Arlington to remove Rosslyn skywalk escalators

Controversy is brewing in Arlington over a set of escalators that will soon disappear from the Rosslyn Metro station.

The county is moving them out so a new store can move in.

The escalators in question are not the main set leading to the tracks, but one that takes people "up to" and "down from" the skywalk.

The North Rosslyn Civic Association has been pleading with the county for a year to save the escalators. Those who ride the escalator say they can't imagine life without it.

Jennifer Zeien,the North Rosslyn Civic Association president, has been using it for about two decades.

"This escalator is probably preventing heart attacks frankly," Zeien said.

Giving commuters, like Zeien, a break.

Many North Rosslyn residents trek about 50 feet above the metro station, by way of the skywalk, to their homes.

North Rosslyn Civic Association Board Member Paul Derby said, "I would never dream of trying to walk across Ft. Meyer Drive. It's just too dangerous, and when this escalator is taken out, I'm not sure what the path will be."

Arlington County's Metro Service Coordinator{ }Lynn Rivers backs the decision to pull the escalators out for a staircase and commuter store.

"Well, they'll be able to access the escalator that's within the mall. That's literally only a minute...not even a minute walk away from the current escalator," Rivers added.

A commuter store is currently housed inside the Rosslyn Mall. About 250 riders go into the store daily to buy tickets, get schedules and ask questions.

Rivers said, "People know about it, but considering the growth we're expecting with all the developments coming on board, it's better to have it right at the street, right where people are accessing the transit system and that's for both bus and rail."

Rosslyn is Metro's busiest station in Virginia, with a nearly 23 percent bump in ridership in the past decade.

The new store will be located on the ticketing level and will be funded by the commercial development moving in next door.

But not everyone is buying the need for change.

Charles Niemeier of North Rosslyn said, "It would be nice to have a Metro store, but I'm not sure why they would need to take the escalator out to do that."

Others fear this is just the beginning of more inconveniences.

"The trend seems to be over time to remove the skywalks...," Derby said. "...if the escalator is taken out then that will be justification to remove yet another skywalk, and so it's working in reverse for the trend for safety for the people.

County leaders say they weighed all their options when it came to the store's location, and this was the best choice.

Metro Spokesman Philip Stewart issued this statement about the escalators' removal:

"Arlington County sought to relocate the Commuter Store to make it more accessible and convenient to transit customers using the Rosslyn Station. In our review of the proposal, Metro determined the escalator was lightly used and access to the skywalk was already provided by both an escalator and an elevator in the immediately adjacent retail space. Given that access would be maintained, we supported the County’s initiative."