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October 7, 2010 6:57 PM   Subscribe


 
If it's part of the DC Metro system, I can't tell you how long it takes precisely, but it's definitely on an order of magnitude that's counted in decades.
posted by crunchland at 7:03 PM on October 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The escalator is temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:09 PM on October 7, 2010 [29 favorites]


There was a power failure last week, and I was stuck on an escalator for nearly 3 hours!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:13 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Is it just something about subway systems in general? Because the Toronto system's escalators are always out.

Stopped escalators are scary. It's something about the continuous lines of the steps, throws off my whole sense of perspective. Not to mention the jagged metal teeth on the edges.

Of course, I have escalator fear anyway. For the love of god do not rush on escalators, you will freak me out. Walk left, stand right, whatever, but take your time. There is no rush on the escalators. I have scars on my knee from a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to remind me. Woozy, my wounds sloppily bandaged in the security office, my jeans tattered and bloodied, I had to sit down and lean back on Pink Floyd's wall until my Hebrew school group was ready to move on.

I was in Montreal a few months ago, and as we were riding the escalator up some too cool for school hipster appeared at the top, pressed the emergency stop button, and ran down past us. Fucking asshole, but if I ever make a movie about cool kids that's so going in there.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:37 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a power failure last week, and I was stuck on an escalator for nearly 3 hours!

Sounds dumb. Didn't you have a cellphone? Couldn't you have called 911?
posted by special-k at 7:45 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Multiple escalators could break and be repaired in the time it takes to read that article. I probably would have titled it "Herein I write a lengthy story that generally relates to the theme of escalators, and buried deep within I may discuss the length of time it takes for the repair of said escalators." Less likely to attract people who actually want the question answered.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:48 PM on October 7, 2010 [14 favorites]


There's a great little Paul comic (the best one, IMO) by Michel Rabagliatti in D&Q #5 illustrating my most missed feature of escalators: The makeshift playground slide between the up and down handrails. Now they all have those bolted-on plastic bumps. Booooo!

I was immensely relieved upon my return to Toronto to see that after all these years the escalators still have that eerie radioactive glow shooting out between the steps.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:33 PM on October 7, 2010


Anyone visiting Vancouver is likely to use the exceptionally long escalator in the Granville St. skytrain station. I advise you to try and make your body even with the lines in the tiled wall alongside and stare - it's like a complimentary mushroom trip from Translink!
posted by mannequito at 8:41 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The trip Underground escalators take you on is also different from most others. Descending into, or rising from, the depths of the earth is not the same as gliding up and down ramps which cut their way, level by level, from bright to still brighter light. The deep Underground lines are a region of darkness, no matter how many fluorescent tubes show the way.

That's exactly how I felt about the escalator into the Dupont Circle station on the DC Metro. I don't know if it's the longest escalator in the system, but it feels like you're going down forever.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:45 PM on October 7, 2010


Multiple escalators could break and be repaired in the time it takes to read that article. I probably would have titled it "Herein I write a lengthy story that generally relates to the theme of escalators, and buried deep within I may discuss the length of time it takes for the repair of said escalators." Less likely to attract people who actually want the question answered.

Welcome to the London Review of Books! It looks like you're new here...
posted by unSane at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


The Empiricists run a closed shop in escalator maintenance and repair. Intuitionists are limited to working on elevators.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm always worried when I'm on the escalator that the steps will suddenly fold flat, turning it into a huge, terrifying slide.
So I don't really care how long they take to fix it, just keep it safe and the steps secure.
posted by Flashman at 8:55 PM on October 7, 2010


That looks like a pretty sweet diagram of an escalator but it's too bad it's so small that I can't make a goddamn thing out.
posted by graventy at 8:55 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love riding the escalator in the Náměstí Míru station on the Prague metro. Gives me a bit of vertigo each time, and running down it drunk is a laugh.
posted by cmonkey at 9:03 PM on October 7, 2010


The escalator is temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.

Actually, stairs have considerably different dimensions from escalators. It is *not* as safe or as easy to walk up or down a stationary escalator as it is to walk down a similar flight of stairs. Also, if the escalator requires extensive maintenance, it ceases to be "stairs," and becomes a walled-off pit in the ground. Hardly as useful.

