Bush Presidential Library, live music in Deep Ellum, beautiful public parks and more!
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates the A Line train service from Denver International Airport (DEN) to downtown Denver.
The one-way fare is $10.50, and it takes approximately about 40 minutes to reach the city center at Union Station.
Miami International Airport (MIA) is connected to downtown Miami by the Miami Metrorail. The Orange Line metro train departs from the airport’s rental car and public transport center, which is connected to the terminal building via the Miami Airport Mover monorail.
After boarding the Orange Line, travelers will need to transfer to the Green Line at Earlington Heights station to travel downtown. The fare for a one-way trip is $2.25 and it takes around 30 to 40 minutes to reach the city center. Level-entry boarding and space for wheelchairs is provided on all trains, and elevators are available at all stations.
Travel from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to downtown Minneapolis is possible via the METRO Blue Line, which has stations at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. The fare for a one-way trip is $2.50-$3.00 depending on the time of day, and it takes around 25 minutes to get to the city center.
The gap between train and station platforms is minimal, allowing for level-entry boarding with a wheelchair. All stations are accessible, with elevators or ramps provided.
New York City (JFK)*
The AirTrain connects John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to the New York City Subway and the Long Island Rail Road at Jamaica Station. The subway lines available include the E, J, and Z lines, while the LIRR offers service to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan. Although rail service from JFK Airport does require a connection, the transfer is fairly easy, which is why I have included it on this list.
The AirTrain runs 24/7 and takes around 35 minutes to reach Midtown Manhattan. The one-way fare is $7.75 for the AirTrain and $2.75 for the subway or $10.00 for the LIRR. The AirTrain is wheelchair accessible at all terminal stations and at Jamaica Station. The onward LIRR train to Penn Station is also accessible via a ramp deployed by the train’s conductor.
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is connected to Newark Penn Station via the AirTrain Newark monorail system. The AirTrain runs 24/7 and takes approximately 10 minutes to reach the station, where travelers can access New Jersey Transit, PATH and Amtrak trains to New York City and other destinations in the New York City metropolitan area.
A one-way fare for the AirTrain is $7.75, and onward train fares vary depending on the destination. The AirTrain is wheelchair accessible, with level boarding and accommodations for wheelchair users.
The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train connects Oakland International Airport (OAK) to downtown San Francisco, Oakland, and other parts of the Bay Area via the Pittsburg/Bay Point – SFO/Millbrae Line.
The Oakland Airport BART Station is located just across from the terminals and takes around 35 minutes to reach downtown Oakland and approximately 45 minutes to reach downtown San Francisco. BART is wheelchair accessible, with elevators at stations and wheelchair spaces available on all trains.
The SEPTA Airport Line connects Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to Center City Philadelphia. The train stops at all major airport terminals and takes around 25 minutes to reach the city center.
Learn why Philly is one of my favorite cities in the United States — Check out these 16 Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do in Philadelphia!
The one-way fare is $8.00. SEPTA is wheelchair accessible, with elevators at the airport and city center stations, and wheelchair spaces available onboard trains. A boarding plate is used to bridge the gap between the train and station platform.
Passengers can travel between Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and downtown Phoenix by way of the Valley Metro Rail’s Blue Line. To reach the Blue Line at 44th Street & Washington Station, travelers should board the Phoenix Airport’s free Sky Train, which also stops at Terminals 3 and 4, the rental car center and parking garage.
Sky Train rides are free, however the Blue Line fare is $2. Total travel time from the airport terminal to downtown Phoenix is approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Both the PHX Sky Train and Valley Metro Rail are wheelchair accessible, with level boarding and wheelchair spaces available on all trains.
The MAX Red Line connects Portland International Airport (PDX) to downtown Portland, Oregon and other parts of the city.
