Edward J. Welker (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ed_welker/3490672550/)
Bethesda commuters still have a few years to wait for replacement of the escalators at their Metro station; all three escalators went out at the same time last week and twice Tuesday before the Montgomery County Council held a meeting on the problem.
Metro is facing more criticism over frequent escalator outages, and commuters who travel through the Bethesda stop remain frustrated even after an emergency meeting Tuesday night.
The gathering of the Montgomery County Council's transportation committee was announced after all three escalators at the Bethesda station were shut down last Wednesday. Ironically, another escalator outage occurred before the meeting, prompting fresh complaints from Metro riders and council president Roger Berliner.
"None of us want to be talking about three escalators out at one time, 175 stairs to climb," he said. "It is not acceptable."
Taking the brunt of the outrage from council members and the public last night was Rodrigo Bitar, Metro's superintendent for escalators and elevators. He told the crowd that Bethesda's escalators were last refurbished in 2001 and 2002, adding it makes some sense that the units are having more problems now.
"The life cycle for a rehabilitated escalator is somewhere between 10-12 years," he said. "We are right there." Bitar also outlined a lot more information about how escalators work, and how Metro is working to improve maintenance practices.
But he didn't offer any immediate solutions for regular Bethesda commuters. That left Katherine Martinez, who rides -- or walks -- the escalators every day, worried about the local economy.
"I think it means Bethesda is going to be avoided," she said. "I really believe that." Metro currently has the Bethesda escalators scheduled for replacement in 2015.