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Escalators are key to East Side Access success

Escalators along the Second Avenue Subway line as

Escalators along the Second Avenue Subway line as seen on April 17, 2017 Credit: Charles Eckert

Most of the escalators that will take Long Island Rail Road riders up and down from the depths of Manhattan’s bedrock to the light of Grand Central Terminal already are built and installed.

Now, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has to make sure a key piece of the East Side Access project will work flawlessly.

An MTA inspector general report found the escalators in the Second Avenue Subway stations have broken down at unacceptably high rates. It’s another story of bad MTA contractors gone awry, without enough oversight.

Here’s the concern: the company at fault — Schindler Escalator Corp. — is also responsible for the construction of 47 escalators for East Side Access. The escalators are critical as some travel 180 feet to and from the platforms. Elevators, too, will be important particularly for disabled riders and those with strollers and luggage.

Typically, the company that constructs escalators also maintains them. If Schindler is given the maintenance job at East Side Access, it must come with strict provisions on what preventive maintenance is needed, and how often, along with specific requirements on response time and availability of personnel for emergencies. Detailed penalties must be spelled out for failure to comply. Overall, the MTA must do a far better job of staying on top of Schindler, and holding it accountable.

There are five major elevator and escalator contractors in the world that can handle work like the MTA’s. Just two of them tend to bid for MTA work. The authority must examine why, and how it can create a more competitive environment.

LIRR riders have waited long enough to get more directly to Grand Central. They must have a working escalator or elevator once they finally get there.

— The editorial board