Commuters had to wait for elevators Friday when both the downward escalators at UW Station broke down.
Hundreds of Sound Transit light-rail customers were delayed outside University of Washington Station when both down escalators were stuck Friday evening.
Several tweeted their gripes, questions or photos, while they lined up across the plaza near Husky Stadium in early evening, to enter using one of the elevators.
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This is the latest and worst of many escalator stalls the last couple years, both at Sound Transit light-rail stations and in King County Metro Transit’s downtown bus-rail tunnel.
Technicians arrived around 7 p.m. from KONE, the escalator manufacturer, Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick.
That’s two hours after the incident started, something Sound Transit says it will investigate.
By 7:20 p.m., lines to enter the station subsided. By 7:30 p.m., both escalators were back to normal, Patrick said.
Customer tweets through the evening commute included “but at least we got to play a fun game of sardines,” and “how does no one on your staff at UW station know enough to reverse one of the up escalators if both down escalators are broken?”
Many wondered why people couldn’t just walk on stalled escalators as if they are stairs.
Sound Transit prohibits doing so, because of safety hazards, Patrick said. The vertical distance between steps at UW Station is unusually long.
The steep escalator descents exist to accommodate boarding platforms 95 feet below ground, in a compact site next to Husky Stadium. Failures occurred almost immediately after the escalators went into service in spring 2016. Transit managers said that parts were failing prematurely.
UW Station is the north endpoint and the second-busiest stop, serving 9,700 daily train boardings, in a 21-mile corridor to Angle Lake in SeaTac.
The station has stairs, but they are secluded behind closed doors, at the north end of the station, for emergency use only. Fire codes prohibit those doors, which affect station ventilation, from being held open for customer use, Patrick said.
“We want to thank our riders for their patience and apologize for the inconvenience. We are going to continue to address the reliability issue.”
In recent months, UW Station escalators have operated at least 95 percent of the time, meeting goals, he said.
Escalator failures also have plagued the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C. There are few suppliers and many causes of breakdowns in urban transit use.