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Problems Persist with Foggy Bottom Metro Escalators

by Prince Of Petworth July 5, 2011 at 10:30 am 44 Comments

“Dear PoPville,

The attached photo is the scene at Foggy Bottom metro this morning. With not a single escalator working, people were exiting trains and packing into the station with nowhere to go. Between the elderly and the handicapped, the elevator line was long. If there was an emergency, fire or otherwise, there is no doubt many lives would have been lost. Probably including mine (I’m six months pregnant and pretty slow these days.)

We’ve been dealing with these escalator issues for too long. I think it’s time for DC to press authorities to get this situation under control; it’s just unacceptable. This is our nation’s capital, isn’t it?”

  • CE

    Looks like Union Station in the mornings. I agree these are really dangerous and totally unacceptable situations, but does anyone know what can be done about it?

    • Anonymous


  • Native American JD

    Fire Sarles. Fire the Board. Get the feds to takeover the system.

    • Anonymous

      The most important person to fire, Jim Graham, has already been removed from the metro board and replaced. Whomever the alternate was, HTJ, also was replaced.

  • Devoe

    George Washington University could have put a second metro entrance in a new building that they are constructing, but chose not to.

    As far as I know there is now no plan to alleviate this problem – which I why I just avoid the Foggy Bottom metro at all costs even though it would be convenient for my commute.

    And @ CE – this may look like Union Station, but the problem is not the volume, it’s the faulty channels through which the volume is put. Often at night there is a huge line to get in the Metro – I’ve never seen this at other stations.

    Thanks GW!

    • sara

      So its GW’s responsibility to build a metro entrance for the metro rail system because the metro rail system can’t fix their own damn problems? Right…

      • Beau

        Think about it this way – they’re a main cause of pedestrian, Metro-riding traffic in the immediate vicinity, so it’s their duty… or at least their duty to their employees who are forced to wait at this security nightmare.

  • Kevin

    All it would have taken for a stampede to happen was for someone to yell fire or even suggest that there was a fire somewhere. Those people should consider themselves lucky. WMATA should be taken over by the NTSB.

  • Denizen of Tenallytown

    I hear you. The Tenleytown escalators have also been on the fritz for months now, and that’s after the months-long “modernization effort” that took place a few years ago. When the escalators do work, they moaning sounds like a couple of whales humping.

    There is no excuse for all escalators to be down during rush hour at any station, short of a total power failure. However, I’ve seen mobs like this even when escalators are working. Let’s face it – any major fire in a crowded Metro stop would result in lives being lost. The crowd would panic and people would get trampled or pushed onto the tracks. Let’s not use this as a talking point about escalators.

  • Anonymous

    Our nation’s capital – yes, and it is increasingly shameful. Travel to a number of major Asian and European cities and and then fly back into NYC or Philly (DC airports not as bad) and you’ll feel like you’re arriving in some second or third world country.

    Not only are American cities running out of money (or the intelligence to spend it wisely), but it is cultural too. While walking around yesterday, the day after the strong storms, there were many spots that still had branches crossing over sidewalks. That was fine, but what amazed is that there was a modest branch obstructing the sidewalk in front of two restaurants on 17th, with people struggling to walk over and around it, yet nobody in working at the two restaurants ever though to spend the 5 minutes it would have taken just to move it over some, or break it apart. My friend from Japan was amazed to witness it, noting that in Japan it would have been moved and cleaned up right away, commenting that a big difference is in the U.S. it seems many people think it is not their duty to take responsibility whereas in other countries, such as Japan, it is entirely expected (and shameful if you do not) to take action to improve things. (not meaning to make too broad statements, recognizing many involved and helpful people in DC)

    Back to escalators, it just seems the city, the funding, etc. is always an attempt to do the bear minimum, rather than stepping things up to make it best of class.

  • anon

    Not to diminish the problem, but isn’t the Foggy Bottom station fairly close to the surface? I assume the escalators were stopped (with maybe one of them completely blocked off for repairs) — was it taking people that long to walk up the escalators?

    • Rosie

      I think that speaks for how bad the problem was… if the escalators are relatively short and there’s STILL that much of a back-up, you know it must have been serious.

    • Kim

      I’m not sure if this is still the case as I don’t use this station any more, but in the past two escalators were completely blocked off, leaving one for everyone who was entering/exiting the station. So there was one lane going up and one lane going down and one slow person would seriously slow the entire flow because he/she couldn’t be easily passed.

  • anon

    I find it so infuriating that most stations, do not have stairs in addition to the escalators. It is awkward and even dangerous to walk up and down stopped escalators because they are often very steep and don’t have landings.

    • Beau

      Yup. The Hedberg joke that escalators don’t break, they only become stairs doesn’t make sense when escalators in Metro become closed.

      Metro is the main reason I bike to work and risk my life dealing with tourists and rush hour drivers.