That's exactly how I felt about the escalator into the Dupont Circle station on the DC Metro. I don't know if it's the longest escalator in the system, but it feels like you're going down forever.

That would be Wheaton, which features the longest single-span escalator in the Western Hemisphere. Forest Glen is deeper, but only has (extremely/frighteningly fast) elevators. (There are stations in Paris and London that could have learned from this model. I remember being stuck on a spiral staircase in Paris for what seemed like an eternity. Wheaton and Forest Glen also happen to borrow their station layout from the London Tube). According to Wikipedia, the Wheaton escalators are 230 feet long, and take 2:45 to go from end-to-end. There are also 3 sets of escalators, so hopefully you'll never have to walk.

Despite being nearly twice as deep, the 6 Forest Glen elevators will get you from the surface to the platform (about 20 stories) in less than a minute.


And yes. Despite being an otherwise wonderful subway system, Metro seems to have an issue with escalator maintenance. Nobody seemed to anticipate that the Great Society Subway would require maintenance, or have inherent design flaws.
posted by schmod at 9:14 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not related, but I always feel like the escalataors in Singapore are breaking some kind of speed limit the original engineers put on them... they seemingly move at twice the speed of any other escalators I've seen in other countries -_-
posted by xdvesper at 9:23 PM on October 7, 2010


I should also add that the Metro isn't DC's most infamous example of escalator-dependent architecture. That honor goes to the H.D. Woodson Senior High School, aka the Tower of Power.

(It's like Wayside school, but much sadder because it was real)
posted by schmod at 9:24 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Gives me a bit of vertigo each time, and running down it drunk is a laugh.

There is a non-escalator -- it descends a level but it is flat, so I guess you would call it an inclined slidewalk -- in a métro station in Montreal. I can't recall which station; Pie-IX or Joliette or somewhere out there along the green line. It is inclined at the perfect angle that if you run down it (drunk or sober) that by the time your feet touch the ground, they are just passing under your centre of gravity, so you cannot stop running. You are compelled by gravity and inertia to sprint at full speed to the very bottom and slam into the wall. It is great fun, for a certain definition of fun.

If any Montrealers know which station, please let me know. I haven't run down there in twenty years.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:25 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why does it take so long to mend an escalator?

Because the diagram is so freakin' small you can't even read it!
posted by mazola at 9:35 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Funny; I'm always hoping when I'm on the escalator that the steps will suddenly fold flat, turning it into a huge, awesome slide.
posted by phooky at 9:36 PM on October 7, 2010


That was one hell of a long essay.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:40 PM on October 7, 2010


In Boston, it has something to do with the Civil War.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:49 PM on October 7, 2010


There is a really long escalator going to one of the Atlanta stations (Peachtree Center, I think) that has tiles on the wall that were laid out in a pattern parallel to the escalator's incline. The long tube combined with the only visual clues being the escalator and these rows of tile make you feel like you are falling forward.
posted by eviltwin at 10:16 PM on October 7, 2010


Well, if you live near the New York 125th street 1 stop, it's probably because the idiots who can't be bothered to walk across the street for the up escalator have broken the down escalator again and are now using it to walk up, blocking the people trying to get down and swearing at them, and then the escalator is broken for days to weeks.

But I can't really complain about that (especially because I moved), because the Union Square and 53rd and 3rd stations had it much worse because real estate developers agreed to take over maintenance of their escalators in exchange for building rights and promptly reneged, leaving the former station's escalator dormant for more than two years, and the latter's for ten. And then to add insult to injury, they blocked off not only that escalator, but the stairs next to it, for "maintenance" for at least six months. (Video here, complete with "shame shame shaaaaame" chorus).

I have numerous issues with the subway in Toronto, but escalators don't seem to be one of them for some reason. Maybe I'm blocking it out.
posted by ilana at 10:23 PM on October 7, 2010


Why can't the down escalator be self powered? The more people on it, the faster it would go!
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:37 PM on October 7, 2010


There are stations in Paris and London that could have learned from this model. I remember being stuck on a spiral staircase in Paris for what seemed like an eternity.

I ate like a pig when I was in Paris, and still lost 5 lbs. I blame it on the Metro stairs. So I think they've got the right idea. I wish there were a few mandatory stairs like that around here.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:39 PM on October 7, 2010


I'm always worried when I'm on the escalator that the steps will suddenly fold flat, turning it into a huge, terrifying slide. So I don't really care how long they take to fix it, just keep it safe and the steps secure.

