Report: Metro escalator outages frequent

Metro released a report last week revealing that its escalators break down once a week on average.

Only 32 percent – less than one-third – of the escalator shutdowns are a result of scheduled maintenance, according to The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s report. The rest of the outages result from unscheduled service calls or safety calls for repairs.

Escalators inside stations – unlike the currently uncovered escalators at the Foggy Bottom Metro station, which are being replaced – operated nearly twice as long as uncovered outdoor escalators.

On average, the time taken to repair out of order escalators has seen a spike over the years, increasing to 14 hours last year from about 13 hours in 2009 and almost 10 hours in 2008. Metro cited staff levels, the availability of parts and productivity for the uptick.

The report also said Metro’s escalators were installed between 1974 and 2004, and many of the manufacturers of the escalators are no longer in business.

WMATA Public Affairs Officer Reggie Woodruff said the escalators at the Foggy Bottom Metro stop are especially old and parts for it are hard to acquire. They also face wear from constant exposure to elements such as rain and snow.

Last fall, WMATA commissioned an outside agency to issue a report reviewing the dysfunctional escalators at Metro stations across the city, triggering renovations including the upgrades at the Foggy Bottom station.

“These new systems are definitely more reliable than the current escalators, some of which are up to 30 years old,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff estimated the renovations at the Foggy Bottom station – including the addition of a staircase and canopy – would be completed within a year. The WMATA website says the escalators will fully return to service by April 18, 2011.

The escalator report comes just after upgrades to the Foggy Bottom Metro began Jan. 24, including the installation of three new escalators, a staircase and a canopy to cover the entrance.

The Foggy Bottom Metro station’s seven escalators cater to more than 25,000 passengers over 80 percent of the time they are in operation, according to the report.

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