MTA Will Test Variable Speed Escalators In The Subway

Yesterday afternoon, the New York Times’ City Room Blog had a report about a new subway escalator pilot program being implemented by the MTA. The program which starts this coming Monday will feature 35 escalators that will operate at variable speeds. Sewell Chan has more in his report:

The 169 escalators throughout New York City’s subway system are not known for running smoothly — each averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls last year — and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority now says it has a partial solution.

Starting Monday, 35 recently installed escalators at four stations will start operating at variable speeds as part of a pilot program. Using infrared motion sensors, the escalators will slow to a crawl of just 15 feet per minute when no one is on them, compared with the normal full speed of 100 feet per minute. The escalators will gradually accelerate to the full speed, over a period of a few seconds, once a rider steps on them.

Click here to read the complete report.

On paper this sounds like an interesting idea. However I am concerned about the possible safety issues that might come from such escalators. What happens if the escalator does not wait the allotted amount of time before changing speeds? This could lead to riders tripping or falling & causing a possible domino effect. While it might sound far fetched, it could happen considering this motion is electronic. I’ve seen things like this happen on treadmills which operated in a similar fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for saving energy which this would. I just don’t know if changing speeds while in motion is a good idea. I also am concerned at the costs of repairing these devices when they fail which you know they will. The MTA has problems up keeping normal escalators, imagine more hi-tech ones. I would bet that any repair would completely wash away the money saved from varying speeds depending on usage.

While reading the responses to the article, I noticed a mention of a way to shut them down when no one is using them. This line of thinking leads one to believe that they would save energy. While they bring up a point about possible savings, this would be an idea that in the end would backfire. As with the speed variation version, any sort of repair would most likely wash away any savings. Plus the main factor is such a mechanism would create a shorter lifespan for the escalator. Turning any sort of device on & off constantly is a sure fire way to fry its motor/starter,etc… before it normally would have.

I honestly think the MTA should first figure out a better way of maintaining their current crop of escalators before moving on to bigger & better things.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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