The DRPA board approved an emergency resolution providing $50,000 for an interim maintenance contract to replace the contract that expired July 31.
DRPA chief executive John Matheussen acknowledged "there was a failure, no doubt, on the part of staff, and that failure has compromised the use of escalators and elevators" at PATCO stations.
"We let PATCO customers down and we apologize," Matheussen said Monday afternoon. "Our customers deserve much more from us. . . . This should never have happened, and we're working to make sure it never happens again."
PATCO is likely to temporarily contract with Otis Elevator Co., the company that held the contract before it lapsed. Bids for a new three-year contract are supposed to be received by Sept. 3.
Last week, elevators or escalators - or both - were broken at seven of PATCO's 13 stations, The Inquirer reported Sunday. Two other stations have no elevators or escalators.
By Monday, escalators at the Ashland, Westmont, Collingswood, and Broadway stations in Camden County had been fixed, PATCO said.
Still out were escalators at the Eighth and Market, 12th-13th and Locust, and 15th-16th and Locust stations in Center City, and elevators at 15th-16th and Broadway.
PATCO passengers, especially the elderly, the handicapped, and those with baby strollers, said they found it difficult to cope with the outages. One customer, Constance Lyford of Center City, filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which has provided millions of dollars to PATCO to make its stations more accessible.
"I am 70 years old and have COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]," Lyford wrote. "While the steps are not impossible, they are very difficult for me."
The FTA will evaluate the complaint, and if it finds PATCO is not complying with the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, it will work with PATCO to correct the problems within a specified time. If voluntary efforts fail, the FTA could cut off federal aid to the transit agency.
PATCO's stated goal is to have all escalators in operation at least 90 percent of the time and all elevators at least 97 percent of the time.
Recently, the rail line has missed that goal by a wide margin.
In June, PATCO escalators were out of service one-third of the time. The south escalator at the busy Eighth and Market station in Center City was out of service the entire month. The escalator at the 12th-13th station was so badly damaged in June it will be demolished and replaced, said Rink, who became PATCO general manager in late 2011.
In the long term, PATCO plans to install elevators at all of its stations. The elevators are supposed to be in place by 2017, at a cost of about $15 million.
In other business Monday, the DRPA board approved the borrowing of up to $550 million to pay for major construction and vehicle costs on its four toll bridges and the PATCO rail line.
That will replenish the agency's capital fund and allow it to move ahead with urgently needed projects such as a $103 million reconstruction of the PATCO line on the Ben Franklin Bridge.
The borrowing will increase the DRPA's debt to about $1.6 billion. Payment on debt and related costs makes up about half of the DRPA's annual expenses.
The new borrowing will not require an increase in bridge tolls, DRPA officials have said.
Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or email@example.com