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Metro: We learned from Dupont fiasco

Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn reported to the Metro board today on the July 12 incident at Dupont Circle involving out-of-service escalators and smoke in the station, and Metro acknowledged recurring problems with its escalators and laid out plans for dealing with such situations.

"Many [escalators] are more than 30 years old and are functioning under ridership levels that were not contemplated when they were originally installed. Throughout the years, the escalators have been subjected to extreme conditions and not kept in a state of good repair," Metro said in a statement.

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The agency described strategies for dealing with crowd control, including simply closing stations when long escalators are out, and developing an "educational campaign to inform people of the dangers of using a barricaded unit."

As seen in widely-viewed images, Taborn said that the escalator people were using on the 19th Street side was under repair and had been blocked by a Metro warning barrier. That barrier was removed, probably by a rider, as people tried to get out of the station while the escalators on the Q Street side of the station were blocked off.

People then began walking up the shutdown escalator without realizing that they were going to encounter a gap in the escalator steps toward the top. That's why they had to hop over to the adjacent escalator, Taborn said.

"In the future, MTPD will dispatch additional officers to stations without escalator service to assist with crowd control," Metro said in a statement. It said Metro Transit Police radios did not work well in the Dupont station--seemingly a serious technical problem for a police force assigned to many underground, concrete stations--so they will now use mobile phones and in-person messengers when necessary "until the issue is resolved."

It noted that $5 million has been allocated to install brand new escalators at Dupont and Wheaton stations next year, and that it hired an escalator consultant to bring "fresh eyes" to the situation. The current Dupont repairs will be complete by next month, it said.

It said it would use new signage to increase communication with customers about escalator statuses, and keep Metro executives better informed.

--Bob Thomson and Luke Rosiak

By Luke Rosiak  | July 22, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags:  Escalators  
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Comments

"Many [escalators] are more than 30 years old and are functioning under ridership levels that were not contemplated when they were originally installed. Throughout the years, the escalators have been subjected to extreme conditions and not kept in a state of good repair," Metro said in a statement. "

Two things:

1. Install pressure-plate switches so the escalators save wear & tear by running only when people are actually on them. Duh.

2. Install weather protection over the escalators to protect them from the elements. Duh!

I came with that even though I don't have a degree or any experience in transportation or structural engineering or urban planning.

We gave up the nation's best-ever planned urban freeway system for THIS?!

Posted by: ceefer66 | July 22, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

So Metro's answer to 5 of the 6 escalators being out of service last week is the close the station in future? How will that be more convenient for riders? Now they'll have to walk to a further station.

Posted by: danpeake | July 22, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

"Install pressure-plate switches so the escalators save wear & tear by running only when people are actually on them. Duh."

They can't do that because federal regulations prohibit that sort of escalator. Seems like a stupid regulation to me, but you can't blame WMATA on that part of the matter.

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 22, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Why would you ever ever ever suggest Metro INSTALL something NEW? That's just another thing that they will inevitably break, requiring the area to be roped off and trains to single-track around the problem!

Posted by: jiji1 | July 22, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Metro learn something? Surely you jest.

Posted by: ceebee2 | July 22, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Metro has been trotting out this excuse that the escalators are X years old and being used more than anticipated for over 15 years. Get with the program and improve or replace the equipment. They have 1000's of incompetent apathetic employees who do absolutely nothing and yet have equipment that's falling apart. It is a miracle there aren't riots or injuries in some of the stations when the escalators aren't working and huge unruly clumps of people are gathered around the escalators trying to get on. Meanwhile, Metro employees stand by, doing nothing to control the crowds or offer any kind of directions to other less crowded escalators. I see this almost every night at Union Station.

Posted by: KathrynMaryland | July 22, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

They never addressed the smoke in the stations.

Posted by: no_recess | July 22, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

@ceefer posted: "We gave up the nation's best-ever planned urban freeway system for THIS?!"

Please tell me how that freeway system would be 30 years later, if:
--a 3 state jurisdictional governing board had authority over it
--there were zero dedicated highway funds to operate and repair it
--triple the amount of cars that the roads were planned for.

It would be worse than crap. The beltway is a joke, 95 is a parking lot, and the parkways are just as bad. It is not a roads v. rails debate - WE NEED BOTH.

But we need both to be run properly, and we need both to be funded properly. Which Metro most assuredly is not.

Posted by: Greent | July 22, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

What a load of CRAP! Nothing but excuses. The escalators are old. There are too many. IT CAN'T BE DONE! Except for systems in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris, London, etc.

Nothing but excuses.

FIRE DAVID LACOSSE! (man in charge of Metro escalators)

Posted by: jrutter21 | July 22, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

we all know that metro can't even learn after people are killed, so why should they learn from this?

Posted by: nativetexan2 | July 22, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

If the Soviet Union and Italy can manage to have escalators that always work (in all my years there I think I only saw one closed for maintenance and it was for a week period), we should be able to too.

But of course, Metro is incompetent. Lacosse, much like the "Metro spokespeople" that the WP accepts their word as gospel, is another just useless salary being paid by Metro.

When people die in a station because they cannot evacuate, then maybe, just maybe, Metro will listen. Then again, maybe not.

Posted by: nocando | July 22, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The Soviet Union and Italy didn't have to hire Metro's union employees.

Posted by: jiji1 | July 22, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The Soviet Union and Italy didn't have to hire Metro's union employees.

Posted by: jiji1 | July 22, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

___________________________________________

Italy's employees are unionized and they have employment for life. I just think there is a different work ethic and understanding of how/why an entire system needs to function properly all the time.

Posted by: workingidentity | July 22, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

It said Metro Transit Police radios did not work well in the Dupont station--seemingly a serious technical problem for a police force assigned to many underground, concrete stations--so they will now use mobile phones and in-person messengers when necessary "until the issue is resolved."

---------------------------

Nice to know that Metro will be using "in-person messengers" in case of a terrorist attack in the subway system.

The entire Metro system is an embarrassment.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 22, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

As a frequent user of Metro, I have encountered plenty of problems and examples of bad service. However, I think we need to acknowledge that some of the problems Metro encounters are caused and/or exacerbated by Metro riders.

Why should Metro have to spend money and effort on an "educational campaign to inform people of the dangers of using a barricaded unit"? I understand that the people who started up that escalator after the barricade was moved would not have known it had been barricaded, but why did someone move the barricade in the first place? It should be common sense not to walk up a barricaded escalator.

The same goes for some of the mechanical problems with the trains. Some of the door problems - such as the one that caused all the 4000 series cars to be taken out of service this month - are clearly not caused by riders. But other door problems happen when people try to shove onto a full train, get on a train as the doors are closing, or even try to physically hold the doors open. I understand that people want to make the trains, and that in some situations when the crowds are so bad it necessitates shoving onto the cars because the doors are closing before people have had a chance to board. But trying to force the doors from closing the way they are supposed to can't be good for the door mechanisms.

I'm not saying Metro should get a free pass for everything that is wrong with the system. But I do think we need to acknowledge that sometimes the riders are part of the problem.

Posted by: gewaldron | July 22, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Maybe not at Dupont North, but the whole issue of dead escalators would be much less of an issue if only there were....STAIRS. They seldom break, are bidirectional, and need nil maintenance.

When WMATA replaces escalators; it would be smart to do as they did at Cap South; put stairs between them. It won't be cheap, but it will help to mitigate both the daily crowding and outage confusion.

Posted by: j_oper | July 28, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

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