MARTA: Over half of escalators need repairing

MARTA has finished inspecting most of its escalators, but more than half of them will remain out of service for repairs, its deputy general manager told the AJC Friday.

It's likely going to take until May before all of the escalator repairs are complete, MARTA Deputy General Manager Dwight Ferrell said.

MARTA shut down 100 of its 149 escalators in late January 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.

Ferrell said officials have not yet been able to brief MARTA's board on the cost of the repairs. Already, however, the cash-strapped agency has spent close to $1 million to inspect them.

The inspections of 143 escalators were completed Feb. 19, Ferrell said. There are six -- all at the Peachtree Center station -- that still need inspecting, he said.

Those escalators are operating, but MARTA has extra staff near them for additional safety, he said.

But 84 of the escalators are not operating because they need work, Ferrell said. The issues vary -- some have broken steps; on others, the space between the steps and "skirt" at the top of the escalator is too wide.

MARTA has contracted with Schindler Elevator Corp. to do the repairs. Ferrell said four crews, with two or three people in each group, will be doing the work.

Money for the inspections and repairs will come out of MARTA's operating budget, which has already been slashed. MARTA faces a $120 million budget deficit. Officials said earlier this week that it may cut rail and bus service by 25 percent.

On its Web site, MARTA lists each stop and the number of escalators that are operating. The ones that are not working need repairs.

Also, at each station, the escalators that have been inspected and are working have a sign with a green check next to them.

"We're trying to be deliberate in getting escalators back as quickly as we can," Ferrell said. "We appreciate the public's patience."