Jane Jackson, 45, sat in her electric wheelchair at 20th and P streets NW last night, holding a rain-soaked transfer in her fingers and waiting for a special, lift-equipped bus that was four hours overdue.

"It's funny," she said, pulling the hood of her raincoat over her head as it started to pour once more. "I came all the way from California with the Gray Panthers (a group dedicated to winning rights for the elderly and handicapped) to put an end to this sort of thing. Now it's happening to me."

Jackson had come to Washington to try and help make the nation's public transportation more easily accessible to handicapped and senior citizens. She had been to see Metro officials and senators.

A spokesman for Metro said that while there "generally" were 80 lift-equipped buses in service throughout Washington, "problems with the lifts have left some of them out of service."

It all began at 4:30 p.m., Jackson said, when she rolled to 20th and P streets NW to catch an £2 bus equipped with a lift to give handicapped people easy accessibility. It never showed.

The £4 at 7:10 p.m. did not have a lift either.

Finally, at 8:30 p.m., a special bus arrived. But neither the driver nor a supervisor who had come to the scene could make the lift work.

At 8:45 she boarded when the lift finally worked.