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The Ups and Downs of Elevator and Escalator Maintenance

BY HEATHER REDFERN, Public Information Manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia

Where some public transit organizations outsource escalator and elevator repairs to third-party contractors, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and agencies including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) have brought the work in house, using their own dedicated mechanics to maintain and repair the people-moving equipment and creating training labs to give mechanics hands-on experience.

"We can't take elevators and escalators in the field out of service to train our mechanics," said SEPTA Deputy General Manager Jeff Knueppel. "Our facility allows our team to participate in simulation training on hydraulic and electrical mockups, with parts they will find in the field."

SEPTA recently outfitted its training facility with a full-size second-hand escalator and elevator with real-life functionality. The sides of the escalator are transparent, allowing mechanics to see all moving parts. The elevator can simulate defects that students and mechanics have to troubleshoot.

In keeping with SEPTA's commitment to cost containment and sustainability, the agency purchased the training equipment from Philadelphia's naval shipyard after the units became available for a greatly reduced price. SEPTA also completed the installation of the equipment almost entirely with an in-house crew.

"Utilizing our in-house resources has been extremely beneficial for SEPTA," said Knueppel. "We have the ability to respond to equipment issues quickly during the first and second shifts, which in turn has resulted in solid elevator and escalator reliability numbers every day."

Not only does SEPTA work on its own elevator and escalator training and upkeep but as part of an industry-wide consortium, the agency collaborates with public transit authorities across the country on a national Transit Elevator/Escalator Maintenance Training and Apprenticeship Program, adhering to standards set forth by APTA. The project, administered by the Transportation Learning Center, receives matching funds from FTA.

Joining SEPTA, WMATA and NYC Transit are the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and Chicago Transit Authority and their union partners. Members of the consortium have almost 350 years of combined public transit industry experience.

The consortium was established in 2009 and to date has designed and used in pilots almost 40 courses for the three-year apprentice program. The group recently met in Philadelphia to discuss and develop master-level classes and tour SEPTA's elevator and escalator training center.

In addition to participating in the elevator/escalator consortium, SEPTA entered into a five-year agreement with the Delaware River Port Authority's Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) to perform inspection, maintenance, troubleshooting and repair of that system's 13 elevators and 14 escalators. Since the contract began, PATCO has experienced an improvement in the daily reliability of its elevators and escalators.


Members of the national Transit Elevator/Escalator Maintenance Training and Apprenticeship Program consortium recently met at SEPTA in Philadelphia.

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