I won't lie, I wouldn't go past the full wall section of that platform. That's a pretty long way to fall if one were to lose consciousness or was pushed off. But I do love the station for photo ops, both on the ground and on the platform. Do only problem is the boringness of it being just 1 train type running on it.
lol... I was thinking the exact same thing yesterday while waiting for the doors to close at that station. I said no way in hell would I wait in those areas. It doesn't take much to go over. One misstep in fact. The thing about the new renovations at some of the elevated stations is they're too open in that regard, having the spacing and such between the walls.
181st on the is also quite deep aswell. But to answer your original question, there are quite a few elevators at each station. Not sure if you just started riding the , but they do infact breakdown. I wouldn't say frequently, but probably about one a year. IMO the MTA should replace them... They're very slow, sometimes stop midway, break down once a year, and have no A/C. Meh at least they can support 30 people. It really needs too.
I've used those stations off and on over the years, but only when I feel like offering private tutoring lessons up there. Select areas of Washington Heights is tolerable so I'll go if the area is okay. Just started up there again a few weeks ago. I guess my main gripe is the whole elevator thing. I find them rather annoying because you have people constantly running to get on so they don't miss the train, holding everyone else up who is also trying not to miss the train. lol They should offer other options to get into those stations.
I can barely tolerate being in them for the short time that I'm in them but I can't imagine being in one and it breaking down.