Metro escalator inspections; Assailant bitten; Man charged with grand larceny; Repairs close bridge

Friday, November 5, 2010; 9:51 PM

THE REGION

Metro to inspect all 588 escalators

Metro has decided to launch a systemwide inspection of the hundreds of brakes on its escalators Thursday night as a precaution after the discovery of two faulty brakes within less than a week - one that caused serious rider injuries.

Metro Assistant General Manager Dave Kubicek made the decision Thursday.

"In light of recent incidents, he decided that a proactive precautionary measure would be in the best interest of safety, keeping in mind we have a strong safety culture that we are growing here," said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

Metro employees will carry out the brake inspections on all of the rail system's 588 escalators, said Metro spokesman Reggie Woodruff.

The inspection comes after an escalator malfunction at L'Enfant Plaza Station last weekend in which a brake failed and the metal staircase suddenly accelerated for about 18 seconds, sending a pile of people sprawling at the bottom. Six people were injured in the incident, which occurred during the Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert rally at the Mall.

A preliminary investigation blamed the incident on an oily brake pad and the heavy passenger load, Metro said. The transit agency experienced record ridership last Saturday.

On Friday, Metro discovered a faulty brake at Gallery Place-Chinatown Station after a news report of an escalator problem prompted an inspection of all the escalators in that station. Both of those escalators remained shut down for repairs.

The inspections will include brakes and brake pads and are expected to take about a week.

"All other work will be delayed temporarily until the brakes are inspected," Woodruff said.

A consulting firm, Vertical Transportation Excellence, recently conducted an assessment of Metro's escalator and elevator maintenance problems and found that Metro was not following its own maintenance standards. The report identified immediate problems, including failure to clean escalator switches, debris and water in and around the conveyances, and a shortage of supervisors.

Vertical Transportation Excellence is conducting an independent investigation of the breakdown at L'Enfant. The company is also supposed to conduct a review next year of how Metro has followed up on its recommendations.

- Ann Scott Tyson


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