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Escalator audit highlights deficiencies

The ups & downs of Metro | A look at Metro's escalators | Outages

The climb to fix Metro's escalators

An independent audit of Metro's tyson.gifescalator and elevator maintenance program has found that Metro has failed to adhere to proper standards, according to a summary of the findings to be presented to the board of directors at a meeting on Thursday.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles ordered the assessment, which began in June, in response to frequent rider complaints. Dozens of Metro's 588 escalators and 236 elevators are out of service at any given time.

Metro's rocky ride

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TIMELINE: Take a look back at mishaps and tragedies in the system since 2009.

The audit reviewed 30 escalators and nine elevators at four stations that have experienced outages -- Woodley Park, Bethesda, Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom -- and found a "lack of adherence to maintenance standards," according to the summary. Problems included a failure to clean and adjust escalator switches, inadequate lighting, and water intrusion and debris.

In addition, the audit found a shortage of supervisors and gaps in training for mechanics, and maintenance workflow problems.

-- Ann Scott Tyson

Share your stories about dealing with Metro's escalators in the comments below.

Riders report from the rails (#wmata):

By Ann Scott Tyson  | October 12, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Metro, Metrobus  
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Comments

The head of the elevator and escalator division is still employed, why?

Posted by: ceebee2 | October 12, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

For years riders, including myself, have been complaining of this very issue to no avail. Continually elevator and escalator crews (hopefully not all are labeled) and their supervisors perform poor or inadequate maintenance of these systems which are then out of service within weeks or months due to not being repaired correctly being the main reason given. Yet these employees and supervisors continue to take home sig salaries made greater with their overtime and the knowledge of their jobs protected to the hilt by the union protecting them rather than correcting their work behaviors. They are supposedly hired with the expertise to work on such equipment and then supposively sent to service schools to learn of new equipment and repair techniques. Yet they are not held accountable by Metro and we the riders pay the price. This is not anti Metro or union bashing comment but rather they both have to get their acts together to totally fix a broken system or have metro fire and replace all who are found negligent in their daily work. A point, as a newly retired VA employee I often will meet my wife at her metro stop in the evenings to walk home with her. Each evening I see Metro staff who will look for the person in need of assistance and those who will look the other way, walk into their office to isolate themselves, or engage in a conversation with another employee rather than offer assistance. Always the same employees who assist w/o hesitation and the same who avoid their job at the Silver Spring Station.

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | October 12, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I hope they didn't pay for this independant auduit report. We the people have been complaining about this for years. I personally could care less if the escalators move or not, but at least have them available so we can hoof in and out of the station. Somebody is making tons of money on this escalator stuff. Just look at Foggy Bottom for a good example. That has been my station both morning and evening for a year and a half now and one or more of the escalators has been blocked off with outrageous signs stating it will be back in repair in a month or 2 and of course when that date rolls around still no repairs.

Posted by: TG10 | October 12, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

The findings of the report are hardly new. What was important and apparently was not assessed is how is it that Metro doesn't seem to know the problems *they are long-standing) and hasn't fixed them.


I recall when Metro said the problem was that its staff lacked the required expertise. So contractors were hired. I understand that the cost was more but that the escalator performance was better.

Then Metro apparently went back to using its own staff.

So Metro customers suffered the consequences.


That this report was needed is a prime example of why folks have don't believe that government works. They're right whenever there is weak management and a shortage of competence.


What we need now is an explicit action plan with transparency, and meaningful differential consequences for satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance, from top to bottom.

I wouldn't bet on that happening.


Posted by: jimb | October 12, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Don't get me started on the non-use of the 8 car trains and the incorrect electronic sign board stating the the number of train car coming in to the station. Frequently at Foggy Bottom it will say 8 car train arriving and then a 6 car shows up so you have to scramble to get the last car and by that time it is jam-packed and no use and you have missed your connecting bus thanks to third world metro and the fat rats that run the place.

Posted by: TG10 | October 12, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Once upon a time (a very long time ago) I used to rave about Metro. But the fact that even recently repaired escalators are consistently non-functional after months of having been blocked off for major overhauls, long waits for trains, inaccurate postings on the electronic boards, overcrowding and short trains during peak hours, and fares that seem to increase every few months with no attending improvements in service have changed my view 180 degrees.

Posted by: maursullivan | October 12, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Some years back a story in WP compared the technician training time (a few weeks) before apprentices were set to work under the tutelage of presumably better-trained seniors. But the standard course for training escalator mechanics was measured in months. The outages, and short lifespan of repairs, are common knowledge (for years). Did the latest audit compare technician training practices with some 'best practice' standard? Hard to know, without this, how much is individual or systemic failure.

Posted by: spwiggins | October 12, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Wow. It took since June to find this out? The "customer service" idea of WMATA is so broken and if they cannot figure out that the elevators and escalators are but ONE broken link in the system then we are doomed to a continuing daily breakdown of all human and mechnical systems.

Posted by: deej18032002 | October 12, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Wow. It took since June to find this out? The "customer service" idea of WMATA is so broken and if they cannot figure out that the elevators and escalators are but ONE broken link in the system then we are doomed to a continuing daily breakdown of all human and mechnical systems.

Posted by: deej18032002 | October 12, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion, Metro should replace all of its shorter escalators (for example, the escalators connecting the Red Line platform with the Orange/Blue line platform at Metro Center) with stairs, and spend the money on maintaining its elevators and longer escalators.

