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Two Metro employees disciplined over escalator incident

The U Street Metro station. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Two Metro employees are facing disciplinary action over an incident involving a broken escalator at the U Street station  this month.

A Metro spokeswoman said administrative action has been taken against an employee who failed to help a man with a cane who almost fell on an escalator and another employee who failed to follow proper procedures.

The agency disclosed the disciplinary action in a letter of apology to the rider who witnessed the May 4 incident and filed an online complaint with the agency that day.

“It is always disheartening to hear that an employee failed to meet our standards,” Lynn Bowersox, an assistant general manager for customer service, communications and marketing, wrote in response to the witness’s complaint. “However, we very much appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention, and we welcome the opportunity to take corrective action.”

Neither employee was identified, and the specific disciplinary actions weren’t described further.

How a Metro employee made a bad situation worse: a rider’s complaint

The incident unfolded on a Thursday afternoon after several riders found the up escalator out of service and surrounded by a barricade. The down escalator was still running.

Mark — the witness who filed the complaint and agreed to an interview on condition that he be identified only by his first name — said he and some other riders saw the barricades and decided to walk up the down escalator while it was still moving. He said he wasn’t aware of a nearby elevator and neither, apparently, were some of the other riders.

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One of those who tried going up the down escalator was an older man with a cane. Mark said the man had made it almost to the top as a Metro employee stood by, watching from above. The older man tripped but was able to grab onto the handrail and rode the escalator back down unharmed. Mark said the Metro employee who failed to take action or assist the rider then added insult to injury with a wisecrack.

Bowersox said the Metro employee near the older man will be subject to “administrative action, including retraining and discipline” for failing to take “reasonable, appropriate action” to assist the rider. The other employee is also facing administrative action because the employee failed to follow proper procedures when the up escalator ceased working, Bowersox said in the letter. Under the circumstances, the adjacent down escalator should have been turned off so that people could walk on it in both directions.

“This oversight created the conditions where customers may have believed it was necessary to try to walk up a running escalator,” Bowersox wrote.

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Mark said he was satisfied with the agency’s response to the complaint and trusted that appropriate action would be taken.

“I didn’t expect this to go as far as it did,” he said. “But I just wanted to try [to] get the wheels spinning on all this, to make them aware we shouldn’t treat people like that, especially the elderly.”

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