Elevator upkeep concerns rise as the numbers in the city go up

CHICAGO — Elevators are a key part of keeping Chicago’s buildings operating but what happens when they start to age?

Keeping the 12,000 elevators, or conveyances, in Chicago’s Central District safe is a priority for the city. But buildings and elevators age it becomes a bigger challenge.

The need for elevator repair crews is so large right now that Elevator Union Local 2 continues to focus on training new workers.

Right now, the city uses third-party inspectors to do checks and inspections. The city then certifies those reports.

The head of Local 2 John Valone said more city hired inspectors are still needed to keep up with the number of elevators.

“Fifteen years ago, they had 23 inspectors and today they have 11,” Valone said. “And we have many more elevators that need to be inspected in an annual basis.”

The Department of Buildings has seen an increase in the number of permits to build or modernize elevators. A search by WGN Investigates found that in 2018, the number of permits nearly doubled from five years earlier. There were 909 permit requests in 2009 and 1,604 in 2018.

Judy Frydland oversees the department.

“We have seen a huge uptick in elevator permits which is a good thing,” she said. “It shows that people are investing in the city.”

This summer they may ask for more dollars to fund more staff but the third-party inspections are not going away any time soon.

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