Here’s why Capitol Hill Station’s escalator has been busted for weeks

We have been celebrating Capitol Hill Station’s first Christmas of service but in what has mostly been a season of light for the light rail facility, there has been one holiday dark spot.

The “up” escalator from the main platform has been out of service for weeks — some say two, others, three. While outages for the escalators haven’t been uncommon, this one might, indeed, have set a record:

Sound Transit blames the delay on the state telling CHS that the agency is awaiting word from Washington Labor & Industries to “approve the repairs.”

In the meantime, the blocked-off route shows there is, yes, such thing as a broken escalator.

We’ve already documented why Capitol Hill Station’s escalators are sometimes reversed. If the current outage continues, we may be faced with another perpetually broken Capitol Hill escalator. Remember what happened to the other one: It’s now stairs.

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24 thoughts on “Here’s why Capitol Hill Station’s escalator has been busted for weeks

    • I asked SoundTransit about this on Twitter. It turns out that escalator stair treads don’t meet the code for stairways. They’re too tall to legally be stairs.

  1. The better question is also why should it take internal approval by L & I for a repair. Shouldn’t these still be under a one year warranty from the contractor?

    • The escalator has to be up to safety standards, and this falls on L&I. Remember the guy who was killed on the escalator at the station downtown a few years ago? There are a lot of accidents. I even got my foot caught in one when I was a kid. If they can keep this number down, they’re doing their job. Two or three weeks seems like a long time, but they probably don’t have a very large staff escalator escalator specialists.

    • I know someone who was caught in an escalator at SeaTac a few years back and was quite seriously injured – spent a good deal of time in the hospital and then recovering.

      Whilst we take them for granted these machines can be lethal.

      Get it fixed properly.

  2. but I thought more regulation and oversight were supposed to make everything in the world better! our lawmakers should step up and regulate the departments of regulation and hold them accountable for these delays. but then we will need an oversight board to ensure the regulatory regulators are being prompt about things . . .

  3. Three of the escalators and one of the elevators were out of service at the UW station when I left today. I commute between Cap Hill and UW every day on the light rail and it seems like at least one escalator is always broken in one of the stations.

  4. Can someone explain the grammer of the section after the em dash of: “The “up” escalator from the main platform has been out of service for weeks — some way two, others, three.”

    • Should be say, not way. Sorry for the typo. BTW, noticed a few more typos on CHS lately? I have! I’m doing more composing and editing on my phone lately and the results have been… not the best. Sorry. Will try to slow down. Or turn off autocorrect. Or both.

  5. Just waiting for the day all escalators and elevators at the station are broken. The state will still insist approval must be issued for repairs.

  6. Sound Transit is large well-funded and well-staffed organization.
    Escalators and elevators seem to have historically been problematic for ST. What happened to lessons learned? Is this an area where ST cuts corners. The stations depend on the escalators and elevators working. ST engineers and leadership should do better than this. They owe the public an explanation and a fix.

  7. This was a project which cost billions, and it’s less than a year old. It’s a pretty long climb. Inconvenient for lots of people. Yes people with injuries or disabilities can go find the elevator and take it, but really?

    Suggestions for follow-up pieces

    1. What broke? We bought equipment that lasts less than 1 year for a key part of the station? What did this escalator cost, and who’s paying for the repair?

    2. For Sound Transit to say, it’s L&I’s fault — that sounds pretty questionable to me. Does L&I not have an expedited approval process for whatever permits are needed to fix a public project that affects lots of people?

    How about, ask Sound Transit at L&I for a contact at L&I and ask them why it takes weeks to approve repair of an escalator. Or even better, what if Sound Transit won’t give you a name? Or if L&I won’t tell you why. Or if it turns out, this is just an excuse by someone at Sound Transit for the delay. All promising fodder for an interesting story. Even better, maybe a journalist contacting them will help get the bureaucracy moving here.

    • It’s odd that this small thing is such a problem. Light rail in general is so great, and works so well. I’ve been riding it nearly every day since the UW and Capitol Hill stations opened, and most of the (very rare) delays have been fixed immediately. But the escalators failing seems to be a daily occurrence. Seems like it would be the simplest part of the whole operation.

  8. The reason they will not let you walk on the escalator is because if you have a load of people walking on the escalator and the brake fails the escalator will start to free fall in the down direction and people will get hurt. And then the lawsuits will start to fly !!!

  9. I say so what, it the Capitol Hill Station is less than a year old. There have been continuing elevator and escalator problems at Mount Baker and SeaTac over time. There is no excuse not to use lessons learned to install high quality, working equipment.

    • Unfortunately you will never see high quality escalators installed because of the bid process to win the contract. Low bid means cheap quality escalators.

  10. Well they did well on the other pieces through bid processes. Bid processes should account for success. At this point I wonder if the poor quality and shoddy elevator and escalator problems have more to do with the contractor having some type of inside track with electeds or high up ST executives. They have had decades to address this.

  11. The escalator was invented over 125 years ago and there over 35,000 in the USA alone. You would think statistically there should be very few incidents (accidents or breakdowns).
    I can be very frustrating with little information provided, which leads most to believe a cover-up (why) or better yet, incompetence (more believable), or unconcerned. Probably all of the above.
    It would be great to see detailed costs to maintaining our transportation systems.