  • John Edwards


  • Rukasu
  • PetworthRes

    Same problem at Union Station – sometimes I have to wait in line 5-10 minutes to get on to an escalator and have also wondered what would happen if there were a real emergency. There are often people with luggage trying to haul it up the broken escalators making it even slower. I also have the bum luck of the Union Station escalator overhaul coinciding with my 2nd & 3rd trimesters of pregnancy – no fun at all!

  • anon

    Hey- guess what…in New York, they have no escalators and it works just fine. In DC, people are just damn lazy. I say turn off the escalators, making them essentially stairs; it’ll provide a little exercise for everyone and will nearly eliminate escalator maintenance costs.

    • Anonymous

      Kinda agree, yes; however, then at least do not block off the escalators for repairs, forcing hundreds of people onto on set of “stairs”.

    • Anonymous

      dc’s metro was bult for suburbanites.

    • Anonymous

      Agree on the call for stairs…BUT I want to point out that many of DC’s metro stations are much deeper than NYC’s subway stations.

    • DC’s stations are deeper than NYCs. They’re also some of the deepest in the world. Try walking the Wheaton escalators if you don’t believe me.

    • PetworthRes

      Hey-guess what – in lots of cities they don’t even have a metro and I guess they deal with that too.

      I just think if they have escalators they should be able to get them to work. Plus have a plan to get large numbers of people out of stations when they aren’t working.

      The escalators make it possible for a lot of people to ride the metro who have difficulty getting around. I guess you never see someone in a wheelchair in the NYC subway, do you? Being huge and pregnant gives me more sympathy for people who can’t just zip up the stairs when they feel like it. It sucks when you’ve been able to count on having something work for decades and then watch it to crumble and fall apart.

      • Anonymous

        was the elevator out too?

  • anon

    F.North has been awful for MONTHS. So pathetic.

  • andy

    “This is the nation’s capital, so . . . “

    our escalators deserve special attention and funding from the rest of the country?

    • Anonymous

      yes, of course. as we play host to their delegates.

  • andy

    Or maybe we should try harder as locals to get things like this right because we know that our city is a showcase of everything good about America?

    • LisaT

      “our city is a showcase of everything good about America?”

      That’s pretty scary. :p

  • Andy(2)

    This is why I take the bus in the morning. Regularly 60% of the escalators are not working. It doesn’t matter that it is a shallow station – one entrance and one staircase in each direction slows the loading and unloading. Often four trains worth of people are trying to enter/exit the station at the same time through one entrance.

    They should get rid of the internal elevator/escalator repair and contract it out.

  • Althea

    All it takes is one person with asthma, mobility issues, a small child, a suitcase, etc., and the pace has been set for everyone behind them.

    Metro should not have been letting people off at that station until it cleared out – that is incredibly irresponsible. Most people would have been fine getting off at Farragut West and walking a few extra blocks, with less chance of dying…

  • Justin

    “People could have died”


    “I had to wait in line too long”

    • Old Uncle Uh Uh

      +1. All of those very important people arrived at their offices 5 minutes later than anticipated.

    • Anon

      Good point. What could possibly be dangerous about being unable to move hundreds of people quickly out of a confined area underground?


    • Jessica

      It’s not even just about the inability to move. In this town, elderly rely on bus and metro to get from place to place and actual metro can kill them. The down escalator at Dupont was out for months and I’d watch the elderly, pregnant, and disabled struggle to walk down it and wonder – when someone falls down the escalator and injures/kills themselves, what will Metro say?

      My grandmother in Pittsburgh took the bus to run her errands her entire life until she was about 90 or 92. I think about her when I see elderly men and women struggle to simply utilize a system that is supposed to enhance area lives. It should all function safely – I don’t understand why this is so difficult in Washington.

  • Anonymous

    how was bikeshare on the 4th?

  • Jon

    When I moved from the suburbs into DC, I used Metro all the time and gave serious thought to getting rid of my car altogether. But Metro’s recent downhill slide in dependability (and arguably, safety) has driven me back to using my car and taking cabs.

    • andy

      Do you live in a place with decent bus service?

      I can get by bus most of the way in, but it’s hard to get that last leg thru downtown without getting on metro.

      • Jon

        I do use Metrobus a lot and I use the Circulator on occasion, but it would require multiple transfers and a huge amount of time for me to take buses to work and back.

  • Anonymous

    Metro’s gradual downfall is a sad story. What used to be a point of pride for residents has become an embarrassment.

  • rjs

    This has been reported on quite a bit, other than closing Foggy Bottom for the next ~year, there is really nothing more to be done. They are completely replacing all three escalators AND adding a staircase at this station. It takes a while to do this work while keeping people moving. Maybe it would have been better to just close the station, but imagine the screaming if that happened. This is one of the stations that had poorly designed escalators from a company that went out of business years ago, they all just have to be replaced, but it takes time.

  • MH

    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. -MH RIP

    • Megan

      Ah, Mitch. My thoughts exactly.


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