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Patience Is A Virtue: Metro Escalator Repairs Could Take Five Years

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One of the escalators at the Columbia Heights Metro station is thoroughly closed off, and may remain so for some time.
One of the escalators at the Columbia Heights Metro station is thoroughly closed off, and may remain so for some time.

Metro Red Line riders are happy to see the return of the Dupont Circle south escalators, three of 94 escalators that will be entirely replaced across the rail system. Riders may need to be patient waiting for their station's replacements to be installed, however, as it will take at least five years to replace all of Metro's troublesome escalators.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel says contracting and design take about a year before the work can start at a station, but the agency is making progress.

"Escalator availability has gotten better in the last year," says Stessel. "When we were having this conversation a year ago, there were on any given day more than 20 percent of Metro escalators that were out of service. In some cases that was for scheduled repair, and in some cases it was for mechanical problems."

Stessel says that figure is now below 10 percent. Of 94 escalators targeted for replacement, six are done. Stessel says others that did not need a complete overhaul have also been repaired — including seven at Union Station. Jack Corbett, the attorney for watchdog group MetroRiders.org, says Metro is making improvements, so riders should try to be patient.

"From the viewpoint of the passengers, it is frustrating, but give some patience to Metro," says Corbett. "They are putting funds into it, not going to be fast. It doesn't help for riders to say, 'Let's stop funding Metro until they get their problems fixed.'"

Red Line rider Mark Simons says he will pay the new, higher fares as long as the money goes to keep the system running.

"No one is cool with paying more. I think everybody understands the need for the fares to rise," says Simons. "I'd be a bigger fan of increased public support for the system."

The latest fare increase is supposed to fund Metro's ongoing maintenance and operations costs — so escalators, once fixed, don't fall apart again.

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