People who want to ride Metro free can take the elevator.

Some riders on the Metro rail system are using elevators provided for handicapped passengers between platforms and the street at three stations to avoid fare gates.

Metro officials insisted yesterday that illegal entries and exits through elevators at the Rosslyn, National Airport and Judiciary Square stops have been low, but one station attendant in Rosslyn said the elevator is used often by people bypassing the gates.

"Occasionally we have that," said Angus MacLean, Metro Transit Police chief. "It's not serious."

At least 20 people used the Rosslyn station elevator between 4 and 5 p.m. yesterday. Only one of those 20 admitted to trying to avoid paying the fare. She said that she often entered the subway system with a fare card that had a value lower than the cost of her trip and exited through the elevator.

Most of the other 20 people said they used the elevator to avoid long lines or because they are afraid of the height of the steeply inclined Rosslyn escalator.

Passengers who enter the system legally but leave through the elevators cannot use their farecards again until they put them through an exit gate, Metro officials said.

Each of the three stations have elevators with exits outside of the fare gates. In Rosslyn the exit is across North Moore Street from the Metro station. It was built that way to avoid a long walk from the entrance to the train platform for handicapped persons, Cody Pfanstiehl, a Metro spokesman, said. Pfanstiehl said it was done at the airport because of space limitations and at Judiciary Square because of federal regulations.

The elevators, are supposed to be closed until a station attendent identifies a handicapped person in need, officials said. But some station attendents said they usually leave the elevators's power on because they are often out of the kiosk answering questions and working with customers.

MacLean said the problem could be remedied if some of his officers or members of the Arlington police could be stationed at the elevators, but added that that solution is prohibitively expensive, Capt. William K. Stover of the Arlington Police Department said his officers in the area do not worry about catching people trying to beat the farecard system.

"As to fares, we leave that more or less to the Metro police," Stover said. "I'm not sure I can get really excited about people riding an elevator."

Pfanstiehl said there had been "two or three" arrests for avoiding the fare gates in Rosslyn since the Blue Line opened in July.