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Old Feb 2, 10, 4:04 pm   #1
 
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BWI Airport to Quantico by train

My husband is disabled due to illness, he can walk very slowly and not too far. Our son-in-law will be graduating from Marine OCS at Quantico (south of D.C.) in late March. I'll be driving cross-country with my daughter, leaving my husband to fly PHX-BWI by himself on Southwest. He'll get a wheelchair curbside to plane in PHX. We haven't decided if he'll take his own chair, although it would be handy for the activities we'll do while in Virginia.

I know Amtrak trains stop at BWI, he can get on the train and get off at Quantico station where we will pick him up. Here (finally...) is the question. How far is the train station from the BWI terminal - is it reasonable to have the wheelchair attendant take my husband from baggage claim to the train?

I'm posting here first, if no one has a good answer I can also post on the Southwest board. For those who would say, "Fly to an airport nearer to Quantico," the airfare to BWI is substantially lower than to DCA or IAD, plus there is no train from IAD and from DCA would be a hassle involving changing trains. He will arrive at BWI on a Thursday, mid-afternoon.

Thanks in advance for local knowledge about the BWI train station.
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Old Feb 2, 10, 5:17 pm   #2
 
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Originally Posted by Dianne47 View Post
How far is the train station from the BWI terminal - is it reasonable to have the wheelchair attendant take my husband from baggage claim to the train?
No. The train station is not within the airport itself. He would have to take a shuttle bus to the train station. Unless he is a regular wheelchair user who can manage on his own, I would not recommend this option at all.

I would suggest the obvious alternative - someone drives up from Quantico to BWI to pick him up.

And congrats to your son-in-law!
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Old Feb 4, 10, 3:24 pm   #3
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Originally Posted by Dianne47 View Post
My husband is disabled due to illness, he can walk very slowly and not too far. Our son-in-law will be graduating from Marine OCS at Quantico (south of D.C.) in late March. I'll be driving cross-country with my daughter, leaving my husband to fly PHX-BWI by himself on Southwest. He'll get a wheelchair curbside to plane in PHX. We haven't decided if he'll take his own chair, although it would be handy for the activities we'll do while in Virginia.

I know Amtrak trains stop at BWI, he can get on the train and get off at Quantico station where we will pick him up. Here (finally...) is the question. How far is the train station from the BWI terminal - is it reasonable to have the wheelchair attendant take my husband from baggage claim to the train?

I'm posting here first, if no one has a good answer I can also post on the Southwest board. For those who would say, "Fly to an airport nearer to Quantico," the airfare to BWI is substantially lower than to DCA or IAD, plus there is no train from IAD and from DCA would be a hassle involving changing trains. He will arrive at BWI on a Thursday, mid-afternoon.

Thanks in advance for local knowledge about the BWI train station.
There are wheel chair accessible shuttle buses at BWI. I do not know if the wheel chair attendant will stay with him until he can get on the wheel chair accessible bus. It might be worth a call to BWI airport services. There is also a volunteer programme at BWI volunteer programme at BWI for military personnel. I am not sure if they will be able to help your husband.
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Old Feb 4, 10, 7:53 pm   #4
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Originally Posted by Dianne47 View Post
We haven't decided if he'll take his own chair, although it would be handy for the activities we'll do while in Virginia.
I'd vote for taking your husband's chair, even if he isn't able to self-propel. It's a chair he's used to, and you (and he) won't be dependent on the kindness of others (or the chance vagaries of whatever assistance is available).
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Old Feb 5, 10, 2:04 pm   #5
 
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Thanks for the information and suggestions. My husband is a retired (26 years service) Marine and double war vet (Vietnam and Gulf I). The info. about the volunteers for military people is especially helpful and I'll follow up on that.

If someone could just walk with him and help with pulling his wheeled suitcase, that would be excellent. He's getting more mobile and I can see it's going to be hard to convince him to take his own wheelchair on this trip. As long as the walks aren't too far, he should be able to navigate - slowly. Independence and being able to do something like this are very important to him.

I volunteered to take his suitcase in the car, but he says that won't be necessary. He hasn't thought that one quite through, as it would save lots of waiting time on both ends (checked luggage). It's 7 weeks until the trip, so plenty of time for planning.

We have traveled several times since he's been sick, including a Philadelphia trip for the Army-Navy game. But this is his first trip alone. Old Marine that he is, he hates asking for help to get around.

Thanks for your posts.
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Old Feb 5, 10, 5:25 pm   #6
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I think you are going to have to out think your Marine by organizing help for him.

