Okay, listen, I love the light rail. My heart beats for the light rail. It's my only solace in the cruel summer when the sun bullies me for not owning enough tank tops; it's my shelter in the winter when my supposedly waterproof boots are soggy like a sandwich with too much tomato. But, there are some issues. Namely, the escalators.
They break down all the time—especially the ones at the University of Washington station. It's as if their machinery is made of glass and rope and broken bird bone. But maybe they only seem to break down all the time? I couldn't be sure. So I asked them how many times their escalators had broken down since the UW station opened. They said they'd answer my question later, but, in the meantime, they would send along this handy-dandy PowerPoint presentation in an attempt to address my issue. And—oh my god—if Sound Transit's stair maintenance team is as bad as their PowerPoint team, then we may never ride another escalator at the UW station again.
Let's go through this thing together:
The University of Washington Station is my home station. I would die for that station. It made my time at UW (2014-18, Go Dawgs) way fucking better starting in just my second year (2016, did that math for you). But UW station is at least 20,000 leagues under the sea. What is a league? I don't know. We have lakes. But when you journey down into the bowels of the UW station you feel like you've done it, you've made it to the center of the earth. If there were ever a nuclear missile threat, I would make my way to Husky Stadium and hurl myself down the stairs to ride out atomic fallout among the light rail trains.
Did I say stairs? Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. No. That's the thing. There are no stairs. Okay, there's like, one flight of stairs. But it's not public—it's only there for emergencies. But there are THIRTEEN escalators in the UW station. If you get to the station and see on the monitors-that-are-never-right that your train is leaving in 2 minutes (assuming that it's actually leaving in 2 minutes) you have to give up. There is no way you will make it down those escalators in time. You can run— oh, you can run—but even if you were nimble like a ballerina, there is no way you would make it through that labyrinth in time. It's like the staircases of Hogwarts except that they don't move.
That's funnier when you consider that the escalators at UW station always break down. There's no "escalators temporarily stairs sorry for the convenience." There are only broken escalators, the one elevator, and no stairs to carry you out from what is now probably the deepest pit of Hell. It got so bad during one occasion that people waited nearly an HOUR to get up from the train platform. For whatever reason (read: safety), Sound Transit can't let you walk on a broken escalator. And they only have an emergency stairwell which they don't like to open. So, you're stuck.
My life hack is the elevators. I bus to the UW station, climb up the outside stairs that lead up to that pedestrian bridge over Montlake Ave and summon one of the two elevators. It gets you down to the platform lickity-split, but you feel like an asshole. You especially feel like an asshole when you want to take the elevators up on your way back and there are elderly folks, disabled folks, and people with bikes wading into the elevators, aka people who actually need to use them, among you and the other pack of lazy good-for-nothings who don't want to journey up the escalators.
A twitter account that highlights these failures, these follies, popped up recently. Sound Transit blocked them:
I’m starting to think that this is a permanent fixture of the UW Station. #soundtransit pic.twitter.com/fzvY91PQtE
— st.dsytopia (@st_dystopia) October 25, 2018
It turns out those yellow DO NOT ENTER gates may as well be a permanent fixture! According to Sound Transit's sweet PowerPoint, the escalators at UW Station break down 4.5 times more than they do at Capitol Hill Station. The stations have been open the same amount of time. The problems are costly and they have been happening for nearly two years.
That doesn't matter when the escalators break. Because there is nothing that can save you from being stranded at the center of the Earth. In any case, Sound Transit has been made aware of the problem:
By "not met expectations" they mean that when people got high-speed transit they didn't expect to be stuck for almost an hour beneath the Earth's crust, helpless because mankind thought we could conquer the elements with technology. Everything fails in the end. Sound Transit is coming to terms with it.
They're even trying to solve it:
But how will they solve it? Glad you asked. They're going to replace the escalators with.......drumroll, please..........better escalators!
Let's break down "what they're doing." It will take Sound Transit anywhere from two to six months to open up the back stairwell of the UW Station so that people have the option to take the stairs when the escalators inevitably break. THEN, sometime in the next three years, there will be actual non-emergency stairs in use, and the escalators will be replaced with functioning escalators. No one ever said bureaucracy was fast, but damn.
Alright, alright. So something will be done about this at some point in the future, probably. Don't worry, though, Sound Transit has learned from this. They've been taking notes! After seeing the fickle nature of motorized steps first hand, they have decided to pivot and install stairs in the new stations opening in 2021.
At this point in the PowerPoint, Sound Transit breaks down the facts. They level with us.
And then they apologize.
It was foolish to put their faith in a magic carpet to the stars. EVERY FUTURE ENDEAVOR OF THEIRS will also include stairs. Or, as they call it, "redundant access." I feel like "redundant access" is a passive aggressive way of admitting that it was probably dumb to not plan ahead with a set of stairs, that it was smug to assume we were past manually putting one foot in front of the other and clawing our own way out of the earth. Mostly, I want "redundant access" to be the name of porno.
At least they have a plan.