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Bethesda escalators reopened

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

The two escalators between the platform and mezzanine at Bethesda's Metrorail station are working again, ending a maintenance project that lasted half a year.

At any given time, scores of Metro's 588 escalators and 236 elevators are out of service. There are four out today at Union Station, for example.

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But the long, drawn-out downtime at Bethesda during the spring, summer and early fall highlighted a particular aspect of the problem: The transit authority has known for years that the escalators break down frequently and are difficult to fix. But it hasn't found a way to keep them in good repair or to speed up the fixes so as to minimize the impact on riders.

If you looked at the Bethesda platform escalators as a mechanical problem, Metro's approach makes some sense: You know you have to rehabilitate those two escalators. Start by tearing up one escalator and turn off the one next to it temporarily so riders can use it as an up or down staircase. When you're done fixing the one escalator, you turn that one into a walker and tear up the other.

But if you look at it as a people-moving problem, the situation is different. Even though there's an elevator at the far end of the platform, the bank of two escalators is essentially the only way to move a lot of riders to and from the station's mezzanine. So the bottom line for people who use the station is that they had to crowd onto one stopped escalator or another for half a year.

By Robert Thomson  | October 25, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
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Dr. Gridlock, Excuse me if I don't share your enthusiasm for the fix at Bethesda. Having seen how well the same repairs have not worked at Foggy Bottom, I have no doubt the folks at Bethesda will be soon back to walking much more than they think. I ride the orange line every day to and from Foggy Bottom - West Falls Church. Been there done that, still waiting for someone to fix METRO. Robert Whiteman, Oak HIll Va.

Posted by: robertwhiteman | October 25, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

And they're broken again in 3... 2... 1...

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 25, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

A fundamental problem with Metro stations is that they apparently were designed by people who believe that nothing ever breaks down. Thus, only one/up, one/down escalator at some stations. And, only one elevator. Even if breakdowns were fewer than is the unfortunate norm, this is a failed design concept.

Also, walking on stopped escalators is inherently unsafe. Says who? Says the DC building code which specifies acceptable dimensions of stairways. The tread and riser dimensions of a stopped escalator are not considered safe for a regular stairway by the DC building code, so why should they be considered safe at a Metro station?

At a minimum, there should be ample stairways in each Metro station adjacent to the escalators to be used when the escalators are broken. And, there should be at least two elevators.

Posted by: news81 | October 25, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow, they finished only three or four months behind schedule!

The neverending escalator repairs at Bethesda were one of the reasons I was so happy to start driving to work.

Posted by: bokamba | October 25, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

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