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With escalators out of service, Washington Heights subway riders forced to climb mountain of stairs to exit at 181st Street

Washington Heights subway riders forced to climb mountain of stairs
Washington Heights subway riders forced to climb mountain of stairs 02:26

NEW YORK -- People who take the subway in Washington Heights say they're being forced to take a hike, literally, in order to use the 181st Street station.

The MTA started a repair project that put the escalators at that location out of service for a long time. The alternative has left riders furious, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Monday. 

Gabriella Kappl was out of breath after climbing five flights of stairs to go home after getting off the A train at 181st Street. 

"It was very hard because I am pregnant and I didn't know that there were so many stairs," Kappl said. 

Other people with canes, strollers and luggage all struggled. 

Commuters are used to taking one of three escalators available for the 181st Street exit but, due to frequent outages, they need to be fixed.

The MTA said, since all three run on the one motor, they all need to be taken out of service until February.

"Can you give a little insight why it's taking nine months?" Rozner asked MTA Construction and Development President Jamie Torres Springer.

"Working our system is complicated. These escalators were not in good shape, they weren't performing well. They're all tied together in one equipment room," Springer said. 

"You could probably build a building in that time," said Anne Towne.

"My body can't handle this right now. I'm still out of breath," said Chantal Martinez. 

After commuters exit the turnstiles, they need to walk up an additional flight of stairs before they're home free. 

"I'm 80 years old. I'm in pretty good shape for 80, but this sucks. It's not fair," one woman said. 

Commuters also have the option of walking down the very long platform to the northern end of the station and taking the elevators at 184th Street. But there's a steep hill outside. 

"It's an ADA violation," Attorney Gary Mayerson said. "Work faster, put people on the job, do it 24/7, do what you have to do."

"The question becomes capacity. Meaning, can that elevator service enough people to make it that everyone's rights are being fulfilled?" said Attorney Andrew Lieb.

If there are lawsuits, Lieb said, a court would look closer at the definition of "readily accessible" and factor in whether the inconvenience of taking the elevator qualifies.

The MTA said it's working to make the northern side ADA compliant and it's fixing the escalators as fast as it can. 

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