DC at Night

DC at Night

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Long Ride Up, A Long Ride Down

If you are afraid of escalators (official name - escalaphobia), you might want to consider skipping the DC Metro Station in Wheaton, Maryland. With a length of 230 feet and a vertical rise of 115 feet, the escalators in Wheaton are the longest set of single-span escalators in the Western Hemisphere.

It takes 2:45 to ride from the bottom to the top (or the top to the bottom). That is longer than some popular amusement rides. And I can verify that time since I had to travel to Wheaton last week for business.

Interestingly, the Wheaton Station is not the deepest in DC. That distinction goes to its neighbor on the Red Line, Forrest Glen. However, that station is only served by elevators because it was determined that installing and maintaining escalators at Forest Glen would be too expensive.

Both the Wheaton and Forest Glen stations are unique in that there are separate tunnels and platforms for trains instead of a common room employed in other DC Metro stops. That system was put in place because it was cheaper to build at such depths.

Speaking of maintaining escalators, that ongoing work can cause problems for Wheaton riders even if they are not leery of the long moving trips. According to a 2012 study, the escalators at Wheaton are out of service more than any other of the long escalators in the Metro system. That study reported that the Wheaton escalators function only 67% of the time, meaning you had better be prepared for some serious climbing or descending if you use the station.

The station opened in 1990, and, for 8 years, it was the northeastern end of the Red Line until the Glenmont Station became operational.

As for those who do suffer from escalaphobia, experts say that the fear is often related to other phobias including fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of steps and slopes (bathmophobia), fear of climbing (climacaphobia), and fear of vertigo (illngophobia).

So if Wheaton is the longest escalator in the United States, where is the longest escalator in the world? That would be in St. Petersburg, Russia. There, at 3 stations, are escalators with a length of 433 feet and a vertical rise of 217 feet. By contrast, the world's shortest escalator, at 32.8 inches, is located in a shopping mall in Kawasaki, Japan.

Tales, Tips, and Tidbits
Most of us take escalators for granted. But they have quite an interesting history. To learn more, click here. 

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