See if you can get younger Marines to escort him along the way so that he will feel he has buddies around him and not just helpers. Please let us know what happens and good luck!
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Old Feb 5, 10, 5:46 pm   #7
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Originally Posted by Dianne47 View Post
Thanks for the information and suggestions. My husband is a retired (26 years service) Marine and double war vet (Vietnam and Gulf I). The info. about the volunteers for military people is especially helpful and I'll follow up on that.
I am glad we were able to be of some help. That's what FT is for. Do call the numbers provided. Here is a quote from the section on disability services from the link provided upthread.
Quote:
Lift-Equipped Buses
Shuttle service to the parking lots and to the railroad station can be provided by lift-equipped buses. Notify First Transit (Operator of the shuttle bus service) at 410-684-3346 to request a wheelchair accessible shuttle bus. It usually takes a few minutes for them to send a specially requested bus.
If a wheel chair is needed:
Quote:
Wheelchair Service


Aviation Safeguards serves Southwest, American, Delta, British Airways and USA3000. The wheelchair request number is 410-981-1251.

Prime Flight Aviation Services serves AirTran, Continental, jetBlue, United, and US Airways. The wheelchair request number is 410-859-4444.
The person who will be pushing his wheel chair should escort him to the bus. I do not know if they have any help at the BWI rail station to help him board the train. Check with Amtrak to see if they have any assistance available at BWI rail station.
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Old Feb 5, 10, 9:48 pm   #8
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Isn't that train supposed to be a roll on roll off?
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Old Feb 7, 10, 8:31 pm   #9
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Since you will have a car, why not pick your husband up at BWI?
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Old Feb 7, 10, 11:01 pm   #10
 
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Originally Posted by Katja View Post
Since you will have a car, why not pick your husband up at BWI?
A logical question. I will be involved all day (the day my husband arrives) with my son-in-law and his family at Quantico. They are already a bit upset that my husband won't be there for the "Family Day" (for the new lieutenants). My husband has very little energy, he is recovering from hantavirus, an extremely debilitating illness with a very long recovery time. If he comes a day earlier, for Family Day, he won't have enough energy to get through the next day, the actual graduation and commissioning day.

This event is so important to my husband. Our son-in-law originally wanted to go into the Air Force, but they would only take him on a "computers" contract. His dream was to be a "special operator," you know, the guys that go in a rescue downed pilots, etc. My husband, ever the Marine officer recruiter, got him interested in being a Marine and helped him every step of the way as he pursued being accepted. It's very difficult to get into OCS these days, the poor economy has actually made it absurdly competitive to get into the Marine officer program.

The whole explanation is involved, we have debated what day my husband should arrive, how to get him around, etc. If I drove up to BWI to pick him up, it would be about 3-4 hours RT and we would be in the thick of commuter traffic on a Thursday afternoon, plus I would miss most of the Family Day activities. The train seems to be the better idea, but we might end up deciding otherwise.

I very much appreciate everyone's suggestions. Through checking the links you've suggested I discovered there is a big USO center at BWI. They have volunteers and it's possible I can get an escort for my husband through them. That's something he would accept. Thanks again.
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Old Feb 11, 10, 8:03 am   #11
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I very much appreciate everyone's suggestions. Through checking the links you've suggested I discovered there is a big USO center at BWI. They have volunteers and it's possible I can get an escort for my husband through them. That's something he would accept. Thanks again.
Thank you for this post. I also learnt something today. I knew there was a USO center at BWI, for BWI is major transit point for many U.S. service men going or returning from overseas duty. I thought USO helps only actice service men. That's why I did not mention it. Bow I know.
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Old Feb 11, 10, 3:25 pm   #12
 
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USO Centers open to Military ID holders, including dependents

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yaatri View Post
I knew there was a USO center at BWI, for BWI is major transit point for many U.S. service men going or returning from overseas duty. I thought USO helps only actice service men. That's why I did not mention it.
Yes, I learned something new by exploring the webpages about it, USO website has information about the BWI Center at http://www.usometrodc.org/location.php?p=13

The airport website also has information on the USO Center.

It looks like if a person has a military ID (which includes retirees and dependents of active duty and retirees) they can access the USO lounges. They are located in a number of airports, see the map and location information at http://www.uso.org/whoweare/findyour...o/uslocations/

This information could be useful to any person with a military ID, particularly someone who is disabled like my husband. I found a lot of resources by researching my own question and I never knew that even I could use these facilities. They are an alternative to airline lounges, to escape the hubbub of waiting areas in airports. I don't fly enough anymore to warrant membership in the Presidents Club or others.

Sorry I've drifted off-topic, but I like to share information. Thanks again.
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Old Mar 31, 10, 1:44 am   #13
 
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Trip report - BWI travel in a wheelchair

I originally posted when we were planning our trip. We did use the train from and to BWI and it was challenging but manageable, but only if the wheelchair passenger was accompanied.

