Three escalators, all temporarily going the same direction
Photo by Laurie O’Neill, from Slowly She Turned, reprinted with permission

Back in 2016, I wrote a couple petulant whines about the failure to make optimal use of escalators at Capitol Hill Station and UW Station. My screeds have so far gone unheeded.

Last Saturday morning, as thousands of march attendees took the train to Capitol Hill Station, the up escalators leading out of the station were a bottleneck. On top of that, extra trains were arriving from both directions, with the vast majority of their passengers alighting, filling up the platform much faster than any evening peak rush, over an extended period.

The small handful of passengers trying to get down to the platforms had mostly-empty elevators available at each end of the station. They had no need of the escalators, and they were not using them.

The left escalator was in service, but with nobody using it, before the Women’s March.
Credit: Alex Garland / Capitol Hill Seattle, reprinted with permission

There are no legal obstacles to temporarily reversing escalators for large crowds trying to leave the station, and certainly no technical challenges, as ST has reversed escalators many times, albeit not to have both in a pair go the same direction. Per Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason:

Sound Transit reviews and plans for upcoming major events that may have a significant impact on transit operations. As part of this process, Sound Transit and our operating partners debrief high-impact event operations to review and consider any improvements that may enhance operations during future similar events. Since each event is planned for and reviewed on a case by case basis, the protocol – and any modifications that might results from this process – would vary accordingly.

Reversing escalators would allow large crowds to get where they are going several minutes faster. But the case for reversing escalators to get passengers out of the station is much stronger than for getting passengers into the station.

The large crowd on the platform Saturday morning was becoming a fire safety hazard. Clearing that hazard by allowing faster egress could save lives. Enabling more passengers to fill up the platform faster, by having more escalators headed down, would have the opposite effect.

Sound Transit has done an excellent job controlling entrances to stations during post-event crushloads, and getting those waiting to enter the station to form a phalanx outside. Controlling crowds entering the station before an event requires holding trains, which is logistically more difficult.

For the sake of Vision Zero, I will once again beg Sound Transit Operations to seriously consider reversing some station escalators during run-ups to major events in order to avoid overwhelming the station platforms.

73 Replies to “Escalator Direction Matters:
Capitol Hill Edition”

  1. Seems like this problem will only get worse over time, as longer trains arriving more frequently becomes the norm.

    1. Events of 20,000 people that occur at stations other than Stadium or UW, which are designed to handle large crowds, happen once a year or less. The Torchlight Parade is the most regular one that comes to mind, and I haven’t heard that it overwhelms the stations. And for events away from stations like at Seattle Center, crowds that size can’t get to the stations all at once; the have to come in smaller batches. So it will get somewhat worse but it won’t get more often, unless there’s a huge uptick in the number and size of demonstrations.

      1. Are you sure Stadium station was designed to handle large crowds? Sure doesn’t seem like it after a Mariners game. I would think at minimum a station designed to handle large crowds would avoid having the pedestrian entries and exits cross the tracks.

      2. Should I say, it was designed to handle “large” crowds? I don’t attend games so I’ve only seen the crowds while passing through on Link. I’ve seen the platform well-used but not at capacity. I don’t know how many trains you have to wait to get on one immediately after a game. Can somebody answer that?

  2. This would make sense only if there were stair options. Unfortunately, Sound Transit made the asinine decision to not put stairs down to the platforms at Capitol Hill and UW, veering from the standard of literally every other near-surface rail station in the world.

    And what’s more, apparently it’s illegal to walk on an unmoving escalator, so when any escalator breaks down Sound Transit blocks it off and forces people to use another entrance or take the elevator. That wouldn’t be a problem if there was a parallel stairway route. Amazing incompetence went into the design of these stations.

    1. The stations do have stairs. They are marked “Emergency Exit Only”. ST could open up those stairs for special occasions, just like they have done permanently at SeaTac Airport Station.

      Any available stairwell not barred off by this notice was also being used by riders exiting the station. So, that still wouldn’t have provided a second option for riders entering the station.

      But the elevators were more than sufficient to get riders entering the station to the platform, at least last Saturday morning. Are there particular riders who can’t use elevators?

      1. Why limit them to emergencies? Why not just have them always be open? Is ST worried about drug use in them?

    2. ST does occasionally stop escalators without closing them; I’ve walked up and down them several times. It may have to do with why the escalator isn’t moving, or at least that’s the reason ST gives for sometimes keeping some escalators closed for longer than other times. E.g., if it’s just for maintenance reasons or somebody caught a handbag in it, it may not require an inspection, but if somebody caught a shoelace in it or fell down it then it does require an inspection to verify it’s safe to operate.

      1. This over regulation of escalator “safety” are some BS rules our state legislature needs to take an ax to, too bad they are wasting their time on this car tabs crap. Our country always obsesses over the safety of already safe things or things with a minuscule number of injuries while not batting an eyelash to the real safety hazards known as cars and guns.

    3. Agreed, the lack of staircases is a design flaw, and a surprising large one. I have to assume that there was some design related reason, I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t.

      It’s a flaw we will be living with for a long time. God forbid the escalators go out on both sides of Capitol Hill Station. It would take a long time to clear the platform with the elevators.

    4. If ST has to evacuate the station and some escalators are broken, all hesitation about opening them as stairs will be forgotten. (Unless something really puts them out, like a wobbly step that may slip and detach.)

    5. Agreed. Ill take the DSTT station designs with their 1 escalator/1 stair per entry anyday over the escalator-only failed designs of UW and Capitol Hill. Just wait until these stations and their escalators age and have constant breakdowns. You arent going fit 300 people in an elevator at once.

      1. You must not walk down them all the time. It makes it look like we cut corners on transit in ways that a department store or shopping mall would never do, as adjacent Nordstrom shows, because people would look at that and say, “I’m not spending my money in a store like that.” Major metro systems, which we should aspire to and be optimistic rather than pessimustic about our potential transit mode share, also don’t have stairs-only in one direction.

  3. Complaining about ST escalator flows is not a petulant whine. There seems to be a mentality in ST design that any escalator is merely nice to have — and that they cannot be worthy of criticism for that reason. You are simply seeing how naive this attitude is and why escalators are so important.

    It’s also true that our expanding 75K-daily light rail system is supposed to double in demand in just 7 years, and grow about four-fold by 2035. While new stations will serve these riders, just as many existing stations will also serve these riders — so imagine each existing station with two to four times more people using it! Finally, ST is planning on forcing transfers between trains, with no level line-to-line transfer platforms anywhere in the early station concepts — adding even more riders onto platform escalators.

    Yet, nowhere is station escalator capacity appearing to be discussed or evaluated. Even the recent escalator failure uproar ended up being presented as a maintenance problem, and not a capacity problem.

    Special events are a harbinger of this glaring system deficiency, and ST’s failure to explicitly budget for more escalators inside existing stations in ST3 will mean that our escalator capacity problems will only get significantly worse. At the very least, planning money from each extension should evaluate existing station escalators for capacity and flow — with the extension projects budgeting and correcting this looming problem.

    1. ” imagine each existing station with two to four times more people using it! Finally, ST is planning on forcing transfers between trains, with no level line-to-line transfer platforms anywhere”

      Is there anyone on the Board that rides Link even weekly? Is there anyone on the Board that even anticipates relying on Link in their lifetime?

      It’s pretty obvious to any frequent transit user that Link, so far, is designed as a toy train.

    2. “Is there anyone on the Board that rides Link even weekly?”

      Is there any evidence they don’t? I’m sure Rob Johnson, transit enthusiast and working in Seattle City Hall, rides it several times a week, at least within downtown if not elsewhere.

      I’m tired of the refrain “I bet ST boardmembers and high-level Metro managers don’t take transit” because there’s no evidence either way. I don’t know if they don’t, but you don’t know if they do. We only know about the couple people who publicly say they use transit often.

  4. “The large crowd on the platform Saturday morning was becoming a FIRE SAFETY HAZARD! Clearing that hazard by allowing faster egress could save lives. Enabling more passengers to fill up the platform faster, by having more escalators headed down, would have the opposite effect.”

    I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but I’m getting powerful reverberations of the end of Train 501. Somebody’s budget just didn’t have enough money for even one supervisor, or Security guard, to stand at the bottom of every escalator with one hand on the reversing switch.

    With crowds like that, should’ve been a lot more than one. Had a Kaiser engineer once tell me that these escalators were designed to be reversible. Except after twenty years of not doing it, the machinery had worn to the point it couldn’t be done anymore. But we’re not talking old escalators here.

    What we’ve got is a reflex attitude getting so bad it’s really starting to make everything administrative hereabout smell old. Same as with 501. Numbers on a balance sheet unconnected to their literally deadly significance. In a city that has never been so rich! And where the Hell was the Fire Department?

    Brent, have you cc’d anybody with this information? Just out of well deserved spite, should go into The Seattle Times. But doubt they’d even print it. Because watching Senator O’ban ignore a fatal train-wreck in his own district, I’m pretty sure transit’s enemies know they don’t have to miss a coffee-break.

    A multiple plaintiff wrongful death action should soon de-fund every passenger conveyance on wheels in the Sound Transit district. Any of us ever sees this happen again, call the Fire Department.

    Mark Dublin

    1. And multiply that crowd size by 2 when East Link and Northgate Link as well as Federal Way Link and Lynnwood Link (hopefully) are open on 7 years.– and lots more marchers use those lines and get off on more frequent four-car trains.

  5. I recall my first visit to Macy’s in New York City during the Christmas season sometime in the mid-20th century.
    My surprise was the brace of burly men at the bottom of every down escalator.
    Their purpose was to physically lift and move aside anyone who was not exiting fast enough.
    The flow of humanity from the above floors was like water over Snoqualmie Falls in January;
    any obstruction would be catastrophic.

    IMO, Seattle still has a somewhat bemused shopping mall attitude toward escalators.
    The single-wides are especially telling of the prevailing bewilderment of what escalators are for.

    AL S, I completely agree with you but anyone at ST who could remedy things will be collecting a pension in 2035, and probably be doing it outside of ST service area.
    Yes, they work hard and they mean well, but…

    1. OMG, the mentality of some people on escalators drives me nuts. This isn’t some festival themed mall with the smell of Hot Dog on a Stick in the air, dont stand in the middle of the escalator, stand to the side, how oblivious can people be???

  6. Having just come from DC (where the picture is from), I’d give their escalator management an A compared to ST’s escalator (and elevator) management grade of D-.

    Having the three escalators, the purpose of which obviously being the ability to have a 2-up 1-down configuration during peak hours or still being able to have two working escalators when one goes down, is something I haven’t seen before (‘cuz I’m used to Sound Transit). They also don’t close broken escalators unless people are working on it right now, or it’s in an unusable condition. Otherwise, broken escalators = stairs in DC.

    From what I can tell, DC has high escalator uptime (anecdotally, from a four-day trip) and high escalator resiliency. ST has neither.

    Meanwhile, when it comes to elevators, the TIBS elevator seems to be broken half the time, and ST’s only solution for disabled people is seriously to ride to the next station and take the A-line (which really should be an ADA violation if it isn’t already).

    Additionally, the cross-platform transfers in DC (at L’Enfant plaza and a few others) are really good, probably something that will only exist for the ST3 Westlake station in our dreams.

    1. We very easily could have two cross-platform transfer platforms possible at SODO — if ST would only change the initial ST3 design to a three-level station! The cost impact is probably considerably less than $20M:

      – one level for the station entrance
      – one level above that for southbound trains to West Seattle and SeaTac/Tacoma
      – one level above that for northbound trains to Ballard and UW/Snohomish

      DONE!

    2. DC has 31 inoperable escalators today – to their credit (after tons of complaints) they post status updates online. I’m not sure how many in the system total, but they have had a lot of problems with uptime. I was a frequent visitor 2013-2016 and found at least 1 inoperable escalator on nearly every subway trip.

      However, as you noted having 3 escalators can help with the issue, something DC thought ahead on (as well as designing 600′ station platforms .

      1. DC has 618 escalators in the system. https://www.wmata.com/service/elevators-escalators/

        The typical design in DC is, for each entrance to a subway station, 2-3 escalators from the street down to a mezzanine and then 2 escalators from the mezzanine to the platform (and of course many stations have 2 platforms). So that’s around ten escalators per entrance per typical station. Roughly 30 escalators at the major transfer stations.

        I don’t think regular DC commuters have anything favorable to say about the escalator uptime.

      2. I actually do remember a few escalators that weren’t working. I guess I just didn’t notice it as much because I just walked up them like stairs, because in DC they let you do that.

      3. Speaking of, I’m super disappointed with ST’s 400′ stations. I feel like this is mistake we’ll live to regret.

      4. 400′ stations predates ST, I believe. We’re committed to 400′ length trains due to the size of the DSTT, which would be a decision the city & county made in .. the 70s? I think it’s held up just fine.

    3. ST’s escalators have parts rated for thirty years that are breaking in one year, immediately after the escalators’ warranties expired. ST is investigating how that happened and how it could have been avoided. It sounds like ST accepted a shoddy low bid from a fly-by-night company, and the law may have required it take the lowest bid. Stay tuned to see what the result is.

      1. This specifically applies to UW Station and Capitol Hill Station.

        I haven’t heard anything about Angle Lake station’s escalators.

  7. I have noticed that the escalators are out of service less often at UWS compared to just six months ago. Something has changed for the better. It used to be an everyday issue, and now it feels (somewhat) uncommon.

    Also, as a Husky season ticket holder, I feel ST has really upped their game when it comes to crowd management…they did an excellent, seemingly miraculous job at getting people from the stadium to the train this year. A+ . However, when Northgate comes online, how in the heck are they going to pull it off? Right now they’re dealing with empty, waiting trains, and everyone going the same direction. I can’t imagine how things will work in the future.

    1. I think having people depart in two directions will make it easier? When games end (either evenings or Sat afternoon), the number of people on Northgate bound trains should be pretty minimal.

      And once East Link opens and frequency at UW station effectively doubles, I think they will have no problem pushing people through the station. I think they’ll be able to basically run all the escalators downwards and 4-car trains coming every 3 minutes (every 6 minutes, each way) should be able to clear the crowds on the platform pretty easily. Having only two small station entrances functions as an effective limiter

      1. I would have to disagree with you AJ. The bottleneck discussed here is the capacity of the escalators (and associated elevators and stairs) much more than it is the capacity of the platform. Even though there may be more train capacity in the system to take passengers away from the station platform, the escalator bottleneck problem will get worse as more people choose Link because it will go quickly to more places in the future..

      2. I didn’t even think about that part…there will be 2 destinations (lines) to choose from. That might complicate things a bit.

      3. Some existing riders at UW Station will switch to U-District and Roosevelt Stations when they open. The impact at Capitol Hill Station is more mixed and harder to predict.

  8. Well, at least those impacted commuters queuing for the inadequate escalators will have $50 million* of artwork to distract them from their wait times. Just this month, ST’s Capital Committee issued two motions authorizing contracts for art installations of $650k and $610k for the Overlake Village station pedestrian bridge and the U District station respectively.

    *2018 TIP STart budget

    All snarkiness aside, I agree with most of the commentary thus far and would give ST a grade of C- on their design and management of their vertical conveyances.

    1. It’s a law in WA that all new public construction have 0.5% of the budget dedicated to art. This has been on the books for years. Go visit any school, library, etc.

      1. With regard to ST it’s actually 1% of construction costs excluding tunneling.

        Of course, without a full audit of the agency by the SAO we won’t really know if the agency is in compliance. It’s difficult to get to the total construction costs (in YOE$) with the necessary exclusions.

      2. Great so whats 1% of $54,000,000,000?… That’s $540,000,000 blown on ugly art. Its not money spent on making the station designs nicer, it going out and commissioning works of worthless “art” to be plopped around transit property.

        Transit is being shaken down to fund special interests.

      3. There are dollar limits on the 1% for art program, $750k, I think. And lots of more expensive elements don’t have a 1% art requirement. It’s not a material amount of money and it makes the stations nicer to use.

    2. To be fair, I believe 1% for art is the law. So they are required to put art pieces in. But I’d rather have an extra escalator.

      1. Correct, ST has a 1% art requirement.

        Now, it would be nice if ST could figure out how to use that 1% to create beautiful art that is also functional, rather than art that has aesthetics but no utility….

  9. I presume SoundTransit didn’t just guess and did actually model how many elevators/escalators are necessary at its new stations right? Did anyone on STB ever review that and what were your impressions?

    I’d be curious to what’s going to happen in the future when two fully loaded four car trains arrive at a busy new center platform station like Capitol Hill/UW/UD. That’s 2,000 people arrive and needing to clear th station before the next trains arrive, which in future might be in 3 minutes. Sounds like it could become a painful transit experience.

    1. The escalator capacity is calculated for normal times. A 20,000 person demonstration at Cal Anderson Park is not a normal time. It’s not a place that regularly gets huge crowds like Stadium station and UW station.

    2. A fire emergency is also not a normal time.

      That case is what fire safety standards (NFPA 130) use as the amount of people that need to be evacuated, which includes passengers in two crush loaded trains and people waiting to board on the platform. Station egress must be designed such that a platform with that many people can be cleared in 4 minutes or less, and passengers reach a point of safety within 6 minutes.

      Though in the case of fire, people also have access to emergency stairways.

      1. While important, a fire emergency analysis is not a capacity analysis for operating conditions. In an emergency like that, there aren’t more trains with more exiting riders arriving every 90 seconds. The trains would instead be held outside the stations.

    3. I have reviewed may ST documents but I cannot find a single one that discusses escalator capacity or operations.

      Capitol Hill Station already has about 16,000 people (8,000 boardings) coming into or out of the station on average each weekday according to the latest Quarterly Ridership Report. I cannot find a report to see how much demand will be at the station in 2025 when Northgate, Lynnwood, Eastside and Federal Way extensions are operating. I would think that the activity could double.

      Escalator capacity is like pancake batter. It seems to flow well with the amount of liquid in the bowl, but it can only take 20 or 30 percent more pancake mix to turn it into a mixture than can barely flow. Coupled with that, higher-volume trains arriving more frequently can easily create a real hazard as escalators cannot vacate the people off the platform