Escalator problem at Ballston fixed
This morning, a Metrorail rider sent me a copy of an e-mail he sent to Metro's general manager, Richard Sarles, complaining about all the out-of-service escalators he encountered at Ballston during this morning's rush. There was a power problem that temporarily shut down all the station's escalators, though the two elevators remained in service, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.
I'll give you some more details about that, but first let me show you part of the rider's letter to Sarles, because it illustrates the frustrations shared by many passengers and some of the challenges Sarles faces now that the Metro board has removed "interim" from his title.
The rider's letter opened this way:
Dear. Mr. Sarles,
The Ballston Metro station this morning has all, and I mean ALL 8 escalators dead as of 8:05 a.m. None was working. There were no signs nor announcements to alert riders that they had 4 flights of escalator stairs to walk up. There were no attendants around at all for crises or assistance. Not one.
As I struggled up the 4th escalator, wondering if I could actually reach the top, an elderly lady farther up from me suddenly stopped. She burst into tears and I heard her say, "I cannot make it. I cannot go down. What am I going to do?" Two people helped her up the remaining steps. I saw them at the top, she was barely able to stand and was still crying.
DG: Metro is getting better at organizing its maintenance program and communicating with riders about the service disruptions that result from the work zones. That includes publicizing the weekend and nighttime maintenance schedule for the upcoming month and repeated announcements about the big track work projects that occur on the long holiday weekends.
Its personnel are still less effective in communicating with riders in stations and on trains during emergencies, such as this morning's escalator outage.
A power outage occurred at Ballston from 7:30 to 7:37 a.m., Taubenkibel said. That shut down the station's 12 escalators, but not the elevators. Restoring power doesn't restore the escalator service. Maintenance people have to be called in to restart the escalators. As of 9:05 a.m., 11 of the escalators had been returned to service, the Metro spokesman said.
The transit authority this morning did mark the escalators as out of service on the Web page where it advises riders of problems, though I did find it confusing to see that the "Estimated Return to Service" was listed as Saturday.
The amount of information on that page has improved during the past few months. There's now a summary at the top of the page that gives riders some accountability information at a glance, and there's a link to a glossary page that explains the terms Metro uses to characterize problems.
But most riders aren't going to be checking that page before they leave home for a transit trip. Plus, we're talking about emergencies that may have occurred after they left home. Metro still needs to develop a better system for communicating with customers inside the system.
That's easier said than done. An emergency, like a power outage at a station heavily dependent on escalators, is likely to overwhelm the personnel on the scene, whose immediate tasks will include fixing the problem itself as well as carrying out normal duties. It takes a while to get extra people to a station, and at rush hour, hundreds of riders will have been inconvenienced before any good comes of such measures.
Sarles has focused his attention on the big problems of safety and maintenance. Can't argue with that. But the problems that are most visible to riders and most commonly experienced include the escalator outages, train delays and trains taken out of service, with little or no explanation on the scene.
Three out of four escalators are down at Southern Ave. Riders will also find all 3 escalators between upper and lower platforms down at Metro Center's G and 12th St entrance.
Yesterday's overall outage rate was 12.8 percent.
| February 2, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
Categories: Metro, Orange Line | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail
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