Metro riders in Bethesda think they have it bad, hiking up 212 feet of stalled escalators at the station there.
But agency statistics show the three escalators at the Wheaton station, the longest in the entire system at 230 feet, were out of service far more often than the six at Bethesda -- or the other three stations with the system's longest escalators.
|Outages on Metro's top 5 longest escalators|
|Woodley Park||204 feet||89%|
|Medical Center||202 feet||87%|
|*October 2011 through March 2012|
|Concrete stairs planned, despite board member's concerns|
|Metro has added plans to build two sets of concrete stairs at Bethesda and Union Station in the pending budget to ease some of the congestion there when escalators are down.|
|But Metro board member Tom Downs questioned the wisdom of having $2 million concrete stairs, saying they have a seven- to 12-year life expectancy. Downs, now in his second stint on the agency's board, said the board once decided to build granite stairs elsewhere in the system, instead of concrete ones, for that reason. Dirt and salt on riders' feet would erode the concrete even on interior stairwells. He said granite could last some 100 years under the same use.|
|But the agency is still planning to go with concrete, Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said. And the agency does not know the life expectancy of the staircases it plans to build, she said. - Kytja Weir|
The Bethesda station escalators, the system's second-longest, were available 90 percent of the time in the six-month period from October through March. That's the best of the five stations with the longest escalators: Wheaton, Bethesda, Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan, Medical Center and Rosslyn. And it's also better than the system average of 88.9 percent during that period.
But Bethesda has been the focus of Montgomery County officials, who have written multiple letters pleading with Metro officials to fix the escalators at Bethesda soon. The agency plans to build a set of concrete stairs there, then start replacing the escalators in 2014. Riders then would see more tie-ups amid the construction until at least 2015.
But Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, who signed the most recent letter to Metro, said she and other officials are trying to keep the pressure on Metro for all stations. Three of the stations with the longest escalators are in the county.
"Our point to Metro is we're paying attention to the escalator situation," she told The Washington Examiner. "This is not to prioritize any one escalator over another in Montgomery County. They are all critical."
To be sure, any escalator outage can be a hassle for riders. Metro's 588 escalators are the bottlenecks in the system, especially at stations with only one exit. When the escalators are out -- whether because they are broken or being repaired -- riders suffer by hiking up or down them.
But riders at some stations have especially long climbs when the escalators are down. The Wheaton station has been called the longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere.
The statistics Metro provided do not indicate when the stations had complete escalator outages, meaning riders had no escalators to ride. Yet even when some are still working, the closures can delay riders as lines form during peak periods.
Metro said many outages at the stations with the longest escalators were because of repair work, which eventually should mean fewer outages. The agency was modernizing one escalator at Wheaton, for example, meaning the station could not have more than 67 percent availability from October through February. It had escalators working 65 percent of the time in that period. At Rosslyn, escalator availability dropped to 64 percent in March as the agency worked to modernize three of the 10 escalators there. Metro says it could have had at most 71 percent availability during such work.
Metro has said it plans to replace 88 of its 588 escalators over the next six years.