After months of trying to fix broken escalators at commuter train stations in Center City and South Jersey, PATCO may demolish and replace some of the equipment.
That process could take nine months or more.
PATCO riders have been dealing with broken escalators and elevators since July, when transit agency officials let a maintenance contract lapse.
An emergency plea to SEPTA for help, apologies from the PATCO board, and a new maintenance contract have brought only marginal relief to many riders.
On Tuesday, six of PATCO's 14 escalators were out of service. At the 11 escalator-equipped stations, five had broken escalators.
Some escalators have been out of service for months, leaving riders to trudge up crowded stairs or seek out elevators, which can carry only a handful of people. And two elevators were broken Tuesday.
PATCO spokesman Tim Ireland said that Fujitec Inc., the manufacturer of most of the escalators and the company hired in September for $1.39 million to maintain them, "concluded that some of the machines would require more work than anticipated."
"In the interests of safety and efficiency, the contractor could not agree to maintain our escalators over the short term unless we agreed to overhaul or replace some of them," Ireland said.
Replacing an escalator would require PATCO to demolish the existing one and "then wait nine months or more for it to be custom manufactured, shipped and installed."
"If possible, we would like to avoid taking escalators out of service for that long, but if replacing existing escalators ends up being the only safe, responsible option, that's what we'll do," Ireland said.
Meanwhile, PATCO is once again seeking a temporary contract with SEPTA to get the other broken escalators running "until we come up with a safe, reliable resolution," he said.
In August, after the lapsed maintenance contract left PATCO without repair crews for the escalators, SEPTA workers were hired to make temporary repairs.
Repeating a phrase that riders have heard frequently since then, Ireland said: "We apologize to our passengers for the inconvenience."
Passengers have been fuming for months about the broken escalators and elevators, and the Federal Transit Administration, acting on a customer's complaint, is investigating PATCO's failure to meet federal requirements to make its trains accessible.
That complainant, Constance Lyford, 70, of Center City, said Tuesday: "I believe they should lose the majority of their federal subsidy for 'handicapped accessibility.' . . . These folks may know how to manage bridges and ports but need a great deal of help in managing trains."
Barbara Polinsky, who lives in Center City and commutes to Lindenwold, said: "Any improvement is a wonderful idea. In the meantime, better lighting on the staircases would improve safety for all of us riders."
Stations with broken escalators Tuesday were:
Lindenwold, Woodcrest, and Ashland in South Jersey, and Eighth/Market and 13th/Locust in Center City.
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