Metro riders await Dupont Circle reopening


Metro closed the Dupont Circle south entrance beginning Febuary 1 to replace all three escalators leading into and out of the station. (Sarah L. Voisin/TWP)
Robert Thomson
Columnist October 6, 2012

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Been hoofing it to and from work via the lone north entrance at Dupont Circle Metro station since February. Metro told us the revamped southern entrance would reopen in October, but I see no signs of that happening.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

How about letting us know when the southern entrance will reopen?

— Mark Thompson, Kensington

Since February, replacement of the three escalators has been taking place out of sight, but certainly not out of mind, of the thousands of commuters who use the station daily. Riders are naturally eager to regain use of the south entrance.

That’s partly because it’s more convenient for many. But it’s also partly because the closing of the south entrance was accompanied by an elaborate safety plan, which increased the likelihood that the north entrance would occasionally have to be shut to avoid excessive crowding on the platform.

Metro usually tries to fix escalators rather than replace them. That the transit authority chose replacement in this case was a sign of just how badly they were performing. The job for that tight work space took a long time to design and was quite complicated. For example, the safety plan required that one south side escalator — even though it wasn’t operating — had to be in place at all times in case it needed to be used as an emergency staircase.

The station safety plan also was the reason those shorter escalators between the platform and mezzanine on the south side have been cranking away even though passengers aren’t supposed to use them under normal circumstances. They could be available for immediate use in moving passengers from platform to platform or out the emergency exit if needed.

When the project began, Metro said it expected that it would be done in October. “We are in the homestretch,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Friday. “The escalators are being wired up for power and network, and the final steps are being installed” on the third of the three escalators.

“We have not set an exact date yet, but I can say that it will definitely be this month.”

Following safely

When I comment on traffic safety issues, especially those involving right of way, I stand by for a pummeling. Here are a couple of the letters I received in response to my Sept. 23 column, which included a letter from a driver who complained about other drivers coming to sudden stops for people waiting at trail crossings.

I’ll have more such letters — and my defense — next week.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You failed to chastise the writer for following too closely and driving too fast. I think you have in the past acquiesced to the notion that blames the front driver who dared to stop quickly. I guess there are important people in Washington with important places to be. But I think in real America, it is still the responsibility of the rear car to always be able to safely stop.

— Joe Horton, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A better answer to the driver who had several incidents of being forced to jam the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front would be to advise keeping a safe distance from the car ahead and being alert for sudden stops.

It’s not the driver ahead who is “logic-deprived” but the driver who follows too closely and honks the horn when annoyed. Also, with regard to the question of the cyclist being “in” the crossing vs. being about to cross, it is dangerous to get into the crossing and hope that the oncoming driver will stop. I for one will wait until some courteous driver stops and lets me go. The effect on following cars will be exactly the same.

— Jonas Weiss, Silver Spring

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or
e-mail drgridlock@washpost.com.

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