Metro wrestles with escalator issue
[This post has been updated]
Metro's board of directors wrestled Thursday morning with how to tackle Metro's perennial escalator problems, with some members expressing frustration at the agency's seeming inability to solve the issue.
A recent independent audit uncovered widespread deficiencies in Metro's escalator brakes as well as a lack of adherence to escalator maintenance standards. The report suggests that the failure of the moving staircase at L'Enfant Plaza that injured six people last month was not an isolated problem but an accident waiting to happen, escalator experts have said.
Metro undertook an inspection of all if its 588 escalators as concerns over escalator safety have mushroomed. According to officials, 568 escalators have been inspected, 40 brakes have been replaced; 10 brakes were found to be oily. A total of
156 16 escalators with worn brake pads were placed out of service. Twenty escalators were not checked because they are undergoing major overhauls but will be examined before returning to service, officials said.
An investigation found that all three brakes were compromised on the L'Enfant Plaza escalator that failed. One brake had "oily dirty" pads, one showed brake pad wear "down to the metal" and one had a lose screw and "erratic performance," Metro staff told board members Thursday.
Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles said Metro's escalator problems come down to a need for "basic, good maintenance."
"Until we do [maintenance[ right, we will just have problems we shouldn't have," Sarles said.
Asked by board member Jim Graham if he were surprised by the number of problems uncovered, Sarles said, "We shouldn't have a number like that."
Sarles said Metro has considered replacing 400 escalators, but that "will cost you a lot of money" -- $1 million each -- and time.
Metro Assistant General Manager Dave Kubicek told the board Metro is trying to hire more supervisors and is increasing training of technicians.
"These are basically mechanical problems," said board member Mortimer L. Downey. "We shouldn't have to get an exorcist in."
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