Transportation Options for Seniors in Fairfax County

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990 and since then has improved transportation options for seniors and disabled persons living in Fairfax County and beyond. The ADA is a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities in a wide range of categories, one being transportation. Before the ADA, many fixed-route bus systems did not provide transportation options for disabled persons. Under the ADA, public transportation systems across the board were made more accessible. Most buses or vans today provide what are termed paratransit services, that is, they are specifically equipped with ADA approved wheelchair lifts or ramps to facilitate access for disabled persons.

MetroAccess

In the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, MetroAccess is the name for the paratransit service that was built specifically to comply with ADA standards. All those participating in this program are unable to use fixed-route bus or rail services due to a physical or cognitive disability. To those who are qualified, MetroAccess provides door-to-door transportation to any location in the District of Columbia; to Montgomery and Prince Georges counties in Maryland; and to Arlington and Fairfax counties, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church in Virginia that is within three-quarters of a mile of any fixed-route service operated by Metrorail, Metrobus or any of the above local jurisdictions. MetroAccess uses the same hours as any regular fixed-route transit.

Only riders who meet certain criteria specified by the ADA and who have been certified as eligible can use MetroAccess. A two part application is required; Part A is completed with one’s own doctor while Part B is completed only by a scheduled appointment with a physical therapist who works specifically with MetroAccess. According to a representative at MetroAccess, the current wait time for an appointment to complete Part B is three months. In the meantime they can issue a temporary pass that is good for 21 days.

MetroAccess fares range between $2.50 and $6.50 each way, depending on the distance (measured in “zones”) traveled. The price is based on how far a pick up is from a fixed route. For more information about MetroAccess please call 1-800-523-7009.

Fastran

On a more local level, Fairfax County offers paratransit options for those who are either disabled or 65 years of age or over. One such service is Fastran, which offers specialized transportation services for residents of Fairfax County and the Cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. All Fastran riders must be certified by a participating agency before utilizing the service (with the exception of companion riders). Fastran only travels within Fairfax County for a pick up but they will travel as far as Arlington County or the City of Alexandria for a drop off.

Fastran has three programs. The Dial-a-Ride Program (DAR) is for residents who are certified by Fastran to be transported to and from medical appointments and essential shopping needs; all of these vehicles are equipped with wheelchair lifts. DAR trips are available between 10:00am and 2:00pm weekdays. According to a manager at Fastran, they are usually booked for going to the grocery store, doctor or physical therapist. DAR is an income-based program.

Secondly, the Critical Medical Care Program (CMCP) offers transportation for residents who are undergoing dialysis, cancer treatments or rehabilitative services. This program operates on a space available basis and only between the hours of 6:00am and 6:00pm Monday through Friday. On the weekends, riders are encouraged to use MetroAccess.

Lastly, Fastran offers charter buses for the county, Monday through Friday from 10:00a.m. until 2:00pm. Often, Senior Centers rent these and pay the fare for transportation to and from their facilities.

The fees for DAR and CMCP are minimal. Dial-a-Ride users deposit $1.00 to $2.00 in the farebox each way, depending upon the length of the trip while CMCP riders pay $0.00 to $5.00 per one-way trip depending upon their income.

The differences between Fastran and MetroAccess are three. With a $2.50 base pay and what can be a fare of $6.50 per trip, MetroAccess is far more expensive than Fastran. If you are a senior citizen of Fairfax County and need rides during regular weekday times, Fastran makes sense. A benefit, however, of MetroAccess, other than the obvious fact that it has a greater client base, is that it operates on the same schedule as Metrorail and Metrobus and this gives seniors more flexibility for their appointments whether they be on a weekday or weekend.

Fairfax Connector

Fairfax County also offers bus and tax cab services for seniors and those with disabilities. One such bus service is the Fairfax Connector, which began in September 1985 as a cheaper alternative to Metrobus. It now serves Fairfax County and includes the Dulles Corridor and the Reston Internal Bus System (RIBS). It provides service to all Metro Stations in Fairfax County and various points in between.

Priority seats for seniors and passengers with disabilities are located behind the operator. Buses in Reston and Herndon all have wheel chair lifts while most others outside this area, are similarly equipped. In order to be sure that your area has wheelchair equipped buses, call (703) 339-7200.

Besides the already low cost, the Fairfax Connector reduces its fares to 50 cents for those 65 years of age and older and for disabled persons. Also, as is true with Metrobus, any passenger may ride for free on Code Red air quality days.

According to a representative, another benefit of the Fairfax Connector besides the reduced fare is that upon boarding, passengers have the option to ask for a transfer slip that enables them to ride multiple busses for up to two hours on the same fare. Senior citizens can obtain an ID application at all Fairfax County libraries. Persons with disabilities can arrange to obtain an ID by calling (202) 962-1245.

Fairfax County also provides taxi cab services for seniors who are residents. Two such programs are Seniors on the Go! and City Wheels.

Seniors on the Go!

Seniors on the Go! allows senior residents of Fairfax County who have an annual income of $40,000 or less for a family of one and $50,000 or less for a married family of two to purchase taxicab coupon booklets worth $30 at a cost of only $10 per booklet. Once qualified, seniors may purchase up to $480 worth of taxicab coupons (16 coupon books) within a 12-month period; this works out to a yearly savings of $320 on taxicab fare! There are no restrictions to where a rider may go.

City Wheels

Another service and one that some of our clients who live locally use is City Wheels This service provides disabled Fairfax City residents alternative transportation within the City of Fairfax, to George Mason University, to the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metrorail Station, to Fair Oaks Hospital and to the Farr Law Firm. All services are provided through private taxicabs. A Photo ID or Proof of Disability is required and fares are $1.50 a trip.

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