FINAL UPDATE: Delay at Oakdale and Newhall has cleared. IB 24 resuming regular service. (More: 23 in last 48 hours)

New Escalators Rising to the Challenge

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

SFMTA staff standing in front of the escalator at Van Ness Station

The SFMTA is happy to report that the Van Ness inbound platform escalator, the last unit in line for rehabilitation, is now entirely functional once again after months of construction. 

We initially broke the project into two phases. Phase One had five escalators being replaced at the Church, Powell and Van Ness stations. That work was completed in 2014.

Phase Two of the project began the following year and included rehabbing 17 escalators – at the Montgomery, Powell, Hallidie Plaza, Civic Center, Van Ness, Church and Castro stations. The new escalators, equipped with the state of art technology, now greatly improve safety, reliability and access to the Muni system.

Features of the new escalators include:

  • Energy-saving Variable Frequency Regenerative Drives, also called green belts
  • Sleep mode, to slow the escalator down when experiencing a decrease of usage, saving energy and reducing wear on the equipment.
  • Improved lighting along the escalator for the steps to be more visible at night.
  • Several safety switches and circuits, such as missing step devices, handrail speed sensors, comb impact devices, etc., will be added to enhance the safety of the units.
  • Permanent lockable stainless-steel barricades will enhance customer and technician safety during times of maintenance and repair.
  • Debris traps, to comb debris off the steps and prevent damage that can compromise the safety of the equipment.

Castro inbound station lights
The rainbow lighting schematic at the Castro Muni Station. (Courtesy photo)

Originally, the contract required the single white color lights to be installed for illumination. However, as the rainbow lights installed as an experiment become an instant success on the first rehabbed escalator at Harvey Milk Plaza in 2015, the color lights were replicated to all four escalators at Castro, thanks to the recommendations by Castro Merchants and other community stakeholders. The plan was later extended to all Muni escalators in the subway. 

The lights featured nine colors at Castro resemble the rainbow flag flying over Market and Castro streets. The rest of the stations have three-color lights that can be adjusted to reflect local culture and festivities. For instance, the prominent colors at Powell Station next to the Cable Car Turnaround feature the cable car yellow and burgundy.

View of the Muni Metro Van Ness Station escalator from now and from 1973 when the station first opened.
View of the Muni Metro Van Ness Station escalator from now and from 1973 when the station first opened.

View of the newly completed Muni Metro Van Ness Station.
View of the newly completed Muni Metro Van Ness Station. (SFMTA Photo Archive, Oct. 5, 1973)

Before beginning this project, most of the escalators in Muni subway stations had been on the job since 1973. They were old, outdated and subject to frequent breakdowns, ultimately necessitating a major overhaul.

Coming up next is the final part of the project involving the installation of stainless-steel gates for each of the 17 units. This work will take approximately two months.