The public transportation system in Washington, D.C. is fully accessible to the disabled and wheelchair users. The system adequately serves all parts of the District of Columbia.
Subway “Metro” System
The Washington Metro is a fully accessible subway system with six lines and 91 total stations within the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. With an annual ridership of more than 200 million, the system is the second busiest in the United States.
Trains are easily accessible from station platforms and both powered and manual wheelchair users are able to easily roll on and off the trains. Despite the overall accessibility of the Metro, it does not receive a perfect mark in my accessibility score due to the all-too-frequent issues with elevators.
Elevators which operate between the mezzanine/platform and street levels are oftentimes two or more blocks from the main entrance of the station. Locating an elevator can prove to be more difficult at stations with multiple entrances, as elevators are often only available at one entrance. Given the potential for harsh winter weather, the lack of signage pointing to elevator entrances is a grave disservice to the disabled.
Another issue is that the elevators are painfully slow. I can’t count how many trains I’ve missed because of the slow elevator speeds. I’ve also had the misfortune of being stuck inside DC metro elevators on more than one occasion. They are old and deteriorating.
For those who are at least somewhat ambulatory, escalators exist at nearly all entrances to metro stations.
The Metro system’s Blue and Yellow lines offer service to/from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the District’s primary and closest airport. For additional information on reaching the city from Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) or Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI), please consult the section on Airport Accessibility. IAD and BWI airports are not served by the Washington Metro subway system, but other affordable transportation options do exist.
Metro Rail fares and passes can be paid by cash, credit card or with the reloadable SmarTrip card. SmarTrip cards can be purchased or reloaded at any Metro subway station, including the Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) station. Fares are based on distance traveled and time of day. Unlimited ride passes are available for $14.50 for one day or $59.25 for 7 days.
City Bus Service
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority MetroBus system operates throughout the District of Columbia and serves 11,500 stops across 325 routes. The service extends into parts of Maryland and Virginia. Buses are equipped with numerous accessibility features which make them entirely accessible to the disabled and wheelchair users. These adaptations include:
- All buses kneel or lower and are equipped with lowered floor ramps or lifts.
- Two wheelchair securement areas with tie-downs are located on each bus.
- Audio stop, intersection and landmark announcements are made on each bus.
- Lowered yellow accessible stop/alert buttons are positioned at each wheelchair securement area.
For MetroBus routes, times and schedules, visit www.wmata.com/bus/.
All MetroBus fares are $1.75, except for a limited number of Express routes which carry a $4.00 fare. Airport Express route 5A with service to Dulles Airport (IAD) and route B30 with service to Baltimore Washington airport (BWI) have a $7.00 fare. Fares can be paid by cash (exact change) or with the reloadable SmarTrip card. SmarTrip cards can be purchased or reloaded at any Metro subway station, including the Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) station.
Amtrak rail service is available to/from Union Station in Washington, D.C. For routes, fares and tickets, visit www.amtrak.com. Regular service is available between Union Station and Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI). A 15-percent discount is available to the disabled and users of wheelchairs and all Amtrak trains are wheelchair accessible.