What’s an ETEC? Why Does Their Storage Cost 7.5x More Than the Actual Device?

Odds are, Washingtonians, you recognize these boxes from Metro. But what are they?

ETEC stands for Emergency Tunnel Evacuation Carts — and these are the storage cabinets where they are kept.

WMATA describes them as follows:

To reach most Emergency Tunnel Evacuation Carts, Fire/Rescue personnel must walk the narrow walkways leading from the ends of station platforms to ancillary rooms situated inside the tunnels. This can be time consuming and can impede Fire/Rescue personnel carrying heavy equipment and supplies from reaching an emergency scene, and, consequently, from moving injured patrons and employees to safety. By relocating all ETEC carts and their protective cabinets to the ends of the platforms, Fire/Rescue services can find the ETEC’s faster, and have more workspace (on the platform) to handle the ETEC, and move it onto the rails where they can load it with equipment and supplies. The results of this effort will be the standardization of ETEC storage locations throughout the Metrorail System. Estimated cost (in 2009 dollars) for a new ETEC is $800. The estimated cost (in 2009 dollars) to procure and install ETEC lockers in stations is $6,000 per locker.

Why we need to spend $6,000 on lockers for an $800 cart is beyond me. Metro Stations have ample storage space near the operator’s booth where the bathrooms are. The “narrow” rooms at the end of the platforms seem fine to me too. I’m not saying relocate the ones we’ve already wasted money on, just don’t waste money relocating them if we have them. (If we don’t, come up with a more cost effective storage plan.)

I think we can safely assume we don’t actually need lockers at 7.5 times the cost of the actual device. It’s not like ETEC Carts are guns that need to be locked up safely.

I wonder if unionized labor has anything to do with high installation costs. One wonders.

Either way, given WMATA’s financial woes, this seems like a really big waste of money.

UPDATE: Twitter user Metro Rider shares this look into an ETEC locker.

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