Metro planning to replace some of its newest escalators

Local,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro

Metro is planning to replace escalators at one of its newest stations -- NoMa-Gallaudet -- even though they're not yet nine years old.

The escalators at the Red Line station -- which opened in November 2004 between the street level and the train platform -- work 80.9 percent of the time, compared with a systemwide average of 89.4 percent, according to Metro statistics. And the escalators break more often -- the average time between escalator failures at NoMa was 44 hours, versus the system's 153 hours, Metro said.

"It's like a treat to take the escalator," said NoMa resident Jeffrey Barrientos, who said the escalators are broken enough that he no longer notices when they're off. "They were working yesterday. I was actually a little surprised."

All four of NoMa's escalators are scheduled to be replaced in 2020 under a new $150 million contract to upgrade 128 Metro escalators.

"Like those at Columbia Heights and Georgia Ave, the NoMa escalators are unreliable and difficult to maintain," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel wrote in an email. "We have been unable to purchase parts from the original equipment manufacturer."

Japanese company Fujitec made the escalators for NoMa and several other stations that opened in the late 1990s and early 2000s. All of Metro's Fujitec escalators will be replaced over the next seven years, Stessel said. And when the 128 escalators have been upgraded, Metro will have escalators from two manufacturers, instead of the current five.

"There's a definite benefit of only have two types of escalators on the system, both in terms of maintenance and training of escalator mechanics, so they only have to focus on two different types," Stessel said.

But for the next seven years, Metro riders can expect to continue to walk up stopped escalators at NoMa.

"It's terrible. That's why they build escalators -- to prevent you having to take the stairs," said London Belis, who arrived out of breath at the top of NoMa stairs, next to a stopped escalator, on Tuesday. "If they're broken it defeats the purpose, especially if you're out of shape."

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