Looking Back at a Megaproject


Structural bracing near the portal just north of WMATA’s Grosvenor station; image courtesy of GWU Archives via Greater Greater Washington

Subways and commuter rail systems are important transportation options in most of the large cities in the U.S. They help reduce roadway congestion and the pollution produced by automobiles and, because they are either underground or elevated, they provide quick and efficient travel throughout metro areas. And, as we all know, thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, their stations and platforms are equipped with vertical transportation: large-capacity elevators and heavy-duty escalators that keep people on the move. In a nostalgic look back at the genesis of one of the nation’s best-known metro systems, website Greater Greater Washington has posted photographs documenting the construction of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system serving the Washington, D.C., area, the first segment of which opened in 1976. The digitized photographs were released by the George Washington University (GWU) Archives, and include a rendering of the Wheaton Station escalators, the longest single-span escalators in the Western Hemisphere. If you’re into construction photographs, these will give you a fascinating look behind the scenes at the work involved in creating the nation’s second-busiest metro system.

Back to the Future? Elevator Operator Loves Life in a Gilded Cage

A 1912 gold birdcage Otis elevator in a five-story office building in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been operated for the past 12 years by 60-year-old Gary Wallace, office manager. The elevator, built the same year as the office building, has become an attraction in itself, The Gazette reports. Wallace, who says the unit “always passes its inspections with flying colors,” loves his “elevator jockey” job, perhaps as much — if not more — than his regular one cutting hair. Over the years, Wallace has acquired the skills to deliver a smooth, quiet ride to visitors as they make their 13-second trip up or down. He calls the elevator his “baby,” and himself, “the last of a dying breed.”

If he had to guess, Wallace estimates the elevator reaches speeds of 10 mph, at the most.

Or is he? Among the interesting trends borne of the coronavirus pandemic is the return of the elevator operator. Your author has seen numerous reports of property managers bringing in elevator operators to help keep people safer. Just this week, Los Angeles-based attorney Guy Gruppie told her he was at a business meeting that day and, “for the rest of the COVID crisis, they are using an elevator operator to make sure only he touches the buttons and that the occupants stand on X’s in the car, six feet apart.” So, is Wallace the last of a dying breed? Maybe not.

Be sure to check out The Gazette’s picture gallery of the elevator and a video of Wallace operating it.

Cutting Carbon

thyssenkrupp Elevator recently announced its long-term plan to reduce its carbon footprint, an ambitious blueprint that foresees slashing the company’s greenhouse gas emissions by half within 20 years.  The goal is part of its continuing efforts to become a more environmentally friendly industrial business. “Our climate targets are ambitious but, in view of the tasks and challenges facing us in terms of climate protection, they are not exaggerated,” said company CEO Peter Walker. “We see a clear responsibility on the part of the companies and are determined to make our contribution, and it should be sustainable in the long term.” In keeping with scientific criteria that underpin the Paris Climate Agreement, thyssenkrupp hopes to realize a 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Under the plan, the company would reach the 50% reduction target by 2040. More than half of thyssenkrupp Elevator’s carbon emissions are related to its vehicle fleet, so this is where efforts will be focused. Methods will include optimization and route efficiency planning, as well as the use of hybrid and electric vehicles. Improvements in technician driving efficiency via the VIEW platform will help reduce unnecessary mileage on vehicles. The use of MAX, thyssenkrupp’s real-time, predictive maintenance system, will help determine which parts are needed before traveling to the jobsite.

Warehouse efficiencies will also make a difference.

“thyssenkrupp Elevator’s long-standing commitment to sustainability starts at our own operations with these ambitious carbon targets,” said Paula Casares, head of sustainability. “Our reduction of carbon emissions throughout our full operations will not only help our bottom line, but will also allow us to provide the best answer to our customers while acting in an environmentally responsible way in all phases of our business.”