Tuesday, February 02, 2010

MARTA starts comprehensive system-wide review of escalators

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MARTA has closed a majority of its escalators and is conducting a comprehensive and independent system-wide review of all 149 escalators in its system. This action is being taken after MARTA recently discovered that a private contractor had intentionally bypassed safety controls on an escalator at the Dunwoody rail station.

MARTA is in the process of ending its contractual relationship with the inspection and maintenance company, Elevator Specialists, Inc., after finding that one of its technicians had apparently violated state and industry safety codes by "jumping" safety circuits intended to disable the escalator in emergency situations.
 
This precautionary step is being taken to ensure the continued safety of MARTA customers, which has been the subject of public scrutiny following a separate, unrelated incident involving a 5-year-old boy who was injured at a Kensington rail station elevator on January 18th.  Fortunately, the child was not seriously hurt.

MARTA has retained the services of escalator/elevator industry expert Vertical Transportation Excellence (VTX) to conduct the review of all its escalators to determine if other violations may have occurred. In addition, MARTA has signed a temporary contract with Schindler Elevator Corporation to take over its escalator and elevator maintenance program. Schindler is currently onsite conducting MARTA's existing escalator rehabilitation program.

The apparent code violation by ESI was uncovered as a result of unrelated research that was being conducted at the Dunwoody escalator in preparation for a lawsuit filed in 2005. MARTA's legal team and former escalator maintenance company, Schindler, informed ESI's mechanic that they would be working at the escalator. At that time, the ESI technician asked another mechanic at the scene not to open the escalator's safety panel. MARTA was advised of the situation and immediately took the escalator out of service after determining there had been a significant code violation.

On January 22, after the code violation was found, MARTA contacted ESI to express serious concern about the Dunwoody incident and notify them that the Authority was opening an investigation. In response, ESI notified MARTA on January 28th of its intention to abandon its contract at 5 p.m. on January 29th.

After confirming that the mechanic in question had worked on 137 escalators throughout the system during the past year, MARTA decided to exercise an abundance of caution by bringing in industry expert VTX to conduct a thorough inspection of all its escalators. The ESI mechanic did not work on MARTA's elevators

As a result of its initial findings, on January 28, 2010 at 8 p.m., MARTA closed 100 escalators that were deemed non-critical for travel through its stations pending a complete maintenance and safety inspection. The remaining escalators will undergo the same review; however, their closure and inspection must be staggered to facilitate customer travel and comply with requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Stations with "critical" escalators, including Peachtree Center, Five Points, and the Georgia Dome, will be staffed with extra MARTA personnel while in operation to monitor any possible safety issue. These essential escalators are being reviewed first and service will be restored as soon as possible.

Following an incident on December 31, 2007, when several customers were injured on escalators, MARTA has implemented extensive measures to ensure the safety of its vertical equipment (elevators and escalators. Since January 2008, MARTA has created a stand-alone elevator/escalator department, hired a department manager and two additional inspectors, and enhanced its overall inspection and maintenance processes. While MARTA's contractors perform monthly preventive maintenance work, MARTA's internal inspectors provide an additional layer of review by conducting quarterly checks of all escalators and sample assessments of contractors' work.

In a matter unrelated to this incident, MARTA continues to investigate the Kensington elevator incident in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Labor investigation. As part of this investigation, MARTA is also utilizing elevator and escalator experts VTX to conduct an independent inspection of all 112 elevators in the system including the Kensington elevator.

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