For over three weeks, the BART escalator on the southwest corner of 24th Street was out of service. Station managers couldn’t explain why it was down for so long. Parts, most said. A major reconstruction, said another. Then on Monday it again carried passengers up from BART — for a day. By Oct. 18 it was again out of service.
As of today, it was running again.
A problem with the handrail shut the escalator on Oct. 18, according to James K. Allison, BART’s deputy communications officer. The initial problem was caused by steps near the top that failed to line up correctly.
The steps took some time to diagnose and fix, Allison wrote. They shut the escalator down on an intermittent basis for 18 months. Four days of repair work with a two-person crew finally resolved the issue on Oct. 17.
Allison declined to comment when asked why the previous shutdown before the repairs lasted for over three weeks.
BART does not track availability rates for individual escalators, but the overall street escalator availability for the fourth quarter of 2011 for all stations was 92.7 percent, according to the agency’s most recent quarterly performance report. This fell a few percentage points short of BART’s goal. Overall platform escalator availability met the goal, although the report does not list a percentage.
Allison described the amount of downtime for the 24th Street Mission station’s escalators as low to moderate compared to BART’s 43 other stations. The escalators were down for a total of 411 hours in September. Mission Local reported in a previous article that 16th Street Mission’s escalators experienced 92 hours of downtime in January 2010.
Because they are partially exposed to the outside elements, escalators to street level face different problems than those connecting interior station platforms. Weather is one of the primary stress factors, according to Allison. The other two factors are debris and people who use them incorrectly.
As an example of the latter, Allison wrote via e-mail that some kids think it’s a fun ride to sit on the handrails.
“The handrails are not designed to carry the weight of a 100-pound teenager. They’re designed for someone to rest their hand on,” he wrote.
Allison did not confirm this as the cause of the escalator’s current handrail problem. The elevator/escalator survey memo handed to BART station agents reports which part malfunctioned, but not what caused the malfunction.
Another factor that leads to maintenance problems is the agency’s tight budget. The reports for the first, third and fourth quarters of 2011 (the link to the second quarter is down) cite escalators as a resource-impacted area. The Q1 2011 report states that repair response times and upgrades are negatively impacted by resource constraints.
But more help is on the way, according to Allison. The organization is in the process of hiring more technicians, he wrote. The fourth-quarter performance report notes on the chart for street escalators that budget initiatives for the 2012 fiscal year will eventually help raise the availability percentage. The report also states that BART is identifying other corrective actions.
In the meantime, Allison takes pride in BART’s escalator and elevator technicians, who he says handle a daunting challenge — 176 escalators and 140 elevators — remarkably well. It’s a never-ending job, he wrote.
The escalator went back in service on Oct. 21 between noon and 2 p.m., according to Robert Cotten from BART’s elevator/escalator department.