Wednesday, June 02, 2004

COMMUTING: Yes, Breaking an Escalator Is That Easy

We've heard that because they are most complicated people-moving equipment around, the can be complicated to fix. While the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority can boast being the only subway system in the nation that has 572 escalators, its stair-climbing and descending machines break down a lot. Budget watchers blame the unions, who blame a lack of funding. Management points its finger at upkeep costs increase all as capital expenses skyrocket. Commuters are eternally agitated and bloggers will complain.

But how easy is it break one escaltor and anger an entire neighborhood? Do they just break down? Or are they forced out of service by the commuters themselves? It just so happened that a friend of mine broke one last week on the way to work. And all it takes is a nickel.

After being without regular escalator service for many, many weeks, both escalators were working Friday morning at the U Street-Cardoza-African American Civil War Mem'l metrorail stop on the Green Line. An older woman on the escaltor -- a few steps down from my friend -- was rifling though her purse to fine subway fare.

A nickel fell to the ground and landed in an escalator step groove. As she was bending down to pick it up, the coin was somehow was pulled under the metal device, grinding the escalator to a loud, ugly, lurching halt.

Seriously, how can this happen? Things like this should not be happening. A nickel? The Oculus does not encourage commuters to empty out their pockets while riding on any Metro escalator. So remember, stand on the right, and don't fish for loose change on moving surfaces.


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