July 2, 2018
One of America’s oldest St Patrick’s Day parades kicks off on Superior Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, a growing metropolis that pulls out all the stops when celebrating its Irish heritage. Huge crowds of revelers congregate in the downtown area for a day of pubs and parties. And, with Guinness flowing generously, public transport is packed to the gills come March 17.
Packed’ is in fact a fitting year-round description for the Tower City Rapid Station, one of Cleveland’s key transport hubs. The city’s rail lines and main bus routes converge on this ultra-busy terminal, which is integrated with a cluster of hotels, restaurants, shops and offices. The hub serves a daily average of over 30,000 commuters, with numbers surging to 100,000 on St Patrick’s Day.
In busy transit hubs, escalators are the unsung heroes that keep cities running smoothly. Few notice the humble workhorse when everything is flowing, but a stoppage can wreak havoc instantly.
Continual shutdowns were causing bottlenecks in the Tower City Center complex, where the four ageing escalators were reaching the end of their useful life.
“The original units were installed around 1981. It was critical to improve their durability to meet rising levels of daily usage and achieve compliance with current safety standards,” describes KONE Project Manager Dan Powers.
“Out with the old” was the verdict – but “in with the new” involved a catch. Due to space constraints and the need for the station to remain open, full replacement of the old units was out of the question.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) decided – with initial skepticism – to try the KONE EcoMod™ modernization solution, which enabled new-generation escalators to be fitted smoothly and efficiently without removing the original trusses.
Shamrocking the city
And there was a second catch: two very critical deadlines. “We wanted to replace the four escalators in time for the busiest traffic day of the year, St Patrick’s Day, and the Republican National Convention (RNC), which brought 50,000 people to the city,” explains Steve Hershman, GCRTA’s project manager for the modernization program.
“As the RNC was televised internationally and Cleveland was where Donald Trump accepted his party’s nomination to run for president, we wanted to ensure that people could access trains without any incidents attributable to faulty escalators,” notes Hershman.
The work was performed in two phases. The two long escalators were completed in time for St Patrick’s Day, while the two shorter units serving the mezzanine were finished one week before the RNC. KONE shut down one unit at a time and erected an eight-foot-high (2.4 meters) wall around the escalators, redirecting pedestrians during installation.
“It was a huge undertaking. A mistake would have shut down the city. We adhered to a very strict schedule and held more than the usual number of meetings to plan and coordinate every detail from barricades to storage,” recalls Powers.
More class with glass
Despite challenges, KONE delivered both pairs of escalators on time. The old equipment was upgraded to robust units complete with modern safety features. A dramatic visual improvement was achieved by switching the solid balustrades to glass.
“The project progressed extremely well. I have never seen such a dedicated, focused group of professionals who know their craft,” notes Hershman.
The GCRTA has received nothing but praise for the state-of-the-art escalators, which now provide reliable vertical transportation for commuters as well as patrons of Tower City Center for the long term.
“There’s no question this is an incredible, well-designed piece of mechanical apparatus. The escalators are now under a rigorous preventive maintenance program to ensure their longevity,” says Hershman.
In recognition of how the KONE EcoMod™ solution makes modernization easier for building owners, the Tower City Rapid Station project received Elevator World’s ‘Project of the Year’ Award earlier this year.