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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 08:20 AM ET, 07/08/2011

Transit notebook: Escalator fix-it plans, Metro board member offers to step down and other news


Barbara J. Richardson, Metro’s assistant general manager of customer service, communications and marketing, with a plywood prototype of the new 7000 series rail car. (Mark Gail - THE WASHINGTON POST)
In Thursday’s six-hour long meeting of Metro board of directors committees, Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff showed up to talk about proposed cuts in the costs to build the Dulles rail extension.

But there were plenty of other tidbits that came up. Postmetrogirl gives you a recap on details about escalator service problems, station name changes and another board member who wants to step down.

Escalators, escalators, escalators = broken, broken, broken

It is hot and riders don’t like it when escalators are broken. It’s not getting better fast, but Metro officials say they’re making progress.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles has said repeatedly that the 35-year-old rail system wasn’t properly maintained for years and is in “a deep hole” trying to catch up with repairs to equipment. He repeated that Thursday in talking about escalators.

In its monthly “Vital Signs” report, Metro said that 488 out of 588 escalators were operating in May. That figure is based on hours of available service. It is a decrease from April, with 22 fewer escalators in operation for the month.

Why, your weary legs want to know?

A large increase in maintenance for inspection repairs and unscheduled service calls, Metro said.

“Escalator availability has gone down,” Sarles explained after Thursday’s meeting. “We’re not matching our target. We’ve got to get the availability back up to our target. . . . It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re doing more and more rehabbing of escalators.”

Be assured, Metro officials said, more workers are being hired to repair escalators.

But the transit agency noted in its monthly report that “as Metro improves the quality of its escalator inspection and maintenance procedures, units are staying out of service longer.”

They assure riders/walkers this: “Fixing repairs identified in inspections will improve the reliability of escalators in the long-term.

There’s a “glimmer of hope” Metro’s Deputy General Manager Dave Kubicek told board members : On Monday, a next generation escalator will be in place at Foggy Bottom, where riders have faced long lines ascending and descending stopped escalators.

Metro said in January that it would replace the three escalators from the street to the station at Foggy Bottom. Plans also call for the addition of a staircase and a canopy to protect it all. The project is budgeted at $6 million.

Board member says he’s willing to step down

As many board members were packing their papers and bags about 1:45 p.m. Thursday, Michael Barnes, a Metro board member, said he had something to add.

He believes the 16-seat board is too big, and he’s willing to step down. Barnes has been on the board since April and serves as a principal, voting director from Maryland.

Other board members, including Jeff McKay, an alternate director from Virginia, and Mort Downey, a federal principal director, agreed the board is too big.

But there’s a problem.

Even if Barnes resigned, Metro’s governing compact still calls for 16 seats — four from Maryland, the District, Virginia and the federal government. The compact would have to be changed to actually shrink the size of the board.

The likelihood of that happening, say some watchdogs and Metro insiders, is about as likely as all of Metro’s 588 escalators working at the same time.

Already this spring, D.C. Councilman Michael Brown who serves as an alternate director on the Metro board said he’s looking to be replaced. Fourteen of the 16 seats are filled. Two positions — the D.C. alternate and the federal alternate slots — are empty.

New rail cars, 7000 series, unveiled

Postmetrogirl scored a preview this week of the new 7000 series rail cars. Check out the video and story.

Metro’s paying New York consultant Masamichi Udagawa of Antenna Design up to $150,000 to help design the new rail cars.

The Metro board has been authorized to order 428 of the 7000 series at a cost of $886 million. Three hundred of them are designated to replace the oldest cars in Metro’s fleet, the 1000 series, which the National Transportation Safety Board has said Metro should retire. The rest are planned for the new Dulles rail line.

Shorter station names to come

Some riders and readers have asked postmetrogirl what did a board committee mean when it agreed to make station names shorter by adopting a policy of having “primary and secondary names.”

Here’s what it means: Take New York Ave.-Florida Ave.-Gallaudet U. That could become simply New York Ave. as the primary name for the station and the rest is the secondary name.

Why do this, you ask?

So as not to clutter up a map or signs.

Metro plans to add icons to its 35-year-old rail map, which is getting a makeover, to help tourists find their way. The concept is an idea of New York designer Lance Wyman, who along with a team of people designed Metro’s original map. Wyman, who now operates solo, is under contract to redo Metro’s iconic map and add in the line to Dulles and other changes.

Follow me on twitter @postmetrogirl.

From the Post's archives:

Metro to speed escalator overhaul

The ups and downs of Metro

Metro brings in escalator consultant

Down on Metro's escalator problems

The climb to fix Metro's escalators

Metro riders fume over escalator problems

Escalators used by Metro have history of trouble


By  |  08:20 AM ET, 07/08/2011

Categories:  Metro, Silver Line | Tags:  Metro, Dulles, Escalators

 
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