“Closed for maintenance” is an all-too familiar phrase for Jordan Schulz.
So he decided to do something about the seemingly endless maintenance of the University of Alberta LRT escalators the best way he knows how – by taking the data and using it to provide a public service.
Earlier this year, Schulz launched UofAEscalator — a parody website mocking the fact that the escalators at the University LRT station are almost always down (or so it appears).
Schulz was surprised when the website went viral.
“The university picked it up, a couple of people posted it to Reddit and social media, and within those first couple of days, I had 5,000 unique hits. From a joke perspective, it got a little more popularity than I thought it would get,” said the 21-year-old electrical engineering student at the University of Alberta.
Schulz then went to work on another website, YEGLRT, which tracks elevator and escalator maintenance at 12 other Edmonton LRT stations. He previously worked on a co-op with the city, creating information boards at Southgate LRT station. He still had access to the information data, and used that to create the website.
“It’s really more for people with disabilities, and really that’s primarily why that information is out there. When I developed the information (this summer), it was built in a way so the city could take the information and post it online, but nothing ever came of that,” Schulz said, adding that he always takes the stairs, regardless of escalator status.
“So I thought why don’t I make the site and post it on my own dime as a public service. I think it would be really frustrating (as a disabled person) if you get to an LRT station and the elevator’s not working.
Transportation General Manager Bob Boutilier applauds the idea.
“I think it is a good idea in particular, because I know there is a certain part of the society that needs the escalator,” he told Metro.
The website updates automatically, in real time, from the city’s data, and each station update is automatically tweeted from its corresponding Twitter account.
“It took the city about a week to figure out I was the one doing it, and my old boss emailed me asking, ‘is this you?’ They don’t have a problem with it,” Schulz said.
As for the escalators, several at Grandin and University station will be out until the spring while the city undergoes maintenance to replace the steps, which have to be ordered from the USA. According to the city, these escalators are over 20 years old. The escalators at University are the most heavily used, as the station sees 30,000 passengers every weekday.
The city also posts scheduled escalator maintenance online.