I picked up my husband at BWI airport, after riding the train myself from Quantico (VA, where I was staying) to BWI. On the train ride from Quantico to the airport I carefully observed Amtrak's onboard facilities and talked to the conductor about procedures for disabled pax. Most of the cars had the universal wheelchair emblem by at least one of the entry doors, the conductor told me to be sure my husband boarded the train at a marked door. There were large areas at those ends of the cars for luggage storage, with adjacent seating marked "Designated for persons with disabilities." I believe a person in a wheelchair could remain in the chair in the open area.

After I picked up my husband at BWI baggage claim we boarded the shuttle bus from the terminal to the train station. I forgot to take the phone number for the special bus (mentioned earlier in this thread) and I deeply regretted this lapse. There are no signs anywhere indicating that special transport is available for disabled passengers. We had to literally fight our way on and off the very crowded buses, it was difficult.

Husband can walk a little, so he boarded the bus while I handled the wheelchair and his checked bag. The facilities for wheelchair pax are pretty good at the BWI Amtrak station. There is an elevator and bridge over the tracks, then another elevator to the southbound platform. The northbound platform is adjacent to the station and requires no special effort to reach.

When I made the Amtrak reservation I indicated the wheelchair and the ticket was printed with that information. I think the conductors' manifest must have shown my husband as needing assistance. When the correct train arrived a conductor stepped off the train to assist us. He went out of his way to help with the luggage and wheelchair.

Arrival at Quantico was somewhat challenging, since there is no raised platform there and pax have to step all the way to the ground (using a stepstool for the last step!). Also, the trains (at least the ones I was on) sometimes operate on the opposite tracks to normal and you have no way of knowing which tracks the train will use until it arrives. There is no bridge across the tracks, it's most challenging for the wheelchair-bound. My daughter met us at Quantico and we had to cross the tracks, with the wheelchair turned backwards, a little hair-raising due to the number of trains that pass by - many at high speed. This was not an exercise for the faint-hearted...

The Amtrak personnel were extremely helpful and I think there was some kind of lift device for passengers who cannot get out of a wheelchair. I would strongly suggest going in person to the station you plan to use - to check out the layout. Quantico is such a small station that they don't even sell tickets there - even by machine - and there are no employees to answer questions or offer assistance. I would think most train stations are well equipped for wheelchair pax, but I would be wary of using a small station with no personnel.

We intended to ride Amtrak from Quantico to BWI for our return, but it was raining yesterday and trying to navigate the Quantico tracks crossing with baggage in a downpour seemed really stupid. So we got a ride to Union Station in D.C. and took a local MARC commuter train to BWI.

It turned out that the MARC trains depart from the only track at Union Station that doesn't have direct elevator access (all platforms are one story below the station). I sought help and found a station employee who offered to take us to the correct train using an elevator a few tracks away. He took charge of the wheelchair and we skirted around posts and other obstructions. Again (I found it almost unbelievable) we had to cross over active through-tracks to get to the correct train. The crossing was very rough and it's a good thing my husband is an old fighter pilot, it was so bumpy some people might have become motion sick. So, lesson learned, if traveling out of Union Station be sure to take Amtrak.

I will make one final comment - about the USO facility at BWI. We got to the airport yesterday several hours before our flight and attempted to use the USO. We were very frazzled from the several hours travel to the airport and using the USO facilities would have been very helpful. Unfortunately, the male volunteer who was manning the "welcome desk" was extremely rude to us.

We were accompanied by our adult daughter, whose husband was commissioned as a new Marine lieutenant the previous Friday afternoon. She doesn't have her military dependent's ID card yet. The volunteer ridiculed us, laughed at us, and treated my husband with contempt and derision. I was practically speechless as he lectured us about how we should know better than to try to bring our daughter into the USO. He kept slamming his pointed finger into a small sign that said all persons must have a military ID, while saying he was kicking us out.

We left the facility, but my husband was so incensed that he insisted on going back to get the manager's name in order to make a complaint. Husband asked the same man if the woman who was at the desk with him previously was the manager, and the man stated she was a new volunteer he was "training." I commented that it was most unfortunate that she was being trained to be rude to disabled retirees.

For anyone who transits BWI, going to/from the train station, be sure to check the airport's website and don't forget the special bus phone number. It would have helped us a lot if I hadn't forgot it.
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Old Mar 31, 10, 4:06 pm   #14
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Thank you so much for this detailed report. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the USO, and hope you follow up on your complaints.

We appreciate your followup, and best of luck and congratulations to your son-in-law!
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Old Apr 6, 10, 12:48 pm   #15
 
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I am glad that your trip went as well as it did. It is obvious that even with all the disability laws in place it is still quite difficult to travel alone in a wheelchair. I am sad but not surprised to learn of the difficulty you encountered with the USO at BWI.

Of all the organizations we have worked with the USO has generally been the least helpful regardless of what our needs were. I am horrified that this agency displays such lack of regard for disabled vets.
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