BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Metro rail commuters are again down to one escalator at University Station now that the #2 escalator is out of service for major reconstruction.
“I don’t know what to think. They’re raising fares and stuff. You’d think they’d be able to fix them,” says commuter Joyce Dean who spoke to News 4 at the Delavan metro station, where the #4 escalator has been out-of-service for quite some time.
“Once I came in and the escalator and elevator was out of service, and I was wondering what are wheelchair people were supposed to do,” she says.
The issue of the broken escalators came up during a recent NFTA Surface Transportation Committee meeting when Commissioner Henry Sloma raised some questions about escalator maintenance.
“This is very embarrassing. They keep going down,” Sloma said during the meeting Thursday. “All of a sudden we have these catastrophic failures… like it was news to us. We didn’t see this coming?”
News 4 Investigates has done numerous stories on the problems with some of the NFTA’s escalators, especially at University Station. We wanted to talk to the NFTA about the plans going forward, but our request for an interview was declined.
NFTA Director of Public Affairs Doug Hartmayer said in an email, “We do not feel there is any new information to cover.”
Hartmayer added, “We are focused on moving forward with our escalator modernization program.” That program will eventually see 22 of 24 escalators replaced.
Thomas George, the NFTA’s Director of Public Transit, recently told commissioners that the project will include a new maintenance contract that will likely cost more than what was spent in the past.
“We’ve been in a cost containment mode for a long time on these escalators, and I think we’re paying the price now,” says George.
Vandalism is one of the primary factors in escalators going down, according to the NFTA.
NFTA Police Chief George Gast told commissioners that there was a case of vandalism in November picked up on surveillance cameras. He says that officers are cracking down on perpetrators.
“It was a juvenile. She was arrested. That case did go to family court this past month, and she was convicted of the vandalism,” Gast said. He added that part of the sentence was court ordered restitution.
News 4 asked the NFTA for any video clips of vandalism on escalators but Doug Hartmayer stated in an email that “we are not aware of any existing video tapes showing escalator vandalism.”
A request for proposals involving the escalator modernization program is going out soon, and the authority is expected to approve the four-year project in June.
Construction is expected to start in 2015 with the Delavan-Canisius station escalators among the first to be replaced.