Metro elevator, escalator outages stall riders

By Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 13, 2010; 9:34 PM

The study commissioned by Interim General Manager Richard Sarles reinforced the challenges Metro faces in fixing its balky escalators and elevators: "There are no comparable installations like this in the United States in either the public or private sector," the review by Vertical Transportation Excellence said of the transit authority's 588 escalators and 275 elevators.

"While improvements gained with the modernization program are significant, the basic modular escalator design has been obsolete for over 20 years," the review says. "WMATA will have increasingly demanding maintenance challenges even with the massive capital improvement program."

Now let one commuter present the increasingly demanding challenges for riders. She described what she saw at about 8:45 a.m Thursday, a particularly bad day to travel via Union Station, Metro's busiest portal.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There are no functioning elevators or escalators on the platform or street level at Union Station.

There are five escalators and one staircase on the platform level; none of the escalators is working, two escalators and one staircase are open and operating with two-way traffic. There is no signage or warning about the outages and no assistance for people with disabilities, strollers or travelers with luggage to handle this.

With the number of MARC commuters using those escalators, there are bound to be injuries soon. And, again, with no warnings to alert customers about the lack of elevators or escalators, huge angry crowds try to go up the escalator to make connecting trains and no Metro employees make any attempt to assist passengers or control the crowd or help make pedestrian traffic more manageable.

It's ridiculous and dangerous and an accident waiting to happen.

Kathryn Knight, Columbia

Knight, a Metro rider for 15 years and a MARC-to-Metro commuter for three years, points out what was unsaid in the transit authority's technically oriented report: At rush hour, this isn't a people-moving system. This is chaos.

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