Although it’s been inoperable since the beginning of the semester, the University Student Union escalators have undergone repairs that were projected to be complete by early October. It’s unknown at this time when repairs will be complete. According to James Ahumada, the Associated Students Inc. senior communications manager, the current repairs are to replace the steps and install new step chains and handrails for both the upward and downward escalators.
Over the summer, the USU maintenance team determined the escalator steps were aging and in need of replacement as the step chains and handrails were last replaced 12 years ago. Ahumada said the total cost for the replacements is $416,000.
With midterms quickly approaching, student sentiments are increasingly dissatisfied with yet another inconvenience and ASI’s response. These improvements are the latest in a long list of stops and starts on the USU escalators.
Marina Makar, junior psychology major, noted the university’s delay in addressing the broken facility.
“If the escalators are broken, why do we still have them? It makes the campus look inefficient,” Makar said. “They break because the school doesn’t want to put an effort into fixing it.”
According to ASI President Genesis Jara, the repairs have taken longer than expected. Jara said the current repairs are part of her administration’s plan to address the escalator situation and that current repairs should last between 10 to 15 years.
Mitsubishi had to reach out to the original escalator company for blueprints in order to finish the repairs.
According to Ahumada, escalator breaks are due to a combination of “the machinery reaching the end of its lifespan” and “abrupt impacts on the step-off plates.”
Ahumada stated that in order to avoid future breaks, “users of the escalator should avoid stomping on the stairs, or riding their scooters or skateboards up to the step-on and off plate.” When objects get near the step-on and off plate, the escalator automatically stops as a safety precaution.
While most campus repairs are handled by Physical Planning and Facilities Management, according to Jara, the campus does not have any technicians on staff who specialize in escalator repairs.
Facilities Management declined to comment and instead directed all USU escalator-related inquiries to ASI.
“ASI student leaders of today have prioritized repairing these escalators,” Ahumada said. “ASI and USU staff are committed to making this happen.”
Currently, ASI has a $25,000 annual contract with Mitsubishi to service the escalators. The contract covers the escalator repairs, regular maintenance and annual inspections. According to Ahumada, Mitsubishi technicians usually arrive and repair within 24 hours of the initial call.
One of the most popular suggestions among students is an entirely new escalator, rather than the frequent and short-term repairs. In contrast to $25,000 for repairs, according to Jara, the cost of an entirely new escalator system is around $1 million.
Miriam Benyameen, a junior majoring in liberal studies, is a proponent of getting a new escalator. However, Benyameen quickly changed her stance after hearing of the million dollar price tag.
“I love the stairs,” she joked. “No problem, I love the broken escalators.”