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Stung by transit passengers forced to take the stairs, Miami-Dade’s mayor is demanding the county’s repair company pick up the pace in fixing elevators and escalators in the Metromover system.
“All major outstanding repairs for units currently out of service that can be repaired must be completed within 30 days, and moving forward, any other units that become inoperable should be repaired within 30 days,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava wrote in a letter Friday to a top executive at Schindler, the Swiss-based company with a county contract to keep county elevators and escalators running.
The letter to Paul Bloom, chief operating officer at Schindler, followed new reports this week on the county’s Adrienne Arsht Center Metromover having both its escalator and elevator out of service for weeks, leaving passengers no choice but to climb the 49 stairs connecting the street with the platform three stories above.
Schindler has the contract to keep the equipment running, but a company spokesperson said executives warned the county it needs to replace aging elevators and escalators being used “way past their useful life.”
In a response Friday the spokesperson, Kimberly LaCava, accused Levine Cava’s staff of playing politics by releasing the letter instead of focusing on a solution with Schindler.
“Despite a productive meeting with the mayor’s office this week, we’re disappointed to see that the mayor’s team has resorted to politics instead of staying focused on progressing with an aligned action plan,” LaCava said in a statement. She said “much of this equipment is on life support” and said Miami-Dade should expect more outages “if the county continues to neglect its responsibility” on infrastructure upgrades.
While Schindler has had a county elevator contract since 2007, it took over more transit stations last year when Levine Cava fired a rival, Oracle, over alleged safety violations at Miami International Airport elevators. The former Oracle contract included elevators at MIA, PortMiami and in the transit system.
Levine Cava presented the 30-day turnaround on significant repairs as a standard she was inviting Schindler to adapt. There was no immediate response from the company on whether that target would work.
In her letter, Levine Cava said Schindler has had 96% of the escalators and elevators operating, below the contract threshold of 98%. She also said Miami-Dade has had a problem with Schindler not updating expected repair times, resulting in outdated information for passengers.
A sign on the Arsht elevator once predicted it would be running by the end of April, but the latest notice predicts a June 15 completion date. While there was a repair crew at the station Tuesday after the Miami Herald and other news outlets reported on the problems there, a transit spokesperson said Friday both the elevator and escalator remain out of service.
Other Metromover stations have longer running problems. The elevator at the Fifth Street Station has been out for a year, and the Eleventh Street Station has been out for 384 days, Levine Cava said in her letter. She also said her administration has already approved Schindler repair proposals for those two stations, but that the company hasn’t gotten the equipment running again.
For the long-term, Levine Cava said her administration is exploring funding options to harden outdoors transit escalators and elevators that are vulnerable to breakdowns because of constant exposure to rain. She also said she’s awaiting a plan to deal with elevators and escalators needing replacement.
“I have directed staff to evaluate and present all options for my consideration to ensure the units that can no longer be fixed are replaced expeditiously,” she said. “Our main consideration for this work is the speed with which these providers can replace the units.”