Escalating Truth To Power


Metro escalator

Originally uploaded by rpongsaj.

One of the sad facts of the Metro system is that pretty much every day there’s a major malfunction at one of the system’s escalators. There are tons of station who lose escalators for upwards of six months in some cases, and we’ve all seen what even just the slightest maintenance needs will do to the system. Of course, there’s always talk of why the escalators are out service, but DC blogger Good at Drinking, Bad at Life comes up with a truly plausible explanation:

I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but it seems to me that perhaps there is a conflict of interest here. We really wouldn’t need nearly that many escalator repairmen if the Metro escalators all suddenly started working. If every escalator in the city went for months without breaking down, the DC Metro system would probably only have to employ about 20 escalator repairmen. Where’s the incentive to permanently fix something if the end result is unemployment? I certainly know that I wouldn’t devote my best effort to fixing something if the result was that 90% of my friends and coworkers would be laid off. It’s the same principle that makes unscrupulous auto mechanics take a wrench to your transmission when you go in to have your brake pads replaced–they make more money when there actually is something that needs to be fixed.

I’m with GWD, there’s something mighty fishy going on here…

5 Comments so far

  1. sa-ra (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

    I see inefficiencies everywhere here, except for parking tickets’-writing. Call any customer service, and count your wait time. Now imagine your problem is not a wrong charge on your credit card, but the whole escalator breakage. You gotta get budget funds approved, and contractors lined up, and probably go through some selection process of those who bid for repair works. It can well take quite some time until it is fixed.
    Oh, maybe the secret plan is to get the nation to exercise more. I like that one.
    escalators are too slow anyways in dc.


  2. Doug (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

    While I admit there may some merit to these theories and conjecture, escalators are tricky examples of engineering to maintain–particularly as they age and the volume of riders on the Metro continues to grow every year.


  3. zz (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

    “…pretty much every day there’s a major malfunction at one of the system’s escalators…” Well yes – do you know how many escalators there are in the system? hundreds! Of course you would expect on-going maintenance ssues – do you complain when a light bulb goes out? The key is the response to the problem ,and that is where Metro has had on-going issues. But really to think that there is an excalator repair cabal that is purposely keeping things under-repaired? Come on.


  4. Tiff (unregistered) on February 8th, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    I’ve heard the same theory proposed as to why corporate IT departments so overwhelmingly choose Microsoft products- they break more, thus their jobs are justified. ;)

    But the actual and most plausible reason I’ve heard for long and frequent escalator outages is the escalators aren’t standard models. The model of escalator used in Metro stations is some weird size or uses some obscure collection of parts that are hard to find and are constantly on backorder. Not sure why they can’t buy in bulk, but whatever…


  5. darpino (unregistered) on February 9th, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

    There was a great CityPaper cover article about Metro Escalator repairmen many, many years ago in which the conspiracy angle was explored and debunked.



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