Everything you ever wanted to know about Metro’s elevators and escalators … but were afraid to ask

Los Angeles is known around the world as the quintessential horizontal city. And as the region’s biggest transportation agency, we’re tasked with making this vast sprawling area feel more close-knit. 

Nevertheless, elevators and escalators (Vertical Transportation or “VT” in Metro parlance) are essential to our system. Why?  

As the largest transportation planning agency in Los Angeles, we know that your trip begins long before you board one of our buses or trains. That’s why are committed to making these parts of your trip as accessible and comfortable as possible. So whether you have a disability, you’ve sprained your ankle, you’re carrying a bag of heavy groceries, or you’re simply in a hurry, our elevator and escalator system ensures that our system is welcoming, ADA-compliant, and saves you time on your commute.    

There are currently 408 elevators and escalators systemwide. But they’re finicky technologies. They need a lot of TLC in order to run smoothly, and many have been around for quite a while and are starting to feel their age. Much of this infrastructure on the B (Red) Line, for example, will soon hit its 30th birthday.  

That’s why we have VT maintenance contractors on our system every day. They work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day (and more, as needed) in order to perform preventative maintenance, respond to and repair units reported out of service and deliver detailed daily reports. Our Metro Ambassadors are also trained to report malfunctions and breakages on our units systemwide, which allows us to fix things faster.  

We act as quickly as possible when elevators and escalators aren’t working properly. Once an issue is reported, our maintenance contractors are required to be at the unit within 30 minutes during scheduled business hours, and within one hour after scheduled business hours. If a unit breaks, it’s unlikely to be out for a long time. (Exceptions are major issues, like water intrusion, a step chain replacement, or acquiring hard-to-find parts for aged units.) But let’s face it –– if you’ve ridden our system, it’s likely that you’ve seen an inoperable elevator or escalator. For escalators, most of the time, this is not a technical glitch. Because of state law (ASME A17.1 if you want to get technical), all of our escalators are required to have emergency stop buttons located at the top and bottom of every unit. Improper use of these buttons are responsible for 90% of inoperable escalators.  

So please do not push them!  

And if you want to know if a unit is actually under maintenance, look for a yellow safety barrier.  

The safety barrier to look for when an escalator isn’t working.

Right now, we’re using social media to notify you when a non-redundant elevator (that is, elevators that lack a backup that can transport riders to a specific part of a station) isn’t working. We’re planning on expanding notifications to include all unit downtime (including scheduled maintenance) in the near future.  

We’re also working on improving our infrastructure in order to create a more welcoming and hassle-free experience. Here’s what we’re doing:  

Preventative Maintenance 

Cleanliness and maintenance issues are one reason why our elevators and escalators might break down.  

  • In 2022, Metro completed a 2.3M two-year repair project, which included 117 elevator floor replacements and 102 corrosion repairs. 

An elevator floor before repair.

A new elevator floor.

  • We’re cleaning elevator hoistway glass (multilevel glass towers) and elevator pits (the bottoms of our elevator shafts) 2 times per year. 

    Elevator pit before cleaning.

    Elevator pit after cleaning.

  • We’re taking apart escalator steps and deep cleaning them 4 times per year.  

More Security  

It’s important to us that you are safe –– and that you feel safe, too.  

  • We’re installing cameras in the elevator cabs so you can feel safer on the system. To date,  81 out of the 186 elevators systemwide have cameras in the cab. The plan is to outfit all remaining 105 elevators.  This is an ongoing multi-year project. 

Protecting Elevator Glass Panels 

One big reason we have to take elevators out of service is to fix broken glass.  

  • We’re installing shatter-proof polycarbonate protective shields on existing elevator glass panels. We’ve finished this work on 61 elevators and have 67 units to go.  

Glass panels before renovation.

Glass panels after renovation.

  • We’re replacing our older and more fragile elevator doors that have glass inserts with new durable, vandal-resistant stainless-steel doors. These older doors are primarily on the B (Red) and D (Purple) lines. To date, we’ve completed work on 13 elevators and have 63 units to go. 

Elevator doors before renovation.

Elevator doors after renovation.

Better inventory management 

We know how frustrating it is to arrive at a station only to discover you can’t get where you want to go.  

  • We’re planning to install a remote-monitoring system for all of our elevators and escalators across the system. This means that we’ll be able to monitor outages with the click of a button. This multi-year project will minimize unit downtime for a better transit experience. 

