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UW escalator

For the record: fixing escalator reliability issues

Publish Date

First things first: our escalators at UW Station haven't met basic customer expectations or our own performance standards. We know this and we apologize. We're also going to fix it. On October 25, staff presented a comprehensive plan to the Sound Transit Board.

Here's what we're going to do to keep you moving through our stations.

We have determined that even with intensive repairs and maintenance on the current escalators, the costs would be unsustainable, the current units still wouldn't meet our performance standards, and we would need to replace them anyway in 2025.

So we're going to bite the bullet now and replace all 13 escalators at UW between 2019-2022

We will replace 11 of the 13 escalators with the heaviest duty equipment we can purchase within station constraints, and we will replace two escalators with a pair of new permanent stairs.

We will phase the work in order to avoid heavy construction during peak use times, such as UW football season.

In order to do all this while minimizing further customer inconvenience, we're also going to build two additional connections at the University of Washington Station: 

  • First, by the first quarter of 2019 we will open the back staircase for full-time public use (update: these opened in March, 2019). Through the middle of next year will add lighting, modify gates and signage and install security cameras.
  • Second, in 2019 we will build a pedestrian connection between the two "submezzanines" so that riders can walk between them and use a different escalator if one is down. Currently, the two submezzanines are separate, so one escalator closure results in two escalators being taken out of service. This new connection will allow all viable escalators to be used at all times.

We will also improve access at Capitol Hill Station and the U District Station under construction. At Capitol Hill, early next year we will convert two staircases for permanent public use between the mezzanines and the platform.

At the future U District Station, we have updated the design to include a new staircase that will be in place from the day the station opens in 2021. The change will not impact the project schedule.

Lastly, to ensure new escalators and elevators dont' have the problems we've encountered, we have applied new design criteria to all future stations to ensure this doesn't happen again, and we have retroactively applied these standards to all 13 stations currently under construction on the Northgate and East Link projects.

We have learned valuable lessons about station design and procurement through this process. Staff acted in good faith, believing that the chosen escalators would perform well. Clearly, they haven't and replacing them will ensure the top service to our riders that they deserve.