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Escalator fix moved back again

The date for restoring the escalators between the platform and the mezzanine at Bethesda Metro station has been moved back again. Now, according to Metro's list of out of service elevators and escalators, the fixes should be completed by Friday.

In my Sunday Dr. Gridlock column, two Metro riders stated frequently asked questions about the escalator system. One rider echoed what I've heard from many others in calling the situation at Bethesda a "first-class mess."

It's a bank of two escalators. One is undergoing long-term (really long-term) rehabilitation. So the other is turned off to serve as a stairway, with people walking up and down. It's been like that for months.

In another Dr. Gridlock blog posting this morning, I asked if you thought Metrorail cars should be redesigned to cope with crowding, which will only get worse.

The escalators also are an important part of Metro's people-moving system. Shouldn't that part of the system also be reviewed in light of crowding? We have similar tensions: On the rail cars, we talk about seat hogging. On the stopped escalators, like the one at Bethesda, riders complain about jostling and people cutting into the line.

One solution would be a redesign at the very crowded stations where there aren't enough exits. There is a plan to put a new entrance on the south side of the Bethesda Station. You can see a study for the Bethesda entrance on the Action Committee for Transit Web site. The cost estimate there is $60 million. Metro also has plans to put in a stairway at Foggy Bottom Station, another escalator trouble spot. The Arlington County Board recently approved a $32.6 million plan for a new entrance at Rosslyn.

That's a slow and expensive process. Meanwhile, we have situations like the one at Bethesda, where big crowds trying to get to and from trains at rush hour are funneled into that one stopped escalator. There has to be another way to maintain the escalators. Metro needs a maintenance plan that takes into account the serious problem of crowding at such stations. Turning one escalator into a walker while the other is out for months of maintenance just won't do at busy stations with limited access.

By Robert Thomson  | July 19, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail  
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The Bethesda Station Manager told me as soon as they are done with the current escalator they will rehabilitate the other one. Is there anywhere a rider could verify this statement? Assuming it was correct, then there would be no end in sight despite whatever completion date is posted.

Posted by: iolaire | July 19, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Also why are we talking $60-million projects, when what Bethesda really needs immediately is a say $50,000 stairway from the platform to the mezzanine?

Posted by: iolaire | July 19, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

First issue: Metro, which has now brought all elevator and escalator "maintenance" (and I use that term loosely) in-house, is incompetent.

Second issue: The escalators were not designed for the functions and conditions in which they are being used. So, "rehabilitation" to that same incorrect "design" specification is not effective.

Whoever thought that taking some of mass transit's longest escalators, exposing them to the elements, and running them constantly was a great plan was obviously in need of some "consulting services." Good thing the new (million dollar?) "consultant" is sure to take all of these things into account, and then recommend fixes that Metro can't or won't implement. They won't listen to the NTSB about 1000 series cars being potential deathtraps, you think they will listen to an escalator "consultant"? It's just more of the same from the most incompetent transit agency on the planet.

What will likely finally bring about change is a tragedy caused by these perpetual escalator outages. An evacuation of a station that doesn't happen because they're broken, or people stampeding and trampling each other to death in the process of attempting to evac up broken escalators, or worse.

And even then, Metro will again hide behind the shield of "sovereign immunity" and not accept the blame.

Posted by: nocando | July 19, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone explained why the date was pushed back? A couple of weeks ago, guys were working on the Bethesda escalator and it appeared to be running and close to opening. Since then, though, I haven't seen a soul doing anything to it. There's been trash on the bottom few steps for the last week, which leads me to believe there have been no workers even on the scene. The situation is a complete and total debacle no matter how you slice it.

iolaire, I really, really hope what you're saying isn't true.

Posted by: MartinLocraft | July 19, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Metro. Doesn't. Care.

Repeat as long as necessary.

Posted by: jiji1 | July 19, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

To the first poster: I suspect this is true. I go to the gym at Van Ness, which as a similar set-up to the Bethesda station. They have been working on the exact same fix (one escalator closed, one serving as stairs) for a long time now. They fixed one escalator, and immediately started work on the second one. Has been going on since maybe March. Maybe even earlier.

Posted by: nativetexan2 | July 19, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Knowing Metro, and their glorious incompetence, the reason the date was pushed back is likely due to the one employee on the 'rehabilitation' staff who actually owns and use a wrench and socket set is out on vacation...

Posted by: mika_england | July 19, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

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