Memorial Day weekend is always a rough day for travelers but just pray you’re not passing through Dupont Circle—home to perhaps the capital’s worst escalator.
Dupont Circle’s a busy station and a critical stop on the Red Line, and to function properly, the station’s north entrance on Q Street relies on its three escalators to easily transport riders in as stress-free a way as possible. Or it should, anyway. One of these escalators, unfortunately, seems to be just for show.
Don’t believe me? Here, consider this photo that TBD’s Erik Wemple snapped.
The Metro sign announces that the station will be fixed by May 12th, a reasonable enough date. It’s unknown how long the Metro has been fixed.
This photo, Erik tells me, was snapped after May 12. Okay, okay, we can accept that—not an easy assurance for the riders who pass through Dupont North, but the WMATA has its delays and difficulties like any institution. Yet was this projection far too optimistic for WMATA?
But now consider this second photo, taken more recently.
- (Photo: Erik Wemple)
June 30! Ah-ha, now, the data has changed. Metro offers its customers a new date of June 30, 2011. The sign also offers the helpful advice to “see a Station Manager if you have any questions”—a consolation to the legions of sweaty summer commuters who have to jam together at the other two escalators, lines upon lines forming and staring with eager hopefulness at the light at the top of the escalator?
Bizzarely, Metro's own website suggests a third repair time as of today: May 31, 2011. The WMATA website says the problem requires “major repair.”
Dupont North is no stranger to these problems. The Washington Post’s Luke Rosiak discussed a series of smoky, delay-ridden problems with these same escalators in July 2010:
"At the tail end of the rush hour, Metro sent an alert that all escalators at Dupont's north entrance--the very long ones--were out... and Metro's escalator outage page reports that as of now, two out of three escalators on the south side are out, too.
That's 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."
All things considered, is it any shock that the Dupont North escalators still struggle to functions? WMATA's November 2010 assessment of elevator and escalator maintenance noted that three of the escalators at the Dupont Circle station qualified as "poor" in all three conditions evaluated: cleanliness, operation, and lubrication. The 300-page document evaluates many of the concerns with the system's transportation mechanisms. The report noted that "escalator brakes have questionable stopping performance under no load" on multiple escalators on the Q-street side of the Dupont Circle station, for instance, as well as worn machine components and "failed electrical control elements."
The station itself dates back to 1977, and as Metro officials have repeatedly said, the system suffers from disrepair and does, in many ways, need to be updated. Those concerns prompted the Memorial Day station shutdowns and many of the other holiday and weekend delays that Metro riders have become so accustomed to.
Could the disrepair of the Dupont North escalator go back to this chaos from mid-2010? We’re waiting to hear back from WMATA now.
UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.: Dan Stessel, chief spokesman for Metro, has weighed in on the varying dates posted about when the Dupont Circle North entrance escalator will resume service and explains that Metro had completed the work they hoped to finish before May 12th but realized "they needed to do a little more work" in order to provide a fully functional escalator. He expects the escalator should be operational by the end of June at the very latest and possibly before.
Metro is investing $148 million into updating Metro's escalators and elevators over the next five years. Stessel emphasized the the need for such maintenance due to the reality that many of Metro's escalators are around 35 years old. He imagines there'll be a backlog of other updates and repairs to come and says that Metro is developing better ways to communicate escalator outages to its passengers. "It's a daunting task," Stessel says. "At Dupont, there are particularly challenging escalators to work on because they're so long."