Metro reports on Dupont Circle escalator incident
Metro continues to improve state of good repair for agency's 588 escalators
At today's Metro Board of Directors meeting (Thursday, July 22), Metro staff identified several improvements that will be implemented to improve safety associated with escalators based on findings of an investigation conducted immediately following a smoke incident at Dupont Circle on July 12. Staff also provided an update on the status of the agency’s escalator improvement program.
“Incidents provide a unique opportunity for identifying response strengths and areas for improvement in order to continue ensuring the safety of our customers,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn. “The findings and recommendations from Dupont Circle will allow Metro to prevent such incidents from taking place.”
Metro identified six areas for improvement. They include:
o Enhanced on-Scene Incident Command: Metro will continue monthly on-scene command training for the Metro Transit Police Department, emphasizing the lead role of crowd management, and review roles and responsibilities for Metro on-scene responders from various departments. In the future, MTPD will dispatch additional officers to stations without escalator service to assist with crowd control.
o Improve on-scene communications: Metro will work to mitigate radio communications dead spots as Metro Transit Police Department radios did not work well in the Dupont Circle Metrorail station. The police will use alternative communications techniques, such as mobile phones and “runners” until the issue is resolved.
o Redeploy staff: During an incident, Metro will assign staff with radio communications (or alternative communications) to monitor and assist with crowd control at station exits.
o Improve crowd management and station operability: Metro staff will review its criteria for closing a station, taking into consideration the operability of the station’s escalators. At deep Metrorail stations, long escalators can be challenging in evacuations, even with working escalators and elevators. When an exit is compromised, as is the case when escalators are barricaded for repair or turned off for use as walkers, station managers and Transit Police need to consider the criticality of this circumstance when a hazard presents the need to evacuate a station or change pedestrian traffic flow within a station. Guidelines will be developed as to when a station without functioning escalators will be closed with consideration for deep stations with long escalators, which can prove challenging for riders to ascend.
o Better educate customers: Metro staff will explore new signage associated with escalators and will develop an educational campaign to inform people of the dangers of using a barricaded unit and the importance of escalator safety.
o Enhance communications to executive management: Metro will use its internal Operations Control Center Emergency Conference Line to raise awareness for executive managers during incidents.
In an overview of Metro’s escalator program presented after Chief Taborn’s report, Dave Kubicek, Metro’s Acting Deputy General Manager of Operations said that Metro has 588 escalators located throughout its system. Many of them are more than 30 years old and are functioning under ridership levels that were not contemplated when they were originally installed. Throughout the years, the escalators have been subjected to extreme conditions and not kept in a state of good repair.
He noted that the current state of many escalators is exacerbated because some of the escalators are one-of-a-kind and the manufacturer no longer exists for some of the units, such those at the Dupont Circle 19th Street entrance. To repair and maintain old escalators, the agency searches for available parts or even re-manufactures them.
With respect to the repairs at the Dupont Circle station, Metro officials anticipate completing escalator repairs at the 19th Street and Q Street entrances to Dupont Circle by the end of the month. In 2011, Metro will bring the 19th Street entrance into a state of good repair by installing three brand new escalators under the Red Line rehabilitation contract.
Also at today’s Board Meeting, Metro officials addressed the escalator improvement program under Metro Red Line rehabilitation contract that was awarded last year. Under the contract, Metro will bring its escalators into a state of good repair by rehabilitating 46 escalators, replacing six escalators, and rehabilitate nine elevators at the Dupont Circle, Farragut North, Metro Center, Gallery Pl-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, Union Station and Foggy Bottom-GWU Metrorail stations. The Dupont Circle 19th Street entrance and the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metrorail stations will have new escalators installed at those station entrances in 2011.
Besides being taken out of service for repairs or maintenance, there are also other reasons that escalators go out of service. Escalators are most commonly down due to a safety mechanism, such as the activation of a comb impact device, which automatically shuts an escalator down when something gets caught in it. When the equipment automatically shuts down, mechanics have to manually inspect the unit and reset the system to ensure everything is working properly.
To address the situation, Metro has taken the following actions:
• Brought a fresh eye outside expert in to complete an assessment of the escalator and elevator maintenance program by mid-September.
• Dedicated nearly $5 million in the next year’s capital budget to repair escalators at the Wheaton and Dupont Metrorail stations.
• Established operational rapid response teams and consolidated management within Metro for accountability.
“As we work to bring our escalators into state of good repair, customers will continue to see escalators out of service,” said Mr. Kubicek. “At any given time our escalators are out of service for routine inspections, because they are intentionally turned off for use as staircases while others are being rehabilitated or repaired, or because they are undergoing a complete overhaul. At any given time our goal is not to have any more than 43 out of service at a time, but we are not at a level of good repair to reach that goal yet.”
News release issued at 1:55 pm, July 22, 2010.