City Desk

The Worst Performing Metro Escalators of 2013 and 2014 (So Far)

The good news is that Metro escalator availability  is reportedly at a five-year high. The bad? If you're a frequent Metro rider who uses the system twice a day, you're statistically likely to confront a broken escalator at least once a week.

Tucked within a 50-page document answering questions in preparation for a D.C. Council oversight hearing, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority listed the Metro system's "worst" escalators during the 2013 fiscal year and 2014 year to date. Caroline Laurin, a spokeswoman for WMATA, notes that Metro escalator availability was at 92.1 percent in fiscal year 2013, compared to 85.5 percent in 2011. She also provided some context to see just how bad (or not bad) these five delinquent escalators were in 2013. (City Desk previously reported on a non-WMATA list of the worst escalators of 2013.)

  • Archives (entrance escalator): With 169 work orders in fiscal year 2013, this escalator required more attention than any other. It is scheduled for replacement or rehabilitation in 2017.
  • Gallery Place (mezzanine to Red Line platform, 7th and G Street entrance): There were 19 work orders for this escalator. "In most cases, the escalator went out of service due to comb impact switch activation, which is a safety sensor working as intended," Laurin wrote.  The work order number is low for this escalator because resetting the unit after a comb-sensor activation is something that can be done by a station manager without opening a ticket.
  • Woodley Park (upper mezzanine to lower mezzanine): There were 114 work orders opened for this 456-foot escalator, which is the third longest in the system. Longer escalators are more challenging to maintain, according to Laurin, and this one is slated for replacement in 2016.
  • Dupont Circle (mezzanine to platform, Q Street entrance): There were 44 work orders opened for this escalator.
  • Georgia Avenue-Petworth (mezzanine to platform): There were 130 work orders opened for this escalator. The escalator is being replaced this year.

To date, the five worst performing escalators in fiscal year 2014 are:

  • Smithsonian (mezzanine to platform)
  • Gallery Place (lower mezzanine to yellow/green line, 7th and H streets entrance)
  • L'Enfant Plaza (mezzanine to yellow/green platform)
  • L'Enfant Plaza (street to mezzanine)
  • Eastern Market (street to mezzanine)

In 2013, Metro awarded a contract to replace 128 of the system's 588 escalators by 2020 and is currently in the process of installing six new ones.

But the latest Metro escalator news coming out this week isn't so positive: Issues with the futuristic staircases were listed as one of the reasons for the most recent delay of the Silver Line opening.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Chris


  • Fabrisse

    I know there's some selection bias, but I can't believe Minnesota Avenue isn't on the list. It was broken for days at a time throughout 2013. Or are you only reporting escalators in "important" areas of the city?

  • ? Carol Woodard

    WHEN will the escalator replacement on the
    east side of the Van Ness/UDC station be

  • Typical DC BS

    Metro finally woke up years ago and started covering open escalator wells with canopies. Have they completed those at the Metro stops mentioned? Anything mechanical will have constant problems if it's exposed to the elements.

  • David Geib

    The truth of the matter is, an independent study of the escalator/elevator system showed that independent contractors such as Kone, Schindler, Otis, etc... performed better service and would save the Metro system millions of dollars in service costs and replacement, not mentioning the huge savings in health care and pension costs that the independent contractors would cover instead the WMATA needing to cover on its' employees. WMATA knows of these findings because they contracted the auditors who performed the independent evaluation. For your information, VTX was the consulting firm that was hired by WMATA. Two years ago WMATA contracted Kone Elevator to perform maintenance on the Orange line. The TOP 9 stations in the Metro system are the ones that Kone is maintaining.

  • Rob

    You're right. The escalator on one side of the Brookland Metro has been covered for years. However, the other escalator which is the most used and used primarily by non-whites remains exposed to the elements and is seemingly rebuilt every 2 years. Sad to say there is selection bias in this article

  • Andy

    Bus drivers cannot work on escalators/elevators. This should surprise nobody. It's all been about creating more jobs from WMATA/ATU people. WMATA is taking care of their own and not worried about anyone else.

    DC Metro Metrics escalator ranking sorted by availability. The units that are maintained by KONE (aka an elevator/escalator company) are all on the top of the list for most reliable. Everything else sucks and this will continue.

  • Mike Madden

    @ Fabrisse: These are the escalators Metro determined to be the worst-performing ones, not the ones we decided mattered.

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  • Dave P

    Metro mainly maintains their own escalators. Yet, not all are trained through an accredited apprentice program or are even licensed to work on escalators. While some are, many simply transferred from another Metro job, like driving a bus, into escalator work. That is probably one of the reasons for problem issues. Luckily, the new escalators are being put in by companies using Union Elevator / Escalator Constructors that have the training and experience to get quality work done. It is easy to complain about Unionized workers. Yet, with all the problems with Metro, I am glad they are the ones doing the job. Quality is what is needed with Metro.

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  • Richard

    Why we cannot have more old fashioned stairs is a mystery to me.

    Some would say that a broken escalator can be used as stairs, but it is narrower, the stairs steeper, and when it is being serviced is completely closed. Old fashioned stairs work for decades if not centuries with minimal maintenance.

  • Rodeo

    This will never change! Kone&Schindler take it over for a few years units are 98% and above. Then Metro "thinks" they can take them back and the number drops into the 80's. Its a unnessary costly cycle. The district is making all elevator/escalator mechanics be licensed. The kicker is metro mechanics are exempt! I wonder why? This means that the top stations are being maintained by KONE Elevator/Escalator these are licensed union elev/esc mechanics that went through four years of apprentiship school and passed a mechanics test. The rest of the stations are maintained by NON-Licensed metro "mechanics" who went through a 2 year metro escalator school then put on the street. How does the public feel about riding in an on elev/Esc of NON-Licensed mechanics? And why are they exempt are they not qualified enough to get a license from the district. *Note they are exempt in MD&VA also.