The MAX station is located on the lower level of the airport terminal and takes around 40 minutes to reach downtown Portland. The one-way fare is $2.50. The MAX is wheelchair accessible, with level boarding and wheelchair spaces available on all trains.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is connected to downtown Salt Lake City by the TRAX Green Line. The fare for a one-way trip is $2.50, and it takes approximately 20 minutes to get to the city center.
Salt Lake City is an underrated destination — check out these 11 Wheelchair Accessible Attractions in Salt Lake City, including a mountainside natural history museum, beautiful parks and an aviary!
The station is connected to the new Salt Lake City Airport terminal building via an outdoor walkway. From the terminal building, passengers should exit via door 1A and head east.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is served by BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit, which offers direct train service from the airport to downtown San Francisco, including stops at popular tourist destinations such as Union Square and the Embarcadero.
The journey takes about 30 to 40 minutes and one-way fares cost around $10-$12. All BART stations are wheelchair accessible, with elevators and accessible fare gates available. Wheelchair spaces are available inside the train cars, and the gap between the boarding platform and train is minimal.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is connected to downtown Seattle by the Sound Transit Link Light Rail (Red Line). The direct train service from the airport to downtown Seattle includes stops at popular tourist destinations such as Pioneer Square and the Space Needle. The fare for a one-way trip is $3.25-$4.50 depending on the time of day, and it takes approximately 35-40 minutes to get to the city center.
The SeaTac/Airport Station is located on the fourth floor of the airport parking garage, accessible directly from the airport terminal building. The Link Light Rail is wheelchair accessible at all stations, with level boarding and wheelchair spaces available on all trains.
St. Louis, Missouri
The MetroLink light rail system serves Lambert St. Louis International Airport (STL) via the Red Line. The train takes approximately 30-40 minutes to reach the city center, with several stops along the way. The red line serves downtown St. Louis, with stops near popular attractions such as the Gateway Arch, Busch Stadium, Union Station and more.
A one-way fare on MetroLink is $2.50, with reduced fares for seniors and individuals with disabilities. The light rail trains are accessible, with level boarding and designated spaces for wheelchair users (flip-up seats). All MetroLink stations are wheelchair accessible, with elevators and/or ramps to the station platform.
To learn more about wheelchair accessibility in the Gateway City, take a look at the St. Louis Wheelchair Travel Guide.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is connected to downtown Washington, D.C. by the Yellow and Blue Lines of the WMATA Metro rail system. The fare for a one-way trip is $2 to $6 depending on the time of day and distance traveled, and it takes approximately 15-20 minutes to get to the city center on the Yellow Line.
The airport metro station is connected to the DCA Airport via an enclosed walkway, however the station platform is open air. All Metrorail stations are wheelchair accessible, with elevators and tactile paving installed. There is a minimal gap between the train and station platform, making it easy for wheelchair users to roll on and off the trains unassisted.
Plan your trip to the nation’s capital city using the FREE Washington, D.C. Wheelchair Accessible Travel Guide, with information on accessible things to do, ADA accessible hotels, public transportation, wheelchair taxis and more!
The city’s primary international airport, Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), is served by the Metro’s Silver Line. In November 2022, a new train station opened at the airport, replacing the prior bus service to Wiehle-Reston East Station. The airport station is connected to the main terminal via an indoor pedestrian tunnel with moving sidewalks. Fares vary by time of day and distance traveled, but range from $2 to $6.
Train service at the airport is not uncommon in Europe and Asia, where nearly all major airports are served by metro/subway systems and intercity trains. That level of connectivity does not yet exist in the United States, but plans are underway to build rail extensions to several major airports. Washington, D.C. was the latest to introduce a new airport rail connection, with the Silver Line extension delivering service to the nation’s 28th busiest airport, Washington Dulles International.
Without direct train service to the airport, wheelchair users can face significant obstacles to accessible — and may even be forced to sleep at the airport when wheelchair taxis are unreliable or unavailable. City and transportation planners must recognize the utility of rail service direct to America’s airports, as much of the world has already done.