Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C.'s subway system hopes to have its elevators and escalators on the up and up thanks to a new training facility for the mechanics that keep them working.
The $1.5 million facility, which serves the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, is billed as the first of its kind to be operated by a transit agency. Since it opened late last year, mechanics have been learning how to conduct inspections, maintenance and repairs from the facility. "It's a very highly technical set of skills that mechanics need," says Cathy Asato, a spokesperson for the agency, "so the better the training we can provide, the better work they can do in the field."
The training facility's elevators and escalator have transparent panels, a feature that's designed to make it easier for participants to learn the inner workings of the devices. Previously, mechanics had to be trained on the job at elevators and escalators in stations, which resulted in inconveniences for riders. First responders also are training on the facility's elevators, learning how to respond in case someone is trapped inside one at a subway station.
Keeping the subway system's 588 escalators and 267 elevators operating has been a major headache for the agency for years. Many of the system's stations are far below the ground, making riders heavily dependent on these conveyances. At 230 feet, the escalator in the subway system's Wheaton station is thought to be the longest in the Western Hemisphere, while the Forest Glen station is accessible exclusively by elevator. When elevators go out of service, WMATA often is forced to provide shuttle service from nearby stations.