120-Step Program

Dupont Circle Metro escalators were busted all day Monday

There are 120 steps on the infamously long Dupont Circle Metro “escalator.” That’s about 10 stories, or one-third the number of steps from the ground to the tip of the Statue of Liberty’s crown.

It’s a long haul, even on the nicest of days. In 90 degree heat, in a rush hour crowd, it’s enough to create, in the words of Unsuck D.C. Metro, “near riot conditions.”

Escalators were busted at the station throughout the day Monday. When a station manager, trying to tame the rightfully furious crowd, told people to “use the escalators on the other side of the station,” patrons shouted back, “Those are broken too!”

It was, as the Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock writes, “an 80 percent failure rate at a peak ridership time at one of the busiest stations on Metro's busiest line, and beyond inconvenience, the situation degenerated into chaos.”

In true Metro style, efforts to fix the problem just made things worse. One Unsuck D.C. Metro correspondent says it took her and others about half an hour to climb the escalator last night, and while they were doing so, workers put gates at both the top and bottom of the escalator, trapping them. The penned-in passengers, including some elderly individuals, “had to jump over the handrails to get to the right staircase” – and no one was offering assistance.

Adding to Metro’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Monday: An adult and four children were trapped in an elevator without air conditioning at the Cleveland Park station for about 40 minutes. And this morning, just one of the six escalators was working at Dupont.

Metro’s Jeannie Greene-Barr told one rider that the “challenge Metro faces in maintaining these escalators is that the units at Dupont Circle were built by a British manufacturer that is no longer in existence. Unfortunately, due to this fact, it is very difficult to provide maintenance support and parts for these units.”

Metro has raised its fares, and just secured $220 million from the Federal Transit Administration for the system’s “most urgent safety and state-of-good-repair needs.” But as Dr. Gridlock recently wrote, “There's not even a united pledge to draw the line and keep service from getting any worse. They don't have to fix everything at once. No one could. But they should start with something riders can judge.”

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