A trick question: How many escalators are there at the Red Line’s Monroe station?
If you asked the CTA worker in the station booth on Tuesday, she’d say: three. That’s because the fourth one — which is boarded up with an apologetic CTA sign attached — has been out of order for so long that it no longer counts.
The entombed escalator has even garnered some national attention, with users of the social news-sharing website, Reddit, promoting it to the front page.
One tongue-in-cheek post, with an image of the sign, went like this: “Escalator has been broken and boarded up for 3 years, but hey at least the CTA put up a sign.”
Actually, it’s been broken since June 2016, according to the CTA.
In fact, three of the Monroe stop’s four escalators were down Tuesday, although the CTA employee said that one was supposed to be repaired that day, while a sign posted in front of another immobile escalator also offered hope: “Sorry! We’re upgrading your escalator!”
For commuter Tony Bracey, the situation is simply: “Awful.”
“I’m a spry guy. I don’t mind walking the stairs, but there are a lot of older, less capable people out there and they have a hard time navigating,” said Bracey, 53, who lives in the Woodlawn neighborhood.
In all, CTA has about 160 escalators, some of which are new and some almost 75 years old, said Tammy Chase, a CTA spokeswoman.
“In addition to the wear and tear of operating 24/7 every day of the year, for more than 760,000 daily commuters who use our rail system, many of our escalators across our system are outdoors and, thus, are impacted by rain, heat, cold, snow and ice,” Chase said.
The boarded-up Monroe escalator isn’t quite 40 years old, but it’s apparently beyond repair.
“Unfortunately, the … escalator’s age and condition requires a complete replacement because of safety reasons,” Chase said. “We’re seeking funds to replace it, which we expect could top $1 million, and don’t know when we’ll be able to secure funding.”
The third broken escalator was not blocked off, and therefore continued to function — as stairs, anyway. That option was not lost on at least one social media commentator, whose Reddit post showed some commuters at least have a sense of humor about the inconvenience.
Instead of a sign apologizing for the doomed escalator, one Reddit user suggested a glass-half-full approach: “An escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You should never see an ‘Escalator Temporarily Out of Order’ sign, just “Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the inconvenience.’”