Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 7

Innovations in Escalator Maintenance-
Automated Chain Lubrication
ride escalators as part of their daily
travel to work and home again. Public
transit agencies recognize the importance of keeping this critical equipment
in service and invest heavily in maintenance and support.
In recent years, technologies have
emerged that have had a favorable
impact in lowering maintenance costs
and burdens on busy public transit
maintenance teams. One of them is
automated lubrication of escalator
Escalators are chain-driven people
conveyors, moving step plates and
handrails in a continuous loop. In many
public transit environments, they operate all day long, every day of the year,

sometimes fully exposed to the elements. The challenge for engineering
and maintenance leaders is to ensure
these chains receive adequate care and
maintenance, often in tight windows, to
maximize in-service time and minimize
replacement costs. Typical step chains
can cost upwards of $10,000 for materials alone and can lead to extended
escalator downtime, depending on the
availability of parts and labor.
Regular lubrication is a critical aspect
of preventive maintenance, helping
to keep the chain running smoothly
and quietly while greatly improving
the length of time between replacements. Conventional manual application
requires the maintenance technician to
take the escalator out of service, climb
into the pit with a gardenstyle sprayer, then run the
chains to apply lubricant.
On the other hand,
automated lubrication
allows the escalator to
remain in service while
lubricant is applied to
each chain in a designated application, reducing mechanic time in the
escalator pits, which contributes to safety.
The most common
automated lubrication
systems, which are often
factory pre-installed on
Escalators in WMATA's Dupont Circle station are some of the
longest and highest rising in the country.
the escalator, have small

reservoirs and brush systems that
apply traditional mineral oil lubricants
to the entire length of the chain. However, chains don't wear evenly. Generally, each link wears at its points of
contact with adjoining links, so much
of the lubricant in brush applicators
is wasted on areas that don't need
Additionally, mineral oil lubricants
remain wet after application and can
attract the dirt and debris in their
environment, which often speeds
The lube head of an automated lubrication system
up breakdown of the lubricant and
mounted in place over multiple escalator chains.
ultimately accelerates chain wear
through a lapping effect.
designed to be applied only to wear
In 2015, Castrol LubeCon, based in
points on the chains (pins, bushings,
White Cloud, MI, adapted an automated
etc.) where metal-to-metal contact is
lubrication system for escalators from
concentrated. Its fluid is a fast-penetratthe company's world of industrial appliing carrier, delivering protective formula
cations, including automotive plants
materials to target surfaces and then
and steel foundries. The system comevaporating, leaving the chain essenbines a larger reservoir (from approxitially dry. It doesn't attract debris, so
mately 1.5 gallons up to 55 gallons),
the chains stay clean after application.
a programmable controller with four
In 2016, WMATA tested the Castrol
independent channels and shot-to-point
LubeCon automated system for just
application of dry-film lubricant.
over 11 months at the busy Dupont
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid
Circle Metrorail station in Washington,
Transit District conducted the first sucDC. The escalators at this station are
cessful trial of this system, which then
some of the largest in North America,
was adopted by the Washington Metrorising nine stories from the train platpolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
form to the street surface.
Other installation sites now include
Castrol and WMATA mechanics
select stations at Calgary (AB) Transit,
measured the chain "take-up" at the
BC Transit, Metrolink St. Louis and MTA
New York City Transit.
The lubricant is specialized and

"Even when you make a decision on
capital investments, expect growing
pains," said AC Transit General Manager
Michael Hursh. "We now have a fleet of
29 battery-electric buses (BEB) and fuel
cell electric buses (FCEB). However, as
an early ZEB pioneer, the district initially
discovered our maintenance demands
were outpacing the resources available
from manufacturers."
We soon realized that this conundrum
got its start in the "bus-buy" process.
Considerable energy goes into procurement and planning for revenue service,
but what about the training? If we draw
the curtains on our own internal discussions during the early ZEB years,
it would have sounded a bit like this:
"The buses are here; get the training
done." Workshops and subsequent
breakout meetings during many industry conferences revealed that public
transit agencies across the nation are
facing similar dilemmas.
With the demand for California public transit agencies to move toward
a 100 percent ZEB fleet by 2040,
AC Transit learned that simply buying ZEB buses was only one part
of the equation. We recognized that
journey-level mechanics were no longer mechanics, wrenching their way
through engine and transmission issues;
they are highly specialized technicians.

Drive motors, for example, are fueled by
batteries charged from electrons
generated from a fuel cell. This new
propulsion system is replacing diesel
combustion engines. Along with other
new ZEB-based sub-systems, AC Transit had to rethink how we train.
"So, we got inventive," said AC Transit Chief Operating Officer Salvador
Llamas. "Our ingenious mechanical
technicians designed an in-house maintenance protocol. That protocol enabled
our ZEB fleet to eclipse even manufacturers' expectations. So successful,
AC Transit's ZEB fleet has clocked over
2.8 million miles in service. In fact, one
of the original fuel cell power plants
has logged more than 30,000 hours of
A successful ZEB evolution means
that training must work hand-in-glove
with the procurement process. AC Transit's Training Department was not only
an invited dinner guest, but expected to
help in preparing the feast.
Inclusion in the procurement process now means that training is better
positioned to build working and lasting
relationships with vendors (OEM and
sub-component suppliers).
Since trainers need to learn these
new systems, reliance on OEMs'
real-time experiences and practices
are essential to transforming the new

For AC Transit, mechanics are not considered 'simply' mechanics, but highly specialized technicians.

technician workforce. Additionally, the
procurement partnership ensures that
funding for training is built into the bus
buy. Earmarked funding enables OEMs
to proactively create working training
calendars, critical to launching ZEBs
into AC Transit's revenue service implementation plans.
Ultimately, the ZEB training calendar
created an inclusive training culture
of managers, trainers and technicians
assembled in one forum.
As mechanics evolved into specialized technicians, AC Transit found
that the maintenance staff required a
similar upskilling. The team developed
increased efficiencies in all tasks from
Preventative Maintenance Inspections
to troubleshooting. New training protocols permitted supervisors to increase
productivity and develop innovations,

all while adhering to safety and quality
The procurement and training partnership has so successfully enhanced
overall performance that AC Transit is
now codifying those experiences into
courses offered through our own ZEB
Unmistakably, we have learned that
employees who are competent and on
the leading edge of a changing transportation industry not only increase
morale but also reduce turnover. We
have emerged as a go-to employer for
recent graduates of training programs
and those seeking mid-career changes.
Overall, re-engineering our internal
partnership is a paradigm shift that has
helped our public transit district maintain its position as a worldwide leader in
ZEB technology.
DECEMBER 23, 2019 |



Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24

Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 1
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 2
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 3
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 4
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 5
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 6
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 7
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 8
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 9
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 10
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 11
Passenger Transport December 2019 Vol 77 No 24 - 12