Metro has reorganized its escalator division after a series of accidents and a damning independent audit found the agency wasn't following its own policies to keep the escalators working. The transit agency has appointed Rodrigo Bitar as a new general superintendent over the division as of Dec. 20, according to a memo obtained by The Washington Examiner. It marks the first major shake-up since an audit was released this fall on the system's chronic escalator and elevator breakdowns.

Recent escalator mishaps
July 12: Stopped escalators caused a near riot at the busy Dupont Circle station when a smoking escalator closed off one station entrance, pushing crowds out the remaining exit past one barricaded escalator.
July: 22: A 4-year-old girl suffered a severe hand injury after falling on a moving Metro escalator at L'Enfant Plaza.
Oct. 30: The brakes on an escalator at L'Enfant Plaza malfunctioned, bucking more than a dozen riders and causing at least six injuries.
Nov. 16: A Metro employee removed a barrier blocking an escalator under repair at the Tenleytown station, leading to at least 14 customers climbing over a four-foot gap of missing steps in the stairway, according to Metro officials. No one was hurt but it exposed customers to a safety risk at the start of the afternoon commute.

"It is imperative that new leadership emerge to bring us forward to a new standard of excellence," Assistant General Manager Dave Kubicek wrote in the memo.

No employees in the division have been fired, said Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates. "The department has been strengthened with the addition of a senior manager with extensive quality assurance experience," she said.

Bitar, a Metro employee since 2008, moved over to the new position from the agency's rail division where he worked on rail cars and helped standardize and optimize the maintenance procedures used on equipment.

This fall, an independent review from Vertical Transportation Excellence had faulted Metro for its poor maintenance practices on elevators and escalators, leading them to break down throughout the system.

The transit agency has not followed its own maintenance standards or schedules, according to the report, instead doing such things as re-lubricating oily escalator chains without cleaning them first.

The review also found the agency does not have enough supervisors to ensure the work is being done properly, and those who work there have not been adequately monitoring the maintenance.

The lack of care has led to many equipment outages and several safety lapses. In October, at least six riders were injured when brakes malfunctioned on an escalator at L'Enfant Plaza and caused the moving staircase to speed up, dumping riders in a heap.

Interim General Manager Richard Sarles had commissioned the report following complaints about the constant breakdowns that force riders to huff and puff up the staircases.