Monday, January 31, 2011

Subway Escalators: Moscow vs. Washington D.C.

Anybody who uses the DC Metro system on a regular basis, like I have on almost a daily basis for the last 16 months, will appreciate this story from the Washington Post. The dependability and reliability of the Moscow escalators (Soviet efficiency?) seem almost too good to be true after experiencing the frequent (almost daily) breakdowns of the DC Metro system (capitalist inefficiency?):

"The trains get to stop every few minutes. Not the escalators. In a city tied together by its phenomenally jampacked subway system, the escalators here just keep on rolling - morning, noon and half the night. 

There are 643 of them in the Moscow Metro. This is a system, like Washington's, with deep, deep stations, but, unlike in Washington, passengers here are rarely left to hoof it on their own up or down immobilized stairways. It wouldn't work, because people don't walk fast enough. At rush hours fully loaded trains run on 90-second intervals; it's up to the escalators to get the passengers delivered, but just as important, to whisk them away again before they start bunching up and spilling off the platforms and onto the tracks.

"In my opinion, they're much more important than trains," says Sergei Likhachev. He would say that, though. He's the chief mechanic of the Moscow Metro's escalator division. 

HT: Lauren Johnson


At 1/31/2011 3:21 PM, Blogger Rand said...

Communist or not, the Moscow subway system has decades more experience moving people than the Washington, D. C. system.

At 1/31/2011 3:38 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Hmmm, this story could've applied to half a dozen Japanese cities easily...

None the less I do remember the Moscow subway as not only being on time but clean too...

At 1/31/2011 4:09 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Is the DC system truly private? Is it contracted out, or a government service?

There is an escalator in the Los Angeles City Hall complex that has not worked, except sporadically, in 20 years.

At 1/31/2011 4:43 PM, Blogger AIG said...

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At 1/31/2011 4:44 PM, Blogger Jason K said...

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At 1/31/2011 4:45 PM, Blogger Jason K said...

I moved out to Arlington last year for law school and have been on the Metro a fair amount, it is truly crazy how few of the escalators are ever working. The station nearest my apartment has four and all of them have been working for about one month of the six I've been here for.

At 1/31/2011 4:45 PM, Blogger AIG said...

A question may be if the escalators are really necessary in the first place. From my NYC experience, where there are no (or few) escalators in the subway system, people climb stairs at different speeds depending on how much in a hurry they are (which in NYC is always ramming speed). Introducing escalators to such a system would create havoc, because a) they would be much narrower than standard stairs, b)people would walk on them anyway, c) people would start running as soon as they get off the escalator in order to make up for the time they lost riding on it.

The Moscow metro is deep and therefore may need escalators more than NYC. I don't remember the DC one being much deeper than the NYC one.

This becomes an economic trade-off between space, flexibility, speed and comfort.

PS: Are we comparing central Moscow stations, which typically are far better maintained, or are we including outskirt stations?

At 1/31/2011 6:56 PM, Blogger Chimp said...

Judging by all the overweight people in DC all of the escalator should be turned off.

At 1/31/2011 8:44 PM, Blogger AWC said...

I was impressed with the speed of the Moscow escalators as well. I assumed we couldn't run ours at that speed for liability reasons.

At 2/01/2011 12:42 AM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Seems like easy problem to solve. Contract out maintenance of escalators. Contractor is paid for every complete day the escalators work. No waa-waa, if, ands or buts.

No work, no pay.

At 2/01/2011 12:30 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I believe at least one of the Metro escalators is the longest or among the longest in the world.

A legislator I met once told me that the DC Metro is a national monument: anyone who thinks it is about transportation doesn't understand whats going on.

The DC metro does not have enough stations to truly serve the central city. The entire Georgetown area has not one station. It was built single tracked, so there is no way to have express trains that skip some stations. As a result, if you ever had enough stations, you would have too many stops to be useful. The ride from the airport to downtown is going to be something like 30 butt-numbing stops.

The system is falling apart, apparently because they have raided maintenance and captial repair budgets for operating costs. With multiple jurisdictions involved, governance is a mess, and their safety record has been going down hill.

More and more of the costs of Metro are being thrown onto the backs of auto drivers, both those that drive to the stations and park, and those that don't use Metro at all. The latest catch phrase is that Metro needs a "dedicated funding source" which reads as "give us a blank check".

How subways get away with charging premium prices and not even giving their passengers a seat, is beyond me. Metro does some things very well, but how people extend from there to the idea that everyone should live in transit friendly development, in order that transit would have enough density to survive, and no one would need a car completely escapes me.

These people seriously argue that cars and car drivers don't pay their own full costs, at the same time they are asking for higher cash subsidies from drivers and higher density subsidies from zoning officials in a vain effort to make transit work and be cost effective.

DC metro is only just now reaching the ridership figures that were promised when it was built, 30 years ago, and now it can't handle them. Metros big idea for handling more people? Take out more seats.

The whole system needs to be completely torn out and reconstructed. Part of the problem with the escalators was that they are exposed to the elements. Finally they put awnings over them to give them a little protection.

It is a disaster from one end to the other, and yet people love it. Darned if I know why.

At 2/02/2011 3:39 PM, Blogger Mike said...

One of my best friends works for Schindler Elevator (2nd biggest, next to Otis) and they also do escalators.

I'm sure the city contracts this to a company like his, but the maintenance plans vary greatly and service calls can be expensive if you have a cheap plan.
Knowing the gov't, they probably bid for the cheapest service plan in D.C. and don't have the budget for service calls.


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