Sound Transit announced Thursday a plan to convert an existing emergency staircase inside Capitol Hill Station to provide a permanent alternative to the facility’s frequently out of service escalators and elevators.
The announcement comes as part of a much more significant by the agency to add new staircases at UW Station where the escalators problems have been even an more frequent — and expensive — problem.
“Our escalator plan is proactive: Escalators haven’t been a problem at our Capitol Hill station, but we’ll now make stairs available at all times there too,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said about the plan. “We’ve also changed future U District station design to include stairs on opening day in 2021.”
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In April, CHS reported on Sound Transit’s efforts to address the escalator access problems including application of the “Mitch Hedberg principle” — An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs.
But the agency has decided it must make a more significant and costly change at the two core stations in its system.
At UW, Sound Transit will replace two down escalators to the lowest level with permanent stairs by 2022. Early next year, flights of the emergency stairs between a mezzanine and the track platform will be converted to full-time use. The cost of the changes is expected to exceed $20 million, the Seattle Times reports.
At Capitol Hill Station’s southern Denny entrance, the emergency stairs that connect from the mezzanine level to the platform will be converted with elements like security video systems for use by March 2019.
Seattle is not alone in its poorly performing transit escalators and elevators. In the Bay Area, riders on the BART system have suffered through a spike in breakdowns with some passengers reportedly breaking the rules and climbing the shut-down, blocked-off escalators anyhow.
Reasons for Sound Transit’s mechanical shutdowns vary — at Capitol Hill Station where escalators and elevators deliver riders 65 feet below Broadway to the platform below, Sound Transit said braking components have reportedly been part of the problem. We’ve also documented why Capitol Hill Station’s escalators are sometimes reversed to cut down on wear. In April, the Seattle Transit Blog reported that Sound Transit had purchased escalator equipment that was not “transit-grade.” Thursday, Sound Transit said it would apply “new design criteria to all future stations to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
It also foreshadowed more issues likely to require similar investments in the future as it takes over the Downtown Transit Tunnel and inherits 36 escalators and 22 elevators in 2020.
The 2019 Capitol Hill Station change will come on the third anniversary of the busy $110 million transit facility’s opening.