Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Escalator Root Problems Part II: Foxes Guarding the Hen House

How would you like to write your own performance review or grade your own test?

That's basically what Metro does with escalator inspections.

Yesterday, the Examiner published more damning statistics about how badly Metro's escalators suck.

It's good to quantify the problem, but regular riders need only to reflect on their daily commute to realize there's something seriously rotten in the state of Metro escalators.

Sure, some of the equipment is old.

Yes, Metro is cash strapped.

There are no magic bullets for these two problems. They're constants for the time being.

But on this blog, we've tried to shine a light on some root causes Metro could, if it had a little will, remedy with little, if any, money.

In part I, we pointed to the pick system, which destroys the incentive for workers to do well at their job. Get rid of it, Metro, despite Jackie Jeter's slant.

Now, we've learned that Metro inspects its own escalators!

"It's like letting the fox guard the hen house," said a source familiar with Metro's escalator operation, who added they know of no other organization that does this.

"You don't have Macy's inspecting their own escalators," they said.

Metro confirmed there are 30 Metro escalator workers charged, in some capacity, with conducting escalator inspections.

"Metro has four full-time, dedicated Jurisdictional Inspectors, and the other remaining inspectors on staff have other duties," they said in an email.

"If you have other duties besides inspection, it's like you're inspecting your own work--it's a conflict," said the source. "Inspectors should be completely independent of the owner and maintenance performer."

It's clearly not working.

The Washington Post reported that after the "proactive, precautionary" (bullsh ... cough cough) inspection of all Metro's escalators instigated by the news broken on this blog about a cover up of known brake problems at L'Enfant Plaza, Metro found "scores of brakes that need to be replaced or [that had] oil-contaminated brake pads."

This confounded our source who wondered how, all of a sudden, so many basic safety problems were found if regular, well done, inspections were being done.

"Their current inspection process is obviously not working," the source said. "Either their inspectors aren't checking as close as they could, or they're not keeping good records."

Part III coming soon.
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