Here is graphic security footage of a woman being killed in a fiery escalator accident. [NSFW]
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:11 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


>>The escalator is temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.
>Actually, stairs have considerably different dimensions from escalators.


That's actually a quote from one of comedian Mitch Hedburg's famous bits.

I like a escalator, man, 'cause an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.

Don't get me started on tennis.
posted by msalt at 12:18 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Travelators are where it's at.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:52 AM on October 8, 2010


kiltedtaco: ""Herein I write a lengthy story that generally relates to the theme of escalators, and buried deep within I may discuss the length of time it takes for the repair of said escalators.""

"Herein I write a lengthy story that generally relates to the theme of <x>" is pretty much the LRB in a nutshell.
posted by pharm at 1:44 AM on October 8, 2010


ricochet biscuit: I don't know if it's the perfect angle, but there's also one of these "human conveyors" at the Université-de-Montréal station, but not in the station itself: it goes from the station to the courtyard of the university's main hall on top of the hill.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:46 AM on October 8, 2010


Oh, and the station is Beaudry.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:48 AM on October 8, 2010


Anyone else feel a very slight lack of surefootedness at the moment you step off an out-of-order escalator?
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 2:40 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


My office is in the building above the Rosslyn metro in D.C., so I have to ride down the very long escalator every time I go into the city. Walking down is awful. Even holding the hand rail, the pattern of the stairs and the weird teeth at the edge of them make me really dizzy. I make it about half way, then I have to stand still for a bit and close my eyes. By the time I'm done being dizzy, it's time to step off the last stair. Walking down them when they are out of order (which, with D.C., happens all the time) is even worse. And yes, it's totally vertigo inducing to step off the out of order escalator.
posted by gemmy at 5:05 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Travelators are where it's at.

Yeah, I can't believe he didn't have room in that article to mention moving sidewalks (although he would probably call them moving walkways). Those are the best! Whenever I have a connection in Atlanta (You have all had to make a connection in Atlanta, right? I understand that even flights from London to Paris have a layover in Atlanta.) I secretly hope that my flights are at opposite ends of the airport so can eschew the crowded trains and take moving sidewalks the entire length of the airport. I love walking at a brisk pace and flying past all the pedestrians who for whatever reason choose to walk through the tunnel that connects all the terminals.
posted by TedW at 5:38 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


That strange sensation when using a broken escalator is examined in this paper: Odd Sensation Induced by Moving-Phantom which Triggers Subconscious Motor Program (PDF).

It was originally posted by pracowity in this thread.
posted by garrett at 5:51 AM on October 8, 2010


"How Escalators Work" diagram. This one's not much bigger than the one in the article, but it's in a cool retro style.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:53 AM on October 8, 2010


Not related, but I always feel like the escalataors in Singapore are breaking some kind of speed limit the original engineers put on them...

It's the lack of gum lazy asshats leave in escalators worldwide, EXCEPT in Singapore. Really, theirs are operating on-spec. Try it next time you have a new mall in your area.
posted by whatzit at 6:03 AM on October 8, 2010


Sys Rq: "There's a great little Paul comic (the best one, IMO) by Michel Rabagliatti in D&Q #5 illustrating my most missed feature of escalators: The makeshift playground slide between the up and down handrails. Now they all have those bolted-on plastic bumps.

Well, you can still have fun with escalator rails going up and down next to each other.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 6:08 AM on October 8, 2010


Where I live, you "fix" or "repair" big mechanical things, and "mending" (if we use the word at all) is delicate household work: darning socks and patching pants and whatnot.

I'm picturing this 80-foot-tall "little" old lady reaching down and delicately unhooking the loop of stairs from the rest of the mechanism. She settles down in her rocking chair by the fire and goes to work with a needle and thread. It's getting late, though; after a few minutes she falls fast asleep with the escalator tangled up in her lap. Meanwhile the tiny passengers down in the metro are swarming around, getting more and more impatient....
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:07 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


SysRq: "...that eerie radioactive glow shooting out between the steps."

