The Metro Transit Authority and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] representing handicapped individuals have closed out a long-running court fight over making subway stations fully accessible for passengers in wheelchairs.
Other users of the Metro system will benefit, because several of the provisions in a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court will be as helpful to people who don't like escalators as they are to wheelchair occupants who can't use them.
For example, Metro has promised to install Farecard equipment near the elevators of seven stations where the elevators bypass the fare-collecting area and go directly to the train platform. At present, an individual needing to use the train must push a button, wait for an attendant to process the Farecard at a distant machine, then ride the elevator.
With the Farecard equipment installed, the elevators would be accessible to anyone and an attendant's help would not be required.
That agreement is one of eight points in the decree which settles a lawsuit going back to 1973. At that time, Metro was ordered to install elevators for the handicapped at stations then under construction. The opening of one station, Gallery Place on the first Red Line segment to open, was delayed for months because the elevator was not in operation.
The stations that will receive the special Farecard equipment are Takoma, Judiciary Square, Gallery Place, National Airport, Arlington Cemetery, Rosslyn and Tenley Circle. Tenley is on an unopened section of the Red Line.
Metro also agreed that every station will have full elevator access at at least one point and that three stations will have two elevator access points. These are Shady Grove, Anacostia and New Carrollton.
Metro also will develop a way to carry a wheel chair from one level to another at the Huntington station. Several other modifications in system and procedure also were agreed to.
Metro has obligated or spend $35.4 million to date for handicapped facilities and expects to spend about $71 million by the time the 100-mile system is completed.