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Fliers: We can fix Metro's escalators

The union whose members originally installed Metro's escalators are mounting a public campaign to convince the rail system that private contractors--its members--would do a better job than Metro's employees.

In the wake of high-profile failures, consistently poor performance, long outages and a swelling anger among riders--many of whom say they rarely see people actually working on escalators that are out of service for repairs--the union is peppering Metro stations and other locations with fliers urging riders to contact Metro leadership and urge them to do what the union hasn't been able to convince them to do: Contract with private escalator specialists rather than relying on an in-house team.

International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 10 is hardly unfamiliar with Metro's system: "IBC Local 10 signatory companies have put in every Metro escalator and elevator," said the union's business manager, Jimmy Demmel, "and up until 1991 we maintained them, too."

"Things were going so well they needed to do it themselves: 'If it's not broke, I'm gonna break it."

A Washington Post article from March of that year, however, began: "Steps are breaking on the 460 escalators at Metro rail stations with increasing frequency, requiring costly repairs and inconveniencing riders, officials said yesterday."

Union members still do some major rehabilitation for Metro, and until recently it still handled a few repairs, but those are now the domain of Metro employees who train at a Metro escalator facility in Landover.

"They haven't had the opportunity for training. Our training program is a national program, and our training is second-to-none. It's the industry standard," Demmel said of his "100-year-old union with the manpower in town."

The posters targeted at frustrated riders--including those at Dupont Circle, where all but one of the long escalators were recently out of service during rush hour, causing chaos--cite the 2002 findings of a blue ribbon panel convened by Metro to study the issue. "Tired of walking on broken escalators?" the fliers ask. "Private contractors can do it better while saving Metro 10.9 million dollars a year."

"They didnt listen to their own panel," Demmel said.

Metro has hired an outside consultant to advise them on the moving stairways. Metro's top "vertical transport" official, David Lacosse, said in a 2006 online chat: "Mix hundreds of thousands of people and moving mechanical equipment together and something is bound to go wrong." Metro officials have also said that stripping the steps from escalators to access their inner workings is by nature time-consuming, and that finding replacement parts for the oldest escalators can be a challenge.

Still, the union is charging ahead with a campaign to turn rider anger into more work for its members.

"I know how they can fix it, and save money for the riders: by outsourcing to the union that put them in," Demmel said. "Metro's got a lot on their plate. This is any easy opportunity to save money and give better service to riders."

Depending on Escalators | The ups and downs of Metro |
Metro brings in escalator consultant | Outages

By Luke Rosiak  | July 16, 2010; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags:  Escalators  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Crash on 14th Street Bridge
Next: Yellow and Blue lines moving again


If repair crews would work harder instead of spending so much time standing around with their hands on their hips, we would not have so many escalator problems. Unions can just make things worse.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | July 16, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Come on over and read Metro's response to the flyers and see the flyer for yourself:

Posted by: unsuckdcmetro | July 16, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

"Private contractors can do it better while saving Metro 10.9 million dollars a year."
Metro is not interested in saving money. What a joke! They want to keep raising fares and continue to waste the resources they have. They continue to tell us that the system won't work properly unless they get more funding. After an 18% fare increase, it's still the same old crap at Metro. If the escalators are always working, the Metro escalator employees will be out of jobs. They have no incentive to repair them. It's not even news that the escalators are out at Dupont Circle. There is probably at least one escalator out at every station on a daily basis. It would be newsworthy if all of the Metro escalators were in working order.

Posted by: dcisajoke | July 16, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

They must believe in slavery.

Posted by: jiji1 | July 16, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

As the son of an English teacher, when I read the headline on this entry my immediate reaction was, "They CAN, but they WILL not." (Much like the smart-arse teacher who answers the query "Can I go to the john?" by saying, "You can, but you may not.")

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 16, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

And Mr. Lacosse is still employed, why?

Posted by: ceebee2 | July 16, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Unions are a relic of the past. If you want these escaltors to work, hire private contractors on firmed fixed price. Lazy union dolts wont care one lick whether it takes 4 hours or 4 days to fix. Stop spending money on union labor its a waste!!!

Posted by: espnfan | July 16, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Seriously. Why would Metro bother to actually fix any of their issues? As long as Metro has problems, they have a built-in excuse for fare hikes. We need more money to keep the rails from warping in the summer heat, we need more money to fix the air conditioning in train cars, we need more money to fix the tiles that are coming up on the outdoor platforms because they expand and contract at different rates than the other tiles... the list goes on and on.

Posted by: mika_england | July 16, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

The union boasts they installed the escalators. That was 30 years ago. Are they saying the orignal mechanics are still with them? For those of you not keeping up, the escalators are 30 years old. Parts are scarce. Metro has to make some parts because they are not made any more. A complete rebuilding of the escalators using newer parts is what is needed.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | July 16, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

You wonder where all the money is going from these fare hikes and other funding. Anyone remember a few years ago when metro employees working the parking garages got busted for stealing an outrages amount of money from the parking revenues? Then cam the Smarttrip card to exit all parking facilities. Metro should hire more competent qualified workers. I can't count the number of times I see metro employees just sitting around doing nothing. What a joke metro has become in our nations capitol. The should have better management and more oversight. The escalator at Franconia has been out for months and I rarely see anyone working on the gutted escalator. I'm looking at carpooling now to avoid giving anymore of my money to metro. After all who knows where it's going. Anyone agree?

Posted by: marc71 | July 17, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse


Metro employees weren't stealing parking revenue, it was the private contractor Penn Parking doing the stealing.


Posted by: Genrad | July 17, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

RepealObamacareNow & espnfan ,,, Unions Built EVERY ELEVATOR in the CITY ! World Class Training & Apprenticeship programs are just part of the appeal of using Union Elevator & Escalator contractors. Go ride on a non-union elevator espnfan & repealobamacarenow, or go walk those 12 flights of stairs every morning to your office. Throwing rocks at highly skilled labor is not the answer. Metro has the same problems that P.G. county and D.C. Government has, all three are Top Heavy and Bloated.

Posted by: JadedCynic | July 17, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I used to take METRO 5 days a week back & forth to work. I now work in a different area & no longer use METRO, but still have family & friends that depends on it. I pity them for having to depend on a system that is the only game in town. This is a monopoly, & they have you by the gonads. You really are at their mercy for getting to & from work or whatever you need their services for. And they really don't seem to care how you feel about it-what are you going to do - BOYCOTT?? NOT IN THIS ECONOMIC CLIMATE, when jobs are hard to come by, and you are paying more for less. Oops, that is METRO again isn't it?

Posted by: ahrj | July 17, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

In this economy every should be working hard to earn a paycheck. Why does metro hire such lazy people? I always see metro workers just sitting around doing nothing. Hire hard workers like latin immigrants and they can get the job done. Metro's slogan is a joke 'metro opens doors'? More like 'Metro big headache.' If my grandmother had to walk the elevator stairs at Dupont Circle she would have health problems, especially in this heat! The service is horrible for the amount of money you pay. Just not worth the it period.

Posted by: marc71 | July 18, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

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