Now where's my damn copy of Sniglets when I need it? I remember that one was in there.
posted by sundrop at 7:21 AM on October 8, 2010


Cue video of legend/nutcase (delete as applicable) ski-ing doing Europe's longests escalator in Angel Station in London.
posted by numberstation at 7:38 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Q: How many Mefites does it take to mend an escalator?

A: Four. One to launch a verbal emergency message up the chain of stranded commuters to the outside world, one to summarize the LRB article, and two to repeatedly squeeze past each other in the maintenance space until the job is finished.
posted by Anything at 9:11 AM on October 8, 2010


Q: How many Mefites does it take to mend an escalator?

A: Four. One to launch a verbal emergency message up the chain of stranded commuters to the outside world, one to summarize the LRB article, and two to repeatedly squeeze past each other in the maintenance space until the job is finished.


What about the fifth Mefite blaming Obama for the escalator breaking in the first place?
posted by inigo2 at 9:20 AM on October 8, 2010


Now where's my damn copy of Sniglets ...

Greelite (gree' lite) - n. The eerie glow that emanates from beneath escalator steps.
posted by TedW at 9:29 AM on October 8, 2010


Let me try again:

Greelite (gree' lite) - n. The eerie glow that emanates from beneath escalator steps.

Also:

Kedophobia (ked oh fo' be uh) - n. The fear of having one's sneakers eaten by the teeth on the escalator.
posted by TedW at 9:33 AM on October 8, 2010


Sep. 11, 2010 : A California family is suing the maker of the popular Crocs shoes, after their daughter got stuck in an escalator in Boston, Massachusetts. "We were just in a state of panic." When Nell Kerndt came from California to Boston this summer, it was supposed to be a carefree vacation. Instead, the eight-year-old's plastic shoe got sucked in a moving escalator at the T's Aquarium stop -- crushing part of her foot and leaving her in rehab months later. (source)
posted by crunchland at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2010


I think the point of this really long article is that just by nature of their design, escalators are more delicate than one might imagine. On BART (where I work) our escalators are designed to stop when something gets caught in the treads and sucked into the inner workings to prevent additional damage. That's why you should always hold onto the handrail--you never know when this will happen.

Escalators are the number one cause of passenger injury (45%) as compared to stairs (17%) and slips and falls on platforms (8%). Surprising to me is that a slightly higher portion of these injuries happen while ascending rather than descending.

Many of the folks who are injured are elderly, disabled or under the influence. Then there are the people who aren't using common sense. For example, folks who are surprised that their child (who is not strapped in) tumbles out of the stroller (which isn't allowed on the escalator in the first place) headfirst as they are heading down to the train platform. Or, the young men who are wearing loose, baggy pants that are puddling around their feet who have them yanked completely off their body when the pants leg gets caught in the treads. Sometimes this just leads to embarassment and a broken escalator and sometimes it leads to further injury for them or other passengers who get flung around by the sudden stop.

We recently had an escalator out of service for months at our North Berkeley station because replacement gears were needed that had to be specially machined at one of the few remaining places that make the gears.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:00 AM on October 8, 2010


Speaking of travelators: the Trottoir Roulant Rapide at Montparnasse in Paris is good fun, particularly the "whoa!" moment when you transition from slow to fast.

Sadly Wikipedia says it is to be replaced next year with a more conventional design.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:18 AM on October 8, 2010


I shopping in Sears when I happened to look up at the escalator and saw something that didn't look quite right; a toddler on the outside of the escalator had reached up and grabbed onto the moving black handrail. Having a surprising strong grip, he was soon carried along and up the escalator, unfortunately still on the outside. In an instant it occurred to me that this might end in a tragedy if he didn't soon let go, so I dashed up the escalator, reached over and grabbed his arms at about the halfway point between floors. I pulled him up and over as we reached the next floor. In less than a minute the boy's mother appeared. As I stood there slightly shaking, she made a face as she took his arm and strode away without a word to me, no doubt thinking she had rescued him from a pervert.
posted by digsrus at 11:55 AM on October 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


How are the 230-foot escalators at Wheaton longer than the 475-foot escalators at Bethesda? I'm missing something here.
posted by swerve at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2010


No idea, but WaPo's length estimate (which the Wikipedia article references) for the Wheaton escalator is 508 feet, so it still is longer, although I have no idea how or why they've redefined the length of a foot.
posted by schmod at 1:42 PM on October 8, 2010


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