- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

The Metro budget committee yesterday passed a $1.4 billion spending plan for 2003, which the full Metro board is expected to approve next week. But committee members, including D.C. Council member Jim Graham, are dissatisfied because the plan lacks funds to contract a "much needed" team of mechanics to respond to emergency elevator and escalator breakdowns.
"A major problem has been identified, and it's obvious this budget will do little to fix it," said Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, citing recently publicized incidents in which Metro riders either got trapped in elevators at Metro stations or complained that elevators and escalators were not functioning at consecutive stations at the same time.
A "Spider-Man" incident two weeks ago, in which a D.C. firefighter scaled a dark elevator shaft at the Woodley Park Station to rescue a man trapped in a stalled elevator, illustrates that "this is a very serious problem and we need to locate funds to respond to it," Mr. Graham said.
The firefighter successfully rescued the bewildered Metro rider by carrying him in a harness through a hatch door in the roof of the elevator, which was jammed about two-thirds of the distance between street level and the station's mezzanine.
The number of similar "elevator entrapments" throughout the Metro system has grown from seven in September to 18 last month, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Metro officials yesterday said the problem largely stems from a lack of trained elevator- and escalator-repair technicians working in the region. "You can't do anything unless there's an available labor supply," said Metro CEO Richard A. White.
Elevator and escalator repair is a "specialized skill" very much in demand given the amount of commercial construction going on in the region, he said. "We just have to find out whether there's an available labor supply that we're not tapping into in this marketplace, and if so, what's the cost and what can we do with" it.
Mr. Graham said, "It would be nice to have this in the budget now."
Mr. White, however, said it's too late now for crunching numbers to fix the problem in next year's budget and it won't be until the end of this month that his staff has researched a plan to contract a team of elevator and escalator mechanics to respond to emergency breakdowns.
The 2003 budget proposal will go before the full Metro Board "as it is constituted today," he said.
"Any additional dollars we have to spend for the response team will require a reprogramming from the approved fiscal year 2003 budget, or additional funding from the jurisdictions on top of the budget they approve next week," added Metro spokesman Ray Feldman.
The budget proposal approved yesterday does not call for any fare increases on trains or buses for the eighth consecutive year. But it includes money to expand the number of parking spaces at Metro stations, new rail cars and natural-gas buses.
At a showcase on Saturday at the National Building Museum at 401 F St. NW, Metro officials will discuss bus and rapid transit and the possibility of a future light-rail system in the region. The showcase is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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