Switzerland-based Schindler is ripping out the old, custom-made units and installing new equipment. But some riders believe that the $12 million project, which began in February, isn’t being done as efficiently as possible. Even some subway experts say the timetable seems excessive.
It’s a disaster when escalators at the one open entrance stop working, because the station is about 130 feet underground. Metro has been urging some passengers to avoid Dupont altogether and use Farragut North station instead. And once the south escalators are replaced, Metro plans to do rehab work at the north end, although plans calls for that entrance to remain open.
“Why does it take so long?” asked Alex Luther, an ultrasound technician at Georgetown University Hospital who commutes daily from Friendship Heights to Dupont. “They’re closing it down for 24 hours every day. It would seem like they could get the work done then.”
Curious about the project, Benoit Aquin, who works as a mechanic and foreman for CNIM Canada, an elevator and escalator company in Montreal, dropped by the Dupont stop in early March and chatted with some workers from Metro and Schindler.
“It’s unbelievable to take eight months to remove three escalators and replace those” at Dupont,” he said recently.
“God, so complicated.”
Aquin was the supervisor on a project to replace 125 escalators on the subway system in Montreal. The work finished late last year. It took between seven to 12 weeks to remove each escalator and install new units, depending on the size, according to Aquin and his supervisor Susan Coburn. One was almost as long as those at Dupont’s south entrance, he said.
“Maybe Washington’s Metro needs a Canadian brother to help them,”Aquin said.
Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman, disagreed with Aquin’s assessment.
“When you’re talking about taking large chunks of an escalator out that weigh tons from a space that has the relative dimensions of a straw it requires professional engineers and people who are highly qualified experts,” he said. “This is heavy construction, not just escalator maintenance.”
Comparing other timetables
Some managers at other transit agencies, including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta and New York, were cautious about second-guessing Metro’s timetable, noting that every system has unique needs.
But Aquin’s not the only subway professional to question the length of time on the project.
Officials in Moscow wrote in an e-mail that eight months sounded on the longer side for replacing an escalator. The Moscow subway system is the only one in the world with more escalators than Metro. The Russian system has 643; Metro has 588.
“It normally takes us about three months to put in an escalator of the size you mentioned,” wrote Oksana Ustinova, an interpreter at Moscow’s subway system.