by CHARLES COOPER
Over the past several weeks, the elevators and escalators in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) have seen a very high incidence of breakdowns with some of them out of service for several weeks and counting. I contacted Sound Transit who informed me that King County Metro is responsible for maintenance in the DSTT. What I found out is that while the elevators and escalators are under regular maintenance contract, the useful life of many core components has been exceeded and breakdowns occur with some frequency.
Last year, Metro applied for and received a $5.38 Million grant from the Federal Transit Administration’s “State of Good Repair” grant program. The work was scheduled to begin in 2011 and explains why we are now seeing several escalators out of service for long periods of time.
While escalators themselves are not considered ADA devices, Metro has been responding to elevator outages quickly. Unfortunately there have been some instances of simultaneous breakdowns, as was observed on August 8th when both escalators and one elevator were out on Westlake Station’s northbound platform, leaving just one remaining elevator operational on the northbound side. This was in addition to multiple long-term downtime on escalators inside University Street Station.
According to a statement by a Metro spokesperson, Metro estimates that the major repairs on the Westlake escalator should take an additional month to complete. However, escalators and elevators outside the DSTT, such as at Mt. Baker Station, fall under the responsibility of Sound Transit. According to an ST spokesperson, the elevator outage at Mt. Baker is due to a required custom part, which is estimated to require an additional three weeks before the elevator can be put back in service.