WMATA installs gap reducers on railcars

Posted on March 1, 2001

The Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) retrofitted nearly 100% of its 758 revenue-service railcars with gap reducers to reduce the amount of space between the platform and the door. The reducers, rubber strips placed at the threshold of the doors, decrease the vertical gap by half an inch. They are beveled at a 45 degree angle and extend in a horizontal direction one and a half inches beyond the railcar door. “It’s not only for wheelchairs, but for women and children with smaller feet,” said Cheryl Johnson, a spokeswoman for WMATA. The reducers were installed on the six doors of each railcar, with a total of more than 4,500 installed. The project was part of an Emergency Rail Rehabilitation Project that began last year and was funded at $985,000. “Even though we were in compliance with American with Disabilities Act regulations, we thought this would further enhance safety for our passengers,” Johnson said. Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations read: “In light rail, rapid rail and commuter rail key stations, the platform or a portion thereof and the vehicle floor shall be coordinated so that the vertical difference, measured when the vehicle is at rest, is within plus or minus one and a half inches under all normal passenger load conditions, and the horizontal gap, measured when the vehicle is at rest, is no greater than three inches for at least one door of each vehicle or car required to be accessible.” Art Lopez, head of the Civil Rights Office at the FTA, said that gaps are generally an issue at transit agencies, and that they all solve the problem in their own ways. The Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority installed a reducer similar to WMATA’s. “Having that little piece in there really helps a lot,” Lopez said. “It’s the type of modification that ADA is all about—it should not just help people with disabilities, it should help everyone.” Before installing the reducers, WMATA had public hearings and got input from the wheelchair and visually impaired communities, Lopez said. “It’s a good example of the community and a transit property working together to create a solution,” he said. The Office of Civil Rights is responsible for ADA compliance at key stations nationwide, of which there are 685. The office has done assessments at more than two-thirds of those, Lopez said.

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