MARTA getting some escalators back in service

But nearly all of the escalators at MARTA's other stations remain out of service, according to the transit agency's Web site. It's going to take a while -- until the end of February -- until each one is inspected, MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris said.

Convenience, he said "takes a back seat to safety," he said.

MARTA shut down 100 of its 149 escalators last Thursday night after learning that a mechanic working for an outside maintenance contractor had bypassed a safety circuit on an escalator at the Dunwoody station. The mass shutdown came after MARTA determined that the same mechanic had worked on or inspected scores of the machines.

MARTA officials said last week it may take until the end of February before the inspections are finished. It takes between six and eight hours to complete a safety inspection, MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott said at a recent news conference.

MARTA officials said they would update the Web site nightly to show which escalators were operating again. Each station is listed on the Web site. The number of inspected and functioning escalators is listed next to a green box. The number of escalators that aren't working is marked next to a red box.

In addition, escalators that have been inspected within each station will have a sign with a green "check" mark posted next to them.

Inspections at key stations such as Five Points, Peachtree Center and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport should be finished within a week, MARTA Deputy General Manager Dwight Ferrell had said.

At the Georgia Dome station, which also leads to Philips Arena and the CNN Center, six of the eight escalators are working, according to the Web site.

Most of the other stations -- including the two at the airport -- still have an "0″ next to the green box.

In some cases, some escalators may be operating but then are shut down for inspection as others in that station are cleared to start operating again, Harris said. That has been the case at stations such as Five Points, where a couple of escalators were operating late last week but have been closed off this week.

"From moment to moment, week to week, day to day, you may see one that was back in service and then taken down again," Harris said, asking that people notify MARTA if they see anything "amiss" at one of the escalators.

MARTA has four inspectors and is also contracting with Schindler Elevator Corp., Harris said.

"This is an industry ... where the number of people who are qualified and certified to work on this equipment is actually very small," he said.

The technician circumvented safety procedures by "jumping" the safety circuit on an escalator at the Dunwoody station, officials said. They said they were unsure why the technician had done so. The safety circuits are designed to stop the escalators during an emergency.

MARTA has terminated its contract with the company, Elevator Specialists Inc., and signed a temporary contract with Schindler Elevator Corp. Thursday night.

No criminal charges have been filed against the technician, Harris said Thursday morning.

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