Got a question about our VT infrastructure? Ask us! And we’ll report back with updates.  

Categories: Transportation News

13 replies

  1. Let it be known that a person in a suit and tie with a small lapel pin with “transportation” on it, helped my wife’s suitcase up the stairs at airport/metro Greenline escalators yesterday 6PM. It’s always broke and the elevator stinks, but THANKS for the great experience! Hope that person (maybe one of you) can be there next time too!!! Someone is trying to make a different!! !!?

  2. Each escalator uses the equivalent electricity of multiple households, and Metro has hundreds of them. Every one of which must be maintained through the wear and tear or being operational every minute of every day.

    The technology exists to only run escalators once people step onto the platform past a sensor.

    Why hasn’t Metro prioritized energy efficiency?

  3. Metro should follow Portland’s lead and install tap readers at elevator call buttons. This would ensure that only paying customers are using the elevators instead of them being used as shelter / restroom. Trumpet’s implementation has been very successful and has lead to cleaner and safer elevators.

    Hope you reach out to TriMet

  4. Elevators and escalators being out of service (already) at the regional connector stations on a regular basis is a pretty bad sign; much like cell phone service being nonexistent along the entire regional connector (despite years of delays where that could’ve been addressed prior to opening) the fact that the infrastructure in the new stations is already breaking down is a sad situation.

    Despite what the article says, the escalators at the Vermont/Beverly station, as far as I can tell, never work. They’re definitely not fixed the day of, and I’ve seen them be out for weeks on end. The article pointing out that the infrastructure on the Red Line is 30 years old is also not exactly…a good excuse. One would kinda expect it to have been maintained throughout that time, which, clearly, hasn’t happened.

    Between this and the fact that a day doesn’t go by without train delays on the A Line, people are going to begin wondering where their tax dollars are going.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue with B/D line station escalators is parts availability: the escalators used in those stations are rather old, and there’s a decent chance the manufacturer doesn’t exist anymore – there’s been a LOT of consolidation in that industry since 1990. Assuming parts are available at all, the lead time is easily months.

      Even with regular maintenance they just aren’t going to run as reliably at that age: transit escalators have a hard life, are often exposed to the elements (even if only partially), and suffer a lot of abuse. This isn’t unique to LA Metro: in Seattle, the escalators in the downtown transit tunnel (which is the same age) are equally unreliable and need replacement too.

    • Once again this is no doubt reflective of the culture at Metro, which is that the higher-ups, the decision makers, don’t ride metro themselves or do so very rarely. So they are out of touch. There is no sense of being part of something bigger. It’s just personal gain for them and their career without the proper checks and balances in place to ensure that they must have a sufficient level of competence, evidently.

  5. I appreciate the elevators and escalators but, for myself, I prefer the stairs. When I disembarked at Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station, the other day, I couldn’t find any stairs. They wouldn’t build a station without stairs, would they?

    • That station does not have non-emergency public stairs, because of how deep it is.

      There are emergency stairs If an evacuation is necessary, but it’s a looooong walk to the top!

  6. What I wanna know is why Elevators at New station (I.E. – Little Tokyo) are already going through these circumstances? It’s the fourth time in 2 months I’ve seen one of two elevators in Little Tokyo shut down and out of service.

  7. We just opened three new stations on the regional connector; are all of the elevators in those stations redundant?

    If transit was free, we could design stations with elevators that took riders non-stop from street to platform.

    • If transit was free, the homeless and drug users would completely take over those elevators. Have the last few months of not enforcing fares not taught anyone that open air drug use will absolutely be a daily occurrence if fares were free?

      Also, who would pay for the elevators if fares were free?

  8. Its awful. The elevator at the Harbor frwy stop at Fig & Imperisl, the evelaor and escalator at Rosa Park station seem to be out of service or broken OFTEN. I’m a senior and had to pull luggage up those stairs, this is ridiculous and unsafe. Those elevators thsdo wrk at time, are smelly with urine on a regular basis.

  9. Hi. Will ambassadors be given keys so that they’re able to restart elevators that have mistakenly been emergency stopped? I was recently at the Little Tokyo station and both the up escalator and elevator were out of service. There was someone with a cart who was unable to go upstairs.

    Also, what is metro doing to make sure that elevators stay clean? The smell is usually pretty bad…