Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, is one of my favorite cities in the United States. It’s got excellent sports teams to watch, cool museums to visit, a plethora of restaurants in which to indulge yourself, and top-notch historical attractions like the famous Liberty Bell. But it’s such a historical powerhouse that it leaves many wheelchair users wondering if its curbs, sidewalks, and modes of transportation are stuck in the past as well. I’m happy to report that this is generally not the case!
Philly is as modern as its ever-changing skyline, and it’s a place that I enjoyed visiting recently as a wheelchair user. In this article, I’ll give you some tips for the best types of wheelchair accessible Philadelphia transportation you can use to go chase that famous cheesesteak.
Getting Around Philadelphia: Wheelchair accessible transportation & more
Walking and Rolling
Especially in the touristy areas and nicer neighborhoods, like downtown and Rittenhouse Square, getting around Philadelphia is easy. In these areas, Philly’s sidewalks are largely wheelchair friendly. Curb cuts and tactile pavement adorn the generally clean sidewalks of these areas, and there are walk signals at almost every intersection. Old Town Philadelphia is a bit more challenging, as crosswalks and curbs show their age there. While you may run into some potholes or barriers there, Center City is where you’re likely to spend most of your time, and especially around all the museums, the sidewalks are in excellent condition.
While Philadelphia is quite a large city, its attractions are for the most part clustered in Center City, which is ideal for wheelchair users. Most of the city’s attractions exist within a 2-mile radius, with City Hall at the center. For example, if you start at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, you can travel just 2.4 miles and with a bit of zig-zagging, hit in order: the National Constitution Center, the United States Mint, City Hall, One Liberty Observation Deck, the famous LOVE sign, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Drexel University’s Academy of the Natural Sciences, The Franklin Institute, The Barnes Foundation’s world-class art exhibits, The Rodin Museum’s sculptures, and finally you’ll end up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That’s a LOT of adventure packed into a tiny area! The compact layout makes getting around Philadelphia a little easier.
If you feel a bit more adventurous and like you could roll three miles on the sidewalks with no problem, you could start further east at the Independence Seaport Museum and hit up the Museum of the American Revolution and the Benjamin Franklin Museum on the way to the previous list of attractions. The moral of the story? Aside from perhaps the Philadelphia Zoo, most popular attractions are clustered in this well-maintained, central area. And since you could never actually see all of these in one day anyway, I suggest staying somewhere in the middle and just rolling a mile east or west each day!
Wheelchair Accessible Taxis
If you’re staying further out from Central City, you’ll want to take a taxi there at some point so that you can simply roll from one attraction to another. If you’re flying in to the city you’ll be able to get a wheelchair accessible taxi on demand at the airport, but you might have to wait a while! It’s best to reserve one in advance, choosing from one of the options below. These are the two major wheelchair accessible taxi options for getting around Philadelphia:
Widely considered a top wheelchair taxi option in Philly, Freedom Taxi features the city’s first entirely ADA-compliant fleet, featuring over 200 Ford Crown Victoria Sedans. Other perks? Each cab is equipped with a GPS system and you can pay by credit card, which makes for an easy and efficient mode of transportation. You can book a taxi in advance on their website or by calling (215) 225-5000, or hail one via their mobile app.
This company has an easy number to remember – so easy that you won’t have to write it down and can just keep it in the back of your mind when traveling! (Although if you want to write it down now, the company’s name translates to (215) 438-2222.) You can call in advance to schedule a trip, and that’s encouraged if you’ll be asking for a wheelchair accessible van. You can also order a taxi online or with their mobile app, and payment via credit card is an option. Plus, this company boasts that they’ll never charge you surge pricing — something that is a definite plus if you’re in town for a special event.
The bus is also a fantastic option for getting around Philadelphia, even if just from one attraction to another. You can take the regular city buses, but they’ve got a lot more routes and stops and are generally older than the PHLASH buses, which are geared especially toward tourists and have a much simpler route to decipher. I love the PHLASH buses because all of them are accessible and feature a fold out ramp at the front door as well as a designated wheelchair section.
The PHLASH downtown loop offers service from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, with buses coming every 15 minutes. And if you have any logistical questions, you can call their customer service representatives during those same hours at 484.881.3574 and get a quick answer. Each ride is $2 and seniors ride free as do children under the age of four, or you can pay $5 for a whole day’s worth of rides. I highly recommend this, as it can be a lot cheaper than taking a cab or paying by the ride!
One thing you will want to do if you’re planning on taking the bus is to visit their website to access the different routes and stop locations, and plan your route in advance. There are 22 stops, which range from Spruce Street Harbor Park, through Central City, to West Philadelphia. It is important to note that PHLASH’s downtown loop is a seasonal transit program, which means that during some of the tourist “off” months, service is only available on weekends.
UberWAV and Lyft Access
Though the Pennsylvania state government has resisted ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft in the past, they’re currently operating in Philadelphia. Last year the state’s governor gave them the green light, but on the condition that the industry as a whole add a minimum of 70 wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs). Uber alone added 70 by the deadline, and they plan to add more in coming years!
If you want to request an accessible Uber in Philly, you’ll have to request an UberWAV. It’s the same price as a standard UberX, but it comes with a rear-entry ramp and seating for four more passengers. Lyft also has wheelchair accessible vehicles to make getting around Philadelphia easier. When you’re requesting a Lyft on the app, be sure to select “Settings” and then go to the “Service” category, ultimately selecting “Access” before requesting a ride. Then, you’ll get an accessible vehicle with a ramp.
As you can see, there’s plenty to do in Philly. Whether you’re rolling around the long, flat sidewalks from museum to museum, hailing cabs like a true Philly native (or requesting a Lyft or Uber on your smartphone like a true Philly millennial), or hopping on and off the Philly PHLASH which is full of other tourists talking about their awesome experiences, getting around Philadelphia is pretty easy for wheelchair users.
*Thank you to Visit Philly for making this trip possible! While my experiences in Philadelphia were complimentary, all opinions are authentic and my own.