- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 10, 2011

At the top of the escalator Sunday at the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station, Justine Jayet paused in relief as she steadied her large suitcase and descended to the rail platform.

“One of the escalators was out in Metro Center. It just became stairs,” Ms. Jayet said, peeled off a layer of clothing in the hot afternoon sun, her white leg brace in stark contrast to her black patterned pants.

Ms. Jayet and her friend had just arrived from Paris and were happy to be in the District. But they, like many area commuters, are concerned about out-of-service escalators at Metrorail stations.

Agency officials say they are trying to fix the problem, which has contributed recently to long lines outside the Foggy Bottom station.

And in October, a faulty brake on a downward escalator at the L’Enfant Plaza caused a crowd of people coming from a Saturday afternoon rally at the National Mall to be violently thrown down to the station floor, injuring about a half-dozen people.

Today, Metro will replace a broken escalator at Foggy Bottom, the newest of the system’s 588.

“We’ve already ripped out the old escalator. We’ve already moved it over, relocated it, and it is running,” Dave Kubicek, Metro general manager for operations said Thursday. “Our expectation is to be able to introduce the next generation of that escalator.”

Foggy Bottom is Metro’s eighth-busiest station with an average weekday ridership of 21,587.

“Most of the escalators are not working,” said Noel Reyes, a Vienna, Va., resident said as he waited outside the station, on the campus of George Washington University. “People are having to walk up and down all the time. There are a lot of people with suitcases and older people. They look frustrated.”

Metro officials said last week that in May, 485 of the 588 escalators were operating, which represents a drop in availability of roughly two dozen escalators from April to May because of slow maintenance efforts.

They also said the agency needs 47 more repairmen to reach its goal of an 85 percent compliance rate for preventive maintenance.

Board member Anthony Giancola advised that with the new Silver Line to Dulles due to open in two years, bringing with it close to 30 more escalators, Metro should consider a way to monitor the companies producing and maintaining the escalators so that Metro will know “what’s the type of product we’re buying, and hopefully, not the cheapest. Because we already acknowledged … we’ve gotten some junk in our system.”