Often, when one of the shorter escalators is being repaired, commuters must share a single, non-moving escalator to go both up and down. That is both inefficient and dangerous -- especially in the event of an emergency.

Replacing the shorter escalators with stairs would also speed the flow of commuters, because it would remove all the mechanicals needed to operate the escalators. Those mechanicals take up a lot of space -- removing them would create a wider pathway.

Posted by: rbn1211 | October 12, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

The Metro is just the tip of an iceberg. The entire transportation infrastructure is going down the drain, thanks to 30 years of Republican politics of defunding the government and putting this country on a path to the third world.

Posted by: wsokol52 | October 12, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

The Bethesda Metro escalators are a disaster. Did anyone notice that they closed one escalator for an overhaul, reopened that side (after about 2.5 months) and closed the other to do the same thing, and when they were finished with the second side, THEY WENT BACK AND DID THE SAME THING ALL OVER AGAIN??? WHAT?!

Posted by: dapaha | October 12, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

lol the escalator situation at metro would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad

Posted by: wordup1 | October 12, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

There has only been one working escalator at capitol south for several weeks now (3 escalators total). At least this time during their 'scheduled repairs' which by my count has lasted about 2 years, they have had the escalator running up. They completely ripped out the middle escalator, haven't seen anyone working on it since it was torn out. And this is the metro stop right by the House of Representatives offices! It wouldn't be bad if you didn't have to navigate through the people walking up the stairs or other non-operational escalator. And why are we paying more money for less service?! Oh that's right, so we can pay the bus and rail operators 6 figures, although they only need a high school diplomas! Although I wonder if they even have that - half the time the operation can't speak clearly or coherently!

Posted by: NCL22 | October 12, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

The man in charge of the escalators within Metro is David Lacosse. Please try to call or write WMATA and demand he be fired. Its become painfully obvious the man is beyond incompetent.

Posted by: jrutter21 | October 13, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Wonder how much this audit cost the city? It's like paying for a study to show that most men like women.

Posted by: BEEPEE | October 13, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Wonder how much this audit cost the city? It's like paying for a study to show that most men like women.

Posted by: BEEPEE | October 13, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Heads must roll based on this report. For starters, the manager in charge of elevators and escalators. The guy has clearly been Missing in Action, just like the repair crews that show up for a few days, set up the wooden barriers around an escalator run, and then disappear for months.

Posted by: Poleman | October 13, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Employment by Metro has ended up being an entitlement program, not something that rewards proficiency and excellence nor demands accountability of its employees. Promotions are based on everything other than best qualified. Dealing with metro employees makes it clear that many see dealing with customers or providing superior service as inconviniences to be avoided when at all possible.

Until Metro leadership gets its employees (and unions) to accept total accountability and get them to believe in a culture of excellence, nothing will change except to get worse. Metro used to be world class yet every day we hear yet another story that demonstrates Metro lack adult leadership and lacks employees who believe they must provide a service in return for their paycheck.

So what’s the plan Metro? What is your plan to gets your employees (and their unions) to accept a culture of excellence and achievement based on capabilities not race, time in grade or the good old boy and gal network? What are you doing to ensure a full culture of accountability among your managers? Be honest with your customers. We deserve the best of the best (we certainly pay through the nose for it), not what we are getting today.

You can start by telling us who you are publically holding accountable for escalator and elevator service (or lack thereof).

Posted by: highexpectations | October 13, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Employment by Metro has ended up being an entitlement program, not something that rewards proficiency and excellence nor demands accountability of its employees. Promotions are based on anything other than promoting the best qualified. Everyday, it becomes clear that metro riders and superior customer service or job performance are seen as inconveniences to far too many Metro employees.

Until Metro leadership gets its employees (and unions) to accept total accountability and gets them to believe in a culture of excellence, nothing will change except to get worse. Metro used to be world class yet every day we hear yet another story that demonstrates Metro lack adult leadership and lacks employees who believe they must provide a service in return for their paycheck.

So what’s the plan Metro? What is your plan to gets your employees (and their unions) to accept a culture of excellence and achievement based on capabilities not race, time in grade or the good old boy and gal network? What are you doing to ensure a full culture of accountability among your managers? Be honest with your customers. We deserve the best of the best (we certainly pay through the nose for it), not what we are getting today.

You can start by telling us who you are publically holding accountable for escalator and elevator service (or lack thereof).

Posted by: highexpectations | October 13, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Slip sliding away. WMATA's prediction of when the platform escalators will return to service keeps on sliding. At first, it was October 11. A month or so ago, the prediction changed to October 18 and now it has slipped to October 25. They better hurry because these newly rebuilt escalators are scheduled for their first breakdown in mid-November! LOL

Posted by: KS100H | October 15, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I do not understand why Metro is going thru the audit of their evlvator/escalators again. Years ago Metro did the same thing and it was suggested that Metro open up their system to independent contractors. Competition is the only why to assure a quality, safe working transit system. It is obvious that Metro is more concerned with self preservation than the safety of their riders. How else would you assure an efficient work force without having competitive bids for that work? Their are over 30 elevator companies in the Washington area that have qualified, trained and certified workers.
That has to bring on another issue. In the state of Virginia there is a law in effect that states that to work on elevators/escalators you have to hold a license to proof your competency. I highly doubt that requirement is met. Just on emore safety issue over looked. SAD

Posted by: dgeib | October 15, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

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