Half of Metrobus stops inaccessible for disabled riders

WASHINGTON — More than half of the Metrobus stops in D.C., Maryland and Virginia do not meet minimum conditions required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, according a new Metro analysis.

Out of 19,000 Metrobus stops in the region, more than 10,000 don’t meet three basic standards and 11,320 don’t meet an optional fourth condition that Metro wants to add, according to the analysis. For disabled riders, it means the stops are inaccessible and instead of hopping on the next Metrobus, they have to make reservations for the more expensive MetroAccess service.

“I would like to see those numbers disappear. That is the purpose here, really to get to the point where every bus stop is accessible,” says Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.

Minimal ADA standards require that bus stops have a firm landing surface at least 5 feet wide and 8 feet long and connect to the curb.

Metro wants to add a fourth standard requiring that a curb cut be placed at the corner nearest the bus stop and a matching curb cut at an adjacent corner, which would allow disabled riders to cross the street.

Curb cuts are essentially a ramp that eliminates the drop from the sidewalk to the pavement for those with canes, walkers and wheelchairs.

“Considering that ADA started in the nineties, it’s a catchup for that many stops,” says Christian Kent, Metro’s assistant general manager for access services.

The report identifies 50 stops considered the most problematic. Metro says addressing those stops will take top priority.

But most of the work has to be completed by the city, county or state that maintains the sidewalks, not Metro.

In the District, that means working with DDOT. In Northern Virginia, it means working with VDOT and in Arlington with county staff. In Maryland, it means working with the State Highway Administration and in some cases Montgomery or Prince George’s counties.

“All of them have already shown that they want to do this, that they want to get it done. I think it’s going to happen,” Sarles says.

The upgrades will often occur along with other improvements to the roads and sidewalks, meaning it could take several years to address all of the inaccessible stops.

Without repairs, Metro is worried about the continued strain on MetroAccess. Disabled riders use the transit service to avoid inaccessible bus stops, but MetroAccess is more expensive than Metrobus and requires a reservation in advance.

Metro believes if it can fix the bus stops, then it can lighten the load on MetroAccess.

“What we’re trying to get them to do is get them on the bus and make them more mobile. We want to connect them better to the region with the bus and rail system,” says Kent.

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