weather icon Partly Cloudy

Strip escalators and elevators never seem to work. Here’s why.

Updated October 12, 2020 - 8:04 am

Rarely does a day go by without a Strip elevator or escalator out of service.

Between routine maintenance, cleaning and vandalism, the machines face a number of hurdles that deter smooth operations.

For some, taking the stairs instead is just a sweaty inconvenience. For those who use scooters or wheelchairs, a paused elevator or escalator can foil vacation plans.

“You just cross your fingers and hope (the elevator’s) going to work,” said St. Louis resident Maria Barnes, who visits with her scooter-using husband. “If we go (to Las Vegas) again and run into the problem that we ran into the last visit or two, we’ll probably start saying, ‘Eh, let’s skip it.’ We’ll go to our son’s (home in Phoenix) or go to San Diego. We’ll do something else.

‘A lot of work’ to maintain

The vast majority of Strip bridges, excluding The Venetian’s private pedestrian bridge, are maintained by Clark County.

In total, the county is in charge of keeping 23 elevators and 48 escalators clean and operational, which is no small feat.

Despite diminished foot traffic from the pandemic, taking care of the lifts is still a “nonstop” operation, according to Dave Pritchard, Clark County’s supervising construction management inspector.

Each elevator and escalator is serviced both monthly and annually, he said. The monthly service takes an hour or two for each elevator and up to four hours for escalators.

“They go through and check all the safety switches. They do some cleaning in the upper and lower pits just to make sure it’s lubricated, adjusted correctly, and ready to operate for the public,” Pritchard said.

The annual clean-downs are even more extensive, with contractors taking apart each step on the escalators to clean out the lint, grease and other spills inside the machine.

Pritchard said the machines accumulate a lot of debris since they are outdoors.

“The landscape or debris needs to be cleaned out,” he said. “People drop things on the escalator. … There’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining.”

In addition to the routine service and cleanings, the elevators and escalators are regularly down because of misuse. Each escalator has a number of safety switches that are designed to shut the machine down if it senses it is being used incorrectly, and some users take to gratuitously hitting the escalator’s off button.

Pritchard said the machines also suffer vandalism, resulting in issues like broken glass inside the elevators.

“We have something down pretty much every day, from some kind of vandalism, repair or service,” he said.

‘Quite an inconvenience’

Barnes said she and her husband visit Las Vegas about once a year and enjoy exploring different casinos up and down the Strip. It was much easier five years ago, before her husband suffered a stroke. Now, he uses a scooter to navigate the Strip.

Barnes used to consider maintenance issues with elevators and escalators an annoyance but said now it limits the couple’s vacation plans.

“It was quite an inconvenience,” she said. “We kept running into elevators and escalators, in a couple of cases, that were broken down. You’re going further through and around and up and down (the Strip) to get someplace, and oh, that one’s not working, so you have to go to another (elevator). … It was so frustrating.”

The two have taken to preparing their walking routes in advance so they can find the shortest distance between casinos. But broken-down elevators throw a wrench in those plans and make certain casinos difficult to get to.

Ted Newkirk, founder of gaming and tourism tips website Access Vegas, said broken-down escalators and elevators have been a recurring problem for tourists for years. Even for those who don’t use scooters, climbing long flights of stairs in triple-digit weather can sour visitors’ vacations.

“They love them when they work. The old days of waiting to cross the street and dodging cars have become a thing of the past,” he said. “However, since there is no other alternative to get across the street, they are a significant impediment when not working.”

Pritchard said the county tries its best to minimize the impact of out-of-service machines.

“We don’t want to have an elevator or escalator down at the same time, just to minimize the impact to the public,” he said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Circa upping the ante for sportsbooks

Industry watchers say Circa’s glamorous new offering will put pressure on other properties to invest in their sportsbooks, even as the lion’s share of many sportsbooks’ revenue comes from online bets.