The New York Times has an article today about a scheme in NYC to operate escalators at variable speeds. This is intended to save energy by slowing down escalators when nobody is on them.
Despite claims by the MTA, several of the “converted” escalators either were not working at all, or were not behaving as advertised.
The nub of the issue comes right at the end of the article:
Rick O’Conor, who runs the Roosevelt Islander blog, questioned the need for the new technology. “It’s not of primary importance to have motion-activated escalators,” he said. “It’s of primary importance to have escalators that work.”
He said that all 10 escalators at the Roosevelt Island station had been out of order recently, and that his elderly mother had had to walk up the stairs. “A group of teenagers were nice enough to ask if she wanted them to carry her,” Mr. O’Conor said, adding that his mother pressed on.
Of the 10 escalators at Roosevelt Island on Monday, two had yet to be fitted with the sensors and two were shut down.
Another resident, Valentina Montecinos, 28, said, “Sure, it’s a good idea to save energy, but these escalators are never working anyway.”
Alas this is the fate of so many good ideas that bedevil transit systems and other public agencies. In the name of some higher goal, be it the environment or fiscal responsibility, something is rolled out through an organization that is already doing a tenuous job of running their system. The new, improved function doesn’t work and may even work less reliably than what it replaced, and “going green” takes a black eye.
Toronto has a bad habit of ignoring or downplaying the importance of a lot of things like reliable escalators and elevators. Without these, many people can use the subway and RT only with difficulty or not at all. We hear a lot about “safety” and the number of checks that must be made before a machine can be restarted. The point is that if you’re going to have this technology, then it has to run reliably and staff must be available to keep it online.
Meanwhile, if anyone has some brilliant brainwaves about transit, make sure that they can actually work successfully rather than creating one more way for riders to be annoyed with poor service.