The new escalators installed this fall at the Dupont Circle Metro station's southern exit have experienced 20 outages in their first 40 days, according to Metro.
The transit agency unveiled the new escalators on Oct. 20 after an unprecedented, nearly nine-month closure of the 19th Street entrance, promising that the new "transit-grade" escalators would be more robust than the troubled escalators they replaced.
Since then, they have experienced multiple shutdowns of varying lengths. One outage occurred on Oct. 25 at the same time Metro's board was lauding the success of the project. Another occurred on Oct. 30, knocking two of the three new escalators out of service, records show, and leaving riders to walk up a single 188-foot stalled staircase. Metro said one double outage lasted only a few minutes but could not say whether it was the Oct. 30 outage.
Metro officials have said that some problems are expected any time such new equipment is installed. The escalators are under a one-year warranty, meaning the agency isn't responsible for the cost of repairs.
Eight of the outages have been for routine adjustments as part of the breaking-in period, according to Metro, while nine others have been due to safety switches being tripped by such things as heavy luggage hitting a stair's comb plate. The remaining three cases were for problems with equipment that needed replacing, including the stairs' yellow striping and a drive motor.
"We are pleased. The escalators are functioning as intended," said Metro spokesman Philip Stewart."And they are many times more reliable than the units they replaced, as anyone who uses that entrance already knows."
For riders, though, every outage means one fewer escalator option at the busy station, which has the system's sixth-longest escalators. And some commuters are questioning why outages are happening on such new equipment.
"It's unfortunate you put something like this in and you're having the problems you're having," said Robert Farrell, 47, a D.C. resident who has been riding Metro for 20 years. "You'd think you'd have something near perfection."
Another rider who uses the entrance every weekday said he hadn't experienced any of the outages himself. "They look nice, and as long as they're working, they are fine," Ed Martinez, a 30-year-old lawyer, said outside the exit. "They're just escalators. When they're not working, you can walk, but it's surprising we're spending this much money to get them fixed and they're not fixed."
When Metro installed new escalators at the Foggy Bottom stop, the agency said the new units there were more sensitive than past models, with more sensors to detect more issues. But when a sensor is triggered, the escalators often shut down. The same is true of the new ones at Dupont, Stewart said.
"They are new, state-of-the-art escalators that conform to modern elevator/escalator code requirements," he said. "Their 'sensitivity' is a function of that."
Metro is planning to replace 94 of its 588 escalators over the next seven years.