Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Mythical Escalator Repairman

@slaterusa Check it out: http://twitpic.com/x4oug the mythical escalator maintenance guy actually working at Bethesda! #wmata

It seems like the Bethesda escalators are among the most problematic in Metro.

From reader Tim:

In early January, the escalators (all of them) at the Bethesda station were offline. The escalators from the mezzanine to the ground level are some of the tallest in the Metro system.

I asked the station manager when he expected the escalators to be fixed, and after he was rude to me (I suspect he’d been catching a lot of flak from riders for something he, ultimately, couldn’t do much about.), he calmed down pretty quickly and said he wasn't sure.

Awesome.

You know, the thing that bugs me the most about Metro is that it seems to act like it's some kind of necessary utility. It's certainly a great resource, but it's not an electric or a water company. Many of us have reasonable alternatives for commuting.

But it's this attitude that leads to a sense that, while they aim to be fair, there's no real effort to satisfy customers.

In this instance, my commute was pretty inconvenient. So, why not program the gates at Bethesda to knock 50 cents off the price of each fare as you go through the gate? Put up a sign that reads, "our apologies for the inconvenience. To make it up to you, enjoy a discounted rate while exiting this station."

Boom. People see you're at least trying.

It's just such a terrible business model: Ridership is down, so they increase fares and decrease quality of service. This, in turn, directly decreases ridership, so they again increase fares and decrease quality of service, resulting in lower ridership. And so on, and so on.

How long will it take them to understand they'll need an outside-the-box solution to escape that downward spiral? They can blame the economy all they want, but in the end, I fault Metro.


Related:
Escalator improvement: No we can't
System bottlenecks
Escalators-to-stairs idea shot down in flames
What is wrong with the escalators?
Escalator forecast: Heavy sucking with intermittent unsucking
Metro's failin'est escalator

Other items:
Human error blamed in latest Metro deaths (Examiner)
Fallen Metro employees remembered (WaPo)
NTSB back again (WaPo)
MTA fining "seat hogs" (Daily News)

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

The discount - What a great idea! I'll not hold my breath for it though. Not with Metro.

Matt said...

I used to live right by the Bethesda Station, and you're right - those escalators always seemed to be out of order. I can't tell you how many times I walked up and down the entire length of them when commuting - one time I actually had to seriously help a woman the rest of the way up since she underestimated how many stairs she could tackle.

Anonymous said...

"How long will it take them to understand they'll need an outside-the-box solution to escape that downward spiral?"
Answer: Never!
What the H*ll do they care? When they tried to outsource the Escalator repair, the union whined. Hence you have incompetent workers who have no working knowledge of escalators working on them. You can go into any retail store and the escalators operate 99.5% of the time. Here at Metro that is the exception. Huntington and King Street Metro Stations both had escalators down this morning. Typical.
Lets take up a collection and outsource the escalator repair. It can't get any worse.

Anonymous said...

Can we outsource the union too? :-D

Anonymous said...

I take the metro from Pentagon City everyday. It's interesting to notice that the escelators that are in the section that the mall is responsible for are almost always working, and when they arent they are fixed within a day. I wish I could say the same for the escelators that metro is responsible for. One has been out now for 3 days and I it doesn't even look like anyone is started working on it.

Anonymous said...

"You know, the thing that bugs me the most about Metro is that it seems to act like it's some kind of necessary utility. It's certainly a great resource, but it's not an electric or a water company. Many of us have reasonable alternatives for commuting."

I think Metro has taken much advantage from customers who *do not* have a reasonable transportation alternative and take all of their customers for granted. I definitely think that is a big part of the problem with their attitude about customer service. Their business model is truly horrible indeed.

Anonymous said...

The escalator repair union basically runs an extortion racket, they don't have the expertise to actually fix anything but they have a monopoly and milk each job as long as possible - until it breaks again in 2 months.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the "mythical escalator repairmen" were out in full force at Federal Triangle today, as well. Making a whole lot of noise (and I don't mean a low din, more like an "adults covering their ears" level) and filling the station with noxious fumes at the peak of rush hour (which made it really hard to cover said ears because your hands were already occupied covering your mouth as you choked on the fumes). Good timing, guys!

Anonymous said...

there's an escalator downstairs at gallery that has been down for over a month. i have to go from the yellow line to the red line and one of the escalators is completely boarded up, forcing people to cram into the other single escalator which is turned off, making it a stairway that forces people to share going up and down.

needless to say it creates a bottleneck for commuters.

to make things worse, there is never anyone working on that escalator, it has the stairs removed and is gutted but nobody seems to be doing anything to make it better. i remember it first happened just after christmas, how can something like that take over a month to fix???

Anonymous said...

At the New Carrollton station there is only one lone escalator and one tiny rickety (and stinky!) elevator to get up from the farecard level to one side of the "outside world." That escaltor seems always to be broken. I got ahold of the (koff koff) HelpDesk complaint folks on the phone one time about it. (I nearly fainted when I realized I was actually speaking to a live metro person!) The problem appears to be the escalator is not broken at all. It has a safety feature that shuts it off if someones bag or luggage "hits" it just right. The attendants are supposed to watch out for it and restart that escalator. Obviously it never works 5 days in a row. But alas, if it is not broken, it will never improve now will it?

If this were a doctor, s/he be sued for endangerment.

If this were a lawyer, s/he be sued for endangerment.

It is Metro. Thus, we are screwed.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy are we screwed now. The new incoming Chair Peter Benjamin already has his head in the clouds. On WTOP's site is an article where he says that "the culture of safety is present in Metro."

It IS? Where? Where? I wanna see! Pulease can I see?

Anonymous said...

Not everyone has a reasonable commuting alternative. Not all of us are rolling in enough dough to drive to work, either.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather the escalators be consistently broken than suddenly come to a stop while I'm standing on them, which is what happened last week at Farragut West. Fortunately we were headed up -- I can imagine that if we were headed down, the sudden lurching forward could've resulted in someone getting seriously injured.

Anonymous said...

How interesting, Anon 3:29! I've been on the Ballston ones when they stopped and it was always a gentle slow-down leading to just "standing still" with us riders looking around wondering if we should start climbing or wait. Now I wonder, were we just lucky on that one?

Anonymous said...

Just lucky @ 3:38...I've been running down one at Union Station when it suddenly stopped. It is sheer luck (and arm strength) that I didn't go flying headlong down the last half...

Anonymous said...

You know, the thing that bugs me the most about Metro is that it seems to act like it's some kind of necessary utility. It's certainly a great resource, but it's not an electric or a water company. Many of us have reasonable alternatives for commuting.





As it says right here on this site, over 700,000 of you ride Metro every day. If metro shut down today all of you would be sitting in traffic for hours tomorrow crying about that. Try coming downtown for a concert, sporting event, a show or whatever. Do you think you could get a parking spot if no one rode metro.

Anonymous said...

As it says right here on this site, over 700,000 of you ride Metro every day. If Metro shut down today all of you would be sitting in traffic for hours tomorrow crying over that. Try coming downtown for a concert, sporting event, a show, or work for that matter. Do you think you could get a parking spot if Metro were not available? I think everyone should start looking at the positive instead of tearing apart an agency which supports our Nation's Capitol as no other can. Yes, every agency has downfalls. Key word here? EVERY. WMATA employees work 24/7 to guarantee you service. Yes, Service Garages all over the Metropolitan area work 3 shifts. Bus Operators are spit upon, punched, bricks are thrown at buses, trash is left in trains, and buses for that matter...Has anyone ever thought about what they go through? At any rate, if the majority of you believe YOU are more competant than the individuals hired by WMATA, I suggest you try to seek Employment with this agency and make a difference yourselves, otherwise support them and their everyday efforts and hard work, while remembering without this Agency Our Nations Capitol would be in Complete Chaos.

Anonymous said...

^^^Thanks for your input, Mr. Catoe. Or is that Ms. Farbstein?

Anonymous said...

Actually neither. Surprised by a positive response, apparently. I just think in times like this, it's sad to be so negative. Really, most people don't have a good idea what Large Agencies go through to try satisfy a Paying Customer. When in all reality, there will NEVER be a time when everyone is satisfied.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, those Bethesda escalators were busted again last night. There was an (older) woman on the platform weeping into her cellphone about how Metro apparently expected her to sleep in the station (because I guess she decided she couldn't make it up the "stairs" and gave up on ever getting on the elevator.)

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