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November 21, 2013

Maintaining station elevators and escalators is a national effort

by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

For some public transit riders, the first mode of travel they take every day is not a transit authority’s trains or buses, but rather the elevators and escalators to get to a station’s platforms or vehicles. And to keep them moving, elevators and escalators require as much attention as an organization’s fleet.

Where some transit organizations outsource escalator and elevator repairs to third party contractors, other agencies like Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), New York City Transit (NYCT) and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) have brought the work in-house, with their own dedicated mechanics, trained by the organizations.

“Elevators and escalators take a lot of abuse,” said Alex Rosmondo, SEPTA mechanical maintenance manager and instructor. “The equipment operates around the clock, in places where they are exposed to the elements or prone to acts of vandalism. Having our own crews allows us to stay on top of the elevators and escalators with daily, weekly, monthly and annual inspections.”

Alex Rosmondo, SEPTA mechanical maintenance manager and instructor, demonstrates the mock-ups SEPTA uses in its training facility.

Alex Rosmondo, SEPTA mechanical maintenance manager and instructor, demonstrates the mock-ups SEPTA uses in its training facility.

To prepare employees for working on the people movers, SEPTA, as well as WMATA and NYCT, created labs to give mechanics hands-on experience with the equipment.  

“We can’t take elevators and escalators in the field out of service to train our apprentices and incumbent mechanics,” said Rosmondo. “Our facility allows our team to participate in simulation training on hydraulic and electrical mock-ups, with parts they will find in the field.”  

SEPTA’s training facility will also be outfitted with a full-size demonstration escalator and elevator with real-life functionality.

“Elevators and escalators take a lot of abuse,” said Rosmondo. “The equipment operates around the clock, in places where they are exposed to the elements or prone to acts of vandalism. Having our own crews allows us to stay on top of the elevators and escalators with daily, weekly, monthly and annual inspections.”

“Elevators and escalators take a lot of abuse,” said Rosmondo. “The equipment operates around the clock, in places where they are exposed to the elements or prone to acts of vandalism. Having our own crews allows us to stay on top of the elevators and escalators with daily, weekly, monthly and annual inspections.”

“Utilizing our in-house resources has been extremely beneficial for SEPTA,” said Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s Deputy GM. “We have the ability to respond to equipment issues quickly, which in turn has resulted in solid elevator and escalator reliability numbers.”  

Not only does SEPTA work on its own elevator and escalator training and upkeep but, as part of an industry-wide consortium, collaborates with transit authorities across the country on the development of a national Transit Elevator/Escalator Maintenance Training and Apprenticeship Program adhering to standards set forth by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The project is administered by the Transportation Learning Center and supported with matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration. Joining SEPTA, WMATA and NYCT in the consortium are Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and their union partners.

SEPTA, as part of an industry-wide consortium, collaborates with transit authorities across the country on the development of a national Transit Elevator/Escalator Maintenance Training and Apprenticeship Program adhering to standards set by APTA.

SEPTA, as part of an industry-wide consortium, collaborates with transit authorities across the country on the development of a national Transit Elevator/Escalator Maintenance Training and Apprenticeship Program adhering to standards set by APTA.

The consortium was established in 2009 out of necessity. "New technology, like digital controls, combined with many current technicians nearing retirement age, meant that SEPTA and other agencies needed more training,” said Jack Clark, deputy director of the Transportation Learning Center. “Add to that the accessibility requirements for riders with disabilities and increasing needs for accessibility in an aging ridership, and the training needs become acute. The Consortium represented the first national effort to build the skills of the transit elevator/escalator technicians instead of relying on outside vendors.”

Ed LaGuardia, SEPTA’s recently retired chief engineering officer of bridges & buildings, was a national leader in transit elevator and escalator maintenance and played an instrumental role in gathering key people to be involved in the consortium and define industry training standards.

“In addition to Ed’s expertise, we are fortunate to have the unprecedented cooperation of labor and management,” said Clark. “We have union and management representatives working together to develop the program. It’s been a good experience.”

To date, the consortium has more than 30 courses designed and used in pilots for the three-year apprentice program. Rosmondo is a member of the consortium’s Course Development Team.

“Working with agencies across the country has been helpful. We all share similar experiences and face the same challenges even though we are in different parts of the country,” Rosmondo said. “We can share ideas. The resources are out there for us to do our jobs even better.”

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Heather Redfern

Public Information Manager, SEPTA


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  • W. P. Grizard[ November 22th, 2013 @ 9:59am ]

    Heather thanks for another great article! Elevators and Escalators are both mission critical and safety critical elements of our tranit operations. Congratulations to Ed on his retirement and I am glad we were able to highlight some of his work last June at the APTA Rail Conference during a session just focused on escalator and elevator issues. Those that are interested can find the proceedings for that session on the APTA website including the slide decks that were presented. In addition Ed's presentation on SEPTA's program, BART provided information on how to create a critical parts inventory and supply chain to ensure the "vertical transit" operations and Akito Ito from JR East showed how they change out escalators in one of the worlds busiest transit stations with minimum down time. Even though we have made great strides in improving escalator safety, we continue to see far too many incidents relative to passenger behaviors while in use. These behaviors include passengers trying to push their way through standees riding the escalator and causing falls, passengers carrying bicycles, strollers, other bulky items on escalators. Yes, even wheelchair riders on escalators instead of elevators! Parents allowing children to sit on the moving steps or run up and down like it was playground equipment. Crowd surging at entry and exit thresholds and elderly that don't have a good sense of balance falling because they don't use the handrail for support. If anyone has come up with control measures that mitigate or eliminate these abuses, please let everone know how you did it.

  • Heather Redfern[ December 23th, 2013 @ 10:29am ]

    Ed LaGuardia, who is now Chief Engineer- Rail and Transit for the Michael Baker Corporation, is still very much involved in the Consortium as its co-chair. He is dedicated to seeing the program through to completion and certification. The Consortium has applied to the National Department of Labor for Certification of the Transit Apprenticeship and is awaiting approval of the curriculum as an additional validation of transit employee qualifications. The consortium is also working with other transit organizations and the industry to broaden the Consortium's membership. Ed also chairs an the APTA-sponsored Elevator Escalator Technical Forum that meets to focus specifically on transit vertical transportation. This forum is comprised of the elevator/escalator consortium members, several other transit organizations and vertical equipment manufacturers.

  • Schneider Elevator[ January 6th, 2014 @ 10:44pm ]

    Thank you for such instruction and guide the elevator structure. I inspire your technology of elevator company. Schneider Elevator always thanks to you.

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Author Bio

Heather Redfern

Public Information Manager, SEPTA


Marcia Ferranto

President/CEO, WTS International

Marcia Ferranto is President/CEO of WTS International.


Scott Belcher

President and CEO, Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)


Joe Zavisca

Joe Zavisca is an independent consultant specializing in paratransit service.


Paul Mackie

Communications Director, Mobility Lab

Paul Mackie is communications director at Mobility Lab, a leading U.S. voice of “transportation demand management.”


Rob Taylo

Founder/CEO SinglePoint Communications

Rob Taylo is founder/CEO of SinglePoint Communications, an exclusive U.S. distributor of WiFi in Motion.


Joel Volinski

Director, National Center for Transit Research at CUTR/USF


Zack Shubkagel

Partner/Creative Director of Willoughby Design

Zack Shubkagel is partner and creative director for the San Francisco office of Willoughby Design, a strategic branding and design firm.


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