Transportation Nation

Fact Check: How Reliable are Metro's Escalators?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


When D.C.'s Metro claimed this month that more of its 588 escalators are working than at any point in nearly five years, many rail riders rolled their eyes in disbelief. But then a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics got involved.

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Transportation Nation

Medellin Gets Mega Escalator

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

The 12,000 residents of one hilly Medellin neighborhood used to climb the equivalent of 28 stories to get from the city center to their homes. But an arduous 30-minute walk has been transformed into a five-minute ride, with the installation of an urban escalator system.*

"This escalator represents a celebration for all of us as a city," said Mayor Salazar Jaramillo on Monday, when he officially opened the escalators to the public in the Comuna 13 neighborhood. "This should be a symbol of city transformation and peace for Comuna 13."

The escalator is divided into six stages and cost about US$6.7 million to construct.

The mayor said innovations like the escalator are turning the Colombian city into a showcase for leading urban planning ideas, and added that officials from Rio de Janeiro had already contacted him about doing something similar in the hillside favelas there.

Press reports call Comuna 13 one of  Medellin's poorest and most violent neighborhoods. Which makes it ripe for transformation, according to city officials.

"In these slums, we have to make an important change," said Rafael Nanclares, Medellin's secretary of transportation and transit, speaking on the phone to Transportation Nation. "We have to make opportunities for them." Earlier this week, Nanclares tweeted a photo of a banner hung on the side of a building that read: "What pride! We live in the only neighborhood in the world with public escalators."

Nanclares said the escalators would make it easier for residents to get to school and work. A major goal of the escalator is to connect Comuna 13 with the economic center of the city--both literally and figuratively. "It's a way to give presence to people who don't have a presence," he said. The ambitious project is as much statement of support to an overlooked community as it is transportation improvement as he sees it.

Carlos Pardo, a consultant for the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), pointed out that the city has been working to improve mobility for its poorest residents. "This escalator is part of a broader range of initiatives in Medellin," he said. The city has recently inaugurated a bike share program and a bus rapid transit system. Parts of the city also have a cable car-- but the necessary distance between stations made an escalator a better choice for Comuna 13.

More photos are below.

*An earlier edition of this post quoted the Medellin government as claiming this is the first urban escalator system as transit. As many readers point out, Hong Kong's has an urban escalator system, which opened in 1993.

(with reporting by Alex Goldmark)


(image courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

 (photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

(photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Metro Making Progress on Escalator Fixes

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Escalators at the Wheaton Metro station (photo by Aaron Landy via Flickr)

Metro riders in D.C. are getting to see the first fruits of the transit system's $150 million plan to rebuild or replace the system's notoriously aging  (and long!) escalators: this week marked the first time in a year that all three escalators at the Foggy Bottom entrance have been operational.

Over the past year, Metro has replaced the three entrance escalators at its Foggy Bottom station with new units and refurbished seven escalators at Union Station. Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles says these 10 "new and like-new" escalators represent significant progress in the plan to overhaul or replace 153 escalators at 25 stations on all five rail lines.

Union Station is the first Red Line station under the current capital plan to have all seven of its planned escalator units rehabilitated.

The number of broken or stopped escalators in the Metro system and the slow pace of repair has angered commuters in recent years. D.C.'s transit system has a total of 588 escalators -- more than any other subway system in the country -- and the third largest number of any system in the world.

Metro's Superintendent for Escalators and Elevators, Rodrigo Bitar, has said 75 percent of them are 25 years or older. Because Metro has relied on multiple manufacturers, many of which are out of business, Bitar said "getting parts to maintain this equipment gets harder everyday."


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