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Rail Services

Easter Seals Project ACTION promotes accessibility in multiple types of transportation including rail. Whether a person with a disability needs to take heavy rail (e.g. subway) or light rail across the city to work or intercity rail (AMTRAK) across many miles to visit family, ESPA has created a number of resources that include helpful information on requirements and policies for making rail accessible.


While one student may “metro” to school and the other may “take the subway,” both are taking heavy rail to get where they need to go. See the definitions of four different types of rail below as defined in ESPA’s publication ADA Essentials for Transit Board Members: Fundamentals of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Transit Public Policy.

Commuter Rail – A railway for urban passenger service consisting of local short distance travel operating on the general system of railroads between a central city and adjacent suburbs. Service is operated on a regular basis and is characterized by multi-trip tickets, specific station to station fares, and typically one or two stations in the central business district.

Heavy Rail – Also referred to as metro, subway or rapid rail, heavy rail is an electric railway with the capacity for a heavy volume of traffic. Heavy rail passenger cars operate as single or multi-car trains on fixed-rails with separate rights of way.

Intercity Rail – Defined under 49 CFR Part 37.3 as “transportation provided by Amtrak.” Long-distance train service that connects major U.S. cities. Frequency depends on demand for service. Typically two to three trains run per day between major cities.

Light Rail Lightweight passenger rail cars operating singly or in short trains on fixed-rail right-of-way. Light rail vehicles are typically run on electricity with power drawn from overhead electrical lines.



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