Metro’s “Grab-bag of Good Ideas”


Metro Center

After the escalators at L’Enfant Plaza malfunctioned ten days ago, injuring several people, I worried about how safe they were. The Greater Greater Washington blog has obtained a copy of the report that WMATA commissioned on elevator and escalator maintenance. Their verdict? It’s not good:

Quite simply, the escalator report is not well done. It doesn’t specify the specific goal of the audit, and ends up being a grab-bag of several findings, many positive and many negative…If the brake issues were a real concern to the consultant, the report certainly doesn’t reflect that. They are buried between recommendations for better housekeeping and for better training in the Maintenance Management System.

This gets to the heart of the real problems facing Metro. As we have repeated on several occasions, Metro’s fundamental flaw in both maintenance and safety is its inability to proactively prioritize action items based on how much an issue contributes to downtime or risk of injury.

Instead, Metro creates grab-bags of good ideas, pursues them in no particular order, and then when a major incident occurs reactively spends mountains of money addressing the immediate causes of that incident. Metro is doing the same here, by now testing the brakes on every escalator in the system.

Not everyone can afford to keep a car or live somewhere where they can walk to everything they need; people depend on Metro. It’s disheartening that WMATA is unable to prioritize access to safe transportation over housekeeping. I love a clean station, too. But when I spent the better part of a year with my mobility impaired, limping in a brace, a sparkly floor meant nothing to me if I had to pass a broken elevator and then stumble down a broken escalator to enjoy it.