What do you get when you cross an elevator with an escalator? An inclinator, of course.
These elevator cabs ascend and descend along a track at a 30 to 40 degree angle. Although not a new technology — Otis Elevator Corp., Farmington, Conn., has been manufacturing these systems for more than 30 years — inclinators are a rare breed of vertical transportation technology, especially in the U.S., where just a handful exist.
One of the latest U.S. inclinator projects took place in late 2000 at the Cityplace Station subway terminal in Dallas, the only underground facility in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system. Instead of drilling elevator shafts straight down into solid rock, the building team, which included design architect Huitt-Zollars, Dallas, and general contractor Clark Construction, Bethesda, Md., specified two inclinators that follow the 30-degree incline of the staircases and escalators from the platform to the mezzanine. The systems were custom made and installed by Chicago-based Mid-American Elevator Co. Inc. for KONE Inc., the escalator subcontractor for the project.
"The distance from the platform to the mezzanine is approximately 125 feet, which would have required a deep excavation for the elevator shafts," explains Eduardo Ugarte, assistant vice president of facilities engineering for DART. He says that although the inclinators were more expensive than elevators, the savings in excavation costs made the $1.1 million tab for purchasing and installing the inclinators a more economical solution.
In addition, the inclinators eliminated the need for long, intimidating passageways from the platform to the elevators. "So it was also done for safety reasons and for passenger comfort," adds Ugarte. "Plus, the glass-encased inclinators add an aesthetic feature."
One of the latest U.S. inclinator installations occurred in 2000 at the Cityplace Station subway facility in Dallas, where two systems were installed. Sandwiched between a set of escalators and staircases, each inclinator travels at a 30-degree angle, transporting patrons 125 feet down from the platform to the mezzanine.
Scaling Nevada's pyramid
Perhaps the most notable inclinator installation in the U.S. took place in late 1993 at the Luxor Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, where a total of 16 inclinators — four groups of four in each corner of the building — travel at a 39-degree angle up the 30-story, pyramid-shape structure (BD&C, 8/94, page 36). The building team, led by design architect Veldon Simpson, Green Valley, Nev., commissioned Otis Elevator to manufacture and install the systems.
"The Luxor was the first of its kind in terms of speed (700 feet per minute) and mass transit," says Bill Evans, vice president of sales and marketing for Otis Escalator System. "Previous installations were typically on the side of a hill, low speed and small cabs. New elevator technology was applied for this inclined system."
For example, the Luxor inclinators incorporate a microwave transmission control system. This approach eliminates the trailing control and power cable that is normally attached to elevator cabs, which would slacken when it nears the bottom.
The Luxor Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas, utilizes 16 inclinator systems to transport guest up the pyramid-shaped structure to their rooms.
According to Evans, Otis' most prominent international installation was in late 1999 at the Charles de Gaulle Etoile metro station in Paris. There, a 10-person cab travels 60 feet on a 30-degree angle at 125 fpm. "It utilizes an escalator truss and drum machine with a plastic cable chain instead of traveling cable, because it replaces an existing Otis escalator," he says.