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.”
Getting Hands-On Maintenance Experience
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.
“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.
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.”