Monday, October 22, 2012

Keys to Escalator Success: Maintenance and Competence

So, after eight and a half months and $13 million dollars, Metro finally reopened the Dupont South entrance with three brand new escalators.

Metro touts the new escalators as "transit grade." That term did not seem common among other transit systems, so I asked some experts about it.

"It's marketing," they said. " In my opinion, statements like, 'transit grade is a level of ruggedness previously not offered by escalator manufacturers' is nothing more than Metro trying to sell the public on the project."

Another escalator expert added:
No there is not a 'transit grade.' It appears to me that it is another way that Metro is diverting their lack of maintenance in previous years to a lesser quality that was installed in years past. With that being said, there are cheaper made products out there. Some companies give their customers an option of a China, Germany or United States made unit. You guessed it, China being the cheaper made. 
The first source said no reputable escalator manufacturer would likely sell Metro an escalator that would, for example, be more suited to a retail store where there is less use and less exposure to elements.

 "A normal escalator would not hold up, and the manufacturer's name would be tarnished," the source said.

The source made sure to point out that all escalators meet minimum standards for safety and come with all required safety features.
I have not seen the new units yet. I'm sure they are good. Nothing magical or significantly differently from what was removed though. They are new. What do you need to keep any of them running? Maintenance and competence. 
Yet another source said "Metro can throw as much money as they want to at the escalator problem and make up terms like transit grade, but until they maintain them, we'll be right back to massive outages in a few years. Look back over Metro's history, and you'll see this same cycle repeated several times."

There are several root causes for Metro's escalator woes, including the union's pick system and escalator technicians that don't know what they're doing (and here). Also, when Metro finds systemic issues with their escalators, they sweep it under the rug.

I hope this $13 million investment of taxpayer money will inspire Metro to break bad habits, not new escalators.
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