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Metro rebuilding five escalators in January

Busted escalators are a constant complaint among Metrorail riders. Walking up a long set of steps at a station like Dupont Circle or Bethesda is bad, but even walking down an escalator that long requires extra concentration to avoid a stumble.

Most recently, travelers have focused on the long and often unmoving escalators between the Bethesda bus bays and the station mezzanine. Here's one comment that I didn't get to publish during Monday's online chat. It illustrates many of the problems that instantly result from stopping several long escalators at a crowded station.

Bethesda, Md.: Metro relies on some extremely long escalators. One might think that they would place a priority on ensuring that these escalators are ALWAYS operational, at least one in each direction. However, both in the morning and evening today, and once earlier in the week, there were no operational escalators at the Bethesda station, which by my count has 172 "steps".

Making matters worse the other day, people were walking down the escalator that people were walking up (i.e., walking down both). This made it tough to go up, as a lot of people stopped to catch their breath, but you could not pass them because people were galloping down the escalator. Needless to say, there was not a Metro employee in sight to direct traffic.

You could wait for the elevator, right? But at the busy stations like Bethesda, the elevator line gets long in a hurry. Many people get discouraged, and instead will trudge up the stopped escalator.

According to Metro's schedule of repairs, one of those Bethesda escalators will be out till the end of the month for major repairs.

Metro also announced this month that major rehabs are getting underway on five escalators. These are very long projects -- 10 to 12 weeks -- in which the escalators are rebuilt. Some of the parts have to be custom made and some of the work is done repair shops rather than at the escalator.

These are the escalators that are in for the major work:
-- Gallery Place, an escalator between the mezzanine and station entrance at F and 7th streets. This is the second of the four escalators at this entrance to be modernized, Metro says.
-- Friendship Heights, an escalator between the platform and mezzanine. It's the last of five station escalators to be modernized.
-- Bethesda, an escalator between the platform and mezzanine. It's the first of two platform escalators to be modernized.
-- Federal Triangle, an escalator between the mezzanine and station entrance. It's the second of three intermediate level escalators to be modernized.
-- Virginia Square, an escalator between the mezzanine and station entrance. It's the first of the four platform escalators to be modernized.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 12, 2010; 8:32 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: DC transit, Dr. Gridlock, Metro escalators  
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Is there some reason why the escalators undergoing modernization can't be in service when no one is actively working on them? If much of the repairs are being done in a shop, why don't they let the escalators run in the meantime?

Posted by: econgrrl | January 12, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the escalators would last longer between repairs/overhauls/modernizations if they turned themselves off when not in use (such as the hours METRO is closed every evening) - other cities have them set up such that if no one walks on the pressure plate for 5 or 10 minutes, they turn off until someone does. Seems it would save a lot of wear and tear. Of course, that would be efficient, and METRO doesn't like to do efficient... much like building a canopy to protect from the elements.

Posted by: nocando | January 12, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to thank Metro for caring about my waistline and helping me burn off all of those holiday cookies! Lately the trek between home and work (Bethesda -> Dupont Circle) has been a guaranteed cardio workout thanks to the broken escalators. The person quoted in the article is correct - the Bethesda station was a nightmare! One escalator totally blocked off, and people going both up and down on the two remaining escalators. Not to mention it is VERY DARK in the escalator tunnel. The elevator line snaked all the way around the passageway.

Posted by: nativetexan2 | January 12, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

It's simply unnacceptable. What if there were a fire down there?

The stairs from platform to mezzanine at Woodley Park are under repair since mid December with February (when?) as a target date. About 30 feet of escalator.

Try telling them the check is in the mail for your next Smatrip reload, wouldn't work....

Posted by: Washingtonresident | January 12, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

"escalators to be modernized" WTF? Modernized? Heck, guess what? I'm taking my ten year old VW to the mechanic to get "modernized." More Metro goobly-gook.

Posted by: dezlboy1 | January 12, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

What idiot designed the escalators in the first place? They should have used a bunch of shorter escalators, one after the other with shared landings in between. That way, they could shut down short individual sections for maintenance instead of having to turn off an entire length of escalator. If lack of space is an issue, zigzag and stack them, like the stairs in a tall building.

Posted by: yop32 | January 14, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

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