Home Asides Stuck in an elevator

Stuck in an elevator

by Benjamin Kabak

Earlier this week, 12 passengers were trapped in an elevator at 168th St. when the only means of travel to and from the platform stalled mid flight. The incident happened on Tuesday afternoon at 4:11 p.m., and those trapped were finally rescued at 5:20 p.m. In amNew York today, Heather Haddon explores how elevator failures have plagued the MTA. The article — available only in this PDF for now — alleges that the MTA suffered through 91 elevator outages from January through March this year. That total represents an increase of 18 percent from the same time period last year.

For Transit, elevator woes are nothing new. A 2008 examination of the elevators by The Times revealed how the MTA’s $1-billion elevator investment didn’t pay off. Nearly two-thirds of all elevators had problems over the course of a year, and the repair costs were astronomical. And that’s why I take the stairs.

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12 comments

Christopher June 3, 2010 - 4:03 pm

Elevator outages are the bane of every transit system. Systems that have more accessibility built into their design: like LA, SF, and DC — have constant elevator outage updates in order to continue to meat the accessibility needs of their passengers.

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Aaron June 3, 2010 - 4:09 pm

So does MTA, finally (after previously having a elevator hotline tied to a phone number that could only be called from a tri-state area code – THAT was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in my life – you could ask to be transferred to the hotline from an out-of-state cell phone – but only during the week). Even still, the elevator outage page isn’t optimized for mobile phones and isn’t available from the MTA mobile website. I had to send my iPhone a link to the page and bookmark the link.

MTA’s has actually gotten better recently, it seems like they’re fixed faster. (those estimates on the website are extremely conservative and can usually be divided by 4 – if it says it’ll be fixed by midnight tomorrow, it’ll probably be fixed by the evening commute today). But the more elevators they put in, the more break. They are indeed the bane of every transit system but I lived in LA for two years and the elevators there, save for one that seemed to have underlying problems, broke far less frequently. I’ve always given MTA the benefit of the doubt, that it’s easier to put in reliable infrastructure at the outset of construction rather than shoehorning it in 100 years later, but what I know about elevator repair would fit on the head of a pin.

(I’m a wheelchair user so by necessity I have to have encyclopedic knowledge about these problems.)

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Nathanael June 7, 2010 - 3:55 am

I do wonder what the problem is. Elevators are not the most complicated technology in the world, and they haven’t changed much since the 1900s. Are they simply not being maintained properly?

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Jonathan June 3, 2010 - 4:16 pm

It ought to be mentioned that the elevators at the no. 1 train’s 168th St, 181st St, and 191st St stations and at the A train’s 181st St and 190th St stations are much larger and travel longer distances than the ADA-type elevators at stations like 125th (ABCD), 59th (ABCD1), and West 4th.

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SEAN June 3, 2010 - 4:31 pm

If you read the Washington Post in reguards to Metro, most people conplane on how unreliable the elevators & escalators are. I’m not saying that there aren’t issues, but have most of these people ridden the NY subways regularly? Do they understand that there system is a baby compared to ours?

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Aaron June 3, 2010 - 6:27 pm

WMATA is worse than MTA, imho. It may be a younger, newer system but the elevator reliability on WMATA is astonishingly low. MTA isn’t fully accessible but I’d put my odds at an MTA elevator working probably higher than a WMATA elevator. Shoddy construction? Poor maintenance? Cheap equipment? I don’t have a way of answering that question, and I’ve never used an escalator in my life, but WMATA elevator maintenance is an oxymoron.

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Jerrold June 3, 2010 - 6:46 pm

At least escalator outages are not as bad as elevator outages.
It just becomes a stairway.

(Yes, I know that for physically disabled people, unfortunately that fact is not relevant.)

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Jerrold June 3, 2010 - 8:36 pm

I forgot to add that elevators in the subway also tend to be “scary” because of the possibility of crime, except when there is a crowd of people in the elevator.

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Ed June 3, 2010 - 11:06 pm

I have a practical question. How easy is it to take the stars? Will someone yell at you for taking the stars because it is an emergency exit only? Is there any chance of being locked in the stairwell? Is the platform two miles down at some stations?

My elevator stations are Clark Street (apparently the elevator broke down 400 times in the last year! I feel lucky I wasn’t on it) and 63rd Street/ Lex. At the latter it is easy to take the stars, but being a new station the elevators seem pretty reliable. I’m thinking of just making a mental note to substitute Boro Hall for Court Street whenever I want to go to Brooklyn Heights.

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Benjamin Kabak June 3, 2010 - 11:08 pm

That’s a good question. At a few stations, the elevators are the only option, and you certainly wouldn’t want to walk up at some of these stops. When I enter for the M/R platform at Court St., I always walk down the stairs. I don’t trust those elevators at all, but at Clark St. on the IRT, we don’t have much of a choice.

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harry August 8, 2010 - 6:27 pm

No, there’s a stairway at Clark Street; I’ve taken it many times. It’s a relatively long climb, but still better than trusting the elevator.

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Abba June 4, 2010 - 12:02 am

I see the elevator that broke is working now.I would think it should be closed until a full investigation is done.

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