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168th Street 1 Train Elevators Cause Nightmare Commute, Riders Say

 The elevators are the only way to travel between the platform and the upper level of the station.
The elevators are the only way to travel between the platform and the upper level of the station.
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Anne Skomorowsky

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Uptown 1 train riders say they faced a commuter’s nightmare Friday morning when two of the four elevators that carry passengers from the platform to the station level at 168th Street broke down, resulting in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and 20 minute wait times to exit the station.

The elevators are the only way to go from the platform to the upper level at this station, which is among the deepest in the MTA’s system. The 181st Street 1 train station platform is also only accesible by elevator.

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, said that no issues with the 168th Street elevators were reported today. However, commuters’ pictures show jam-packed crowds waiting for the elevator.

Some people took to Twitter to vent their frustration.

“MTA even on a good day when all elevators are functioning at 168th st, it still takes 10 min. What happens if there ever was an emergency?,” wrote Maria Betzios, who said she waited 20 minutes for an elevator this morning.

Anne Skomorowsky was also caught in this morning’s crowd.

“It took me 15 minutes from 8:50 to 9:05,” Skomorowsky said. “It wasn’t just waiting, but waiting in a packed crowd of people who were shoving past each other.

Skomorowsky, who works at New York Presbyterian Hospital, has been taking the 1 train to work for almost 20 years. She said that even in the best of circumstances, she regularly waits in lines 60 people deep to get on an elevator.

After a similar elevator incident two years ago, Skomorowsky also grew concerned about safety. She complained to a station agent and asked what people could do in case of an emergency if the elevators weren’t working. Skomorowsky said she was told that there is a fire exit near the elevators, but that only the FDNY can unlock it.

“It’s not a fire escape if you can’t use it,” Skomorowsky said. “If the elevators were not working and there was a fire, deaths would be inevitable.” 

Ortiz said the station has a 15-flight emergency staircase that is kept locked to decrease criminal activity and prevent homeless people from living in it. However, Ortiz said that the station agent, who serves the 1 and A train stations, could unlock the exit in the case of an emergency.

“There is an intercom that customers can use to contact the agent in the case of an emergency at which time the agent can unlock the doors,” he said in an email.

However, Skomorowsky said that this information is very small comfort. She noted that the agent at the 1 train station was removed two years ago.

“That’s very small comfort,” she said. “If I’m not aware that there’s any agent I can reach because all I know is that the booth was removed two years ago, that’s not going to help me.”