SEATTLE -- Sound Transit said it will cost more than $20 million to replace the perpetually broken escalators at UW Station with eleven new escalators and two sets of stairs.
Kimberly Reason, spokesperson for Sound Transit, said the 13 escalators have been a problem since the light rail station opened in 2016. She said the transportation agency has been weighing what to do with them.
“We want to say to our riders, we are so sorry. We know this has been a pain,” Reason told KOMO on Friday.
Reason said Sound Transit purchased commercial-grade escalators for the popular station next to Alaska Airline Arena, not transit-grade escalators.
“We had too many outages, certainly far more than what we should have had,” Reason said. “We should have installed heavier-duty escalators.”
Reason attributed the problems to a mix of the long escalators running so often and being used heavily used by foot traffic.
“So, we’re saying, let’s just bite the bullet on this, let’s replace these escalators they’re not right for this kind of station,” Reason said.
But for commuters who travel the 90 feet down and up from the train platform broken escalators has meant hoofing it up flights of stairs.
Mike Rastelli was riding the escalator down to the platform Friday. He said when the escalators are out of order he takes the stairs.
“It’s a lot of stairs, I’ll tell you that. And walking them it gets to you,” he said.
Reason said the problems with the escalators has forced Sound Transit to take a closer look at public access to station stairways, which their security officers only open during emergencies.
“We have actually revised our design manual, to include that any station will have stairs in addition to escalators and elevators,” Reason said.
Reason said they will redesign stations that are still under construction, as well as plan construction project at current stations, to open these staircases.
Sound Transit hopes to have the design and rebuild of the escalators complete by 2020, Reason said. The agency didn’t have details on the exact cost of each new escalator or where they are being purchased from.
Jordan Leidel, a frequent commuter at UW Station, said Friday she wasn’t concerned about the cost to repair the escalators. She said it was worth it if it encouraged more people to take mass transit.
But, Leidel, added “maybe half the time I get off the train in the morning something’s not working.”
Anthony Grant said he’s endured outages at UW Station, as well as at King County Metro Transit stations that also service light rail.
“You know I had an injury in my leg, so you know, being forced to walk up them, even if it’s half a flight or wait for an elevator it’s not a good feeling for my leg,” Grant said.
Grant said he wasn’t surprised it will cost $20 million to replace the escalators at UW Station, but he admits being disappointed.
“You see this is what happens when you try and cut costs. You do it right the first time, you’re not going to lose,” Grant said before boarding the train.