In the past, I have discussed the issue of non-working escalators, and Ed Drass devoted a column to this yesterday in Metro.
GO is moving away from escalators according to Ed’s column:
Why not replace the units with new ones? Replies Boyle, “The escalators do not perform well in the rather harsh environment that we have subjected them to.” He says the salt and sand that is used on platforms gets into the machinery and causes “premature failure.”
There is also an issue with escalators feeding into crowded platforms and pushing more people out into a space where there is no room. This is an issue at Union Station, and GO is planning to eliminate escalators as they wear out (or sooner if the reconstruction plans go ahead).
At Bloor-Yonge and St. George, the TTC monitors crowding conditions and stops escalators if they have to.
This brings me to a question about the role of such devices on transit systems. Nobody likes climbing up stairs, especially when it’s more than one flight, and escalators contribute to the convenience of moving around in stations. Unlike elevators that are fitted in one per vertical rise wherever they will fit, there are often many escalators to serve demands right where the demand exists.
Imagine if you were on the lower level at Bloor-Yonge and wanted to get to the surface. First you must go all the way down to the east end of the platform, ride the elevator up to the Yonge line level, then come back onto the northbound platform to take an elevator up to the mezzanine, then make your way out into the Bay’s concourse.
For someone who has trouble with stairs, that’s a lot of walking just to get to the elevators, and in many ways it defeats the purpose.
There’s an analogy with vehicle design and the range of options for those with mobility problems. At one end is the Wheel Trans bus fleet, then accessible taxis, then accessible surface transit and subway stations. A major reason for making the base system accessible is that this removes some demand from Wheeltrans and allows those who can get around more or less on their own to use the same system as everyone else.
If we start to treat escalators as things we can do without, this will have a profound effect on accessibility of the system to those with a moderate impairment, not to mention on station design where walking distances to elevators will become an important consideration.
As for GO Transit, this system will evolve from one whose primary mission is to carry hale and hearty folk who sprint up and down stairways, to one with more off-peak travel and customers for whom stairways are a major impediment. Making elevators convenient to get to and reliable will be a vital part of their service.
Keeping escalators running is a major headache for transit systems, but those escalators are just as much a part of “the network” as the buses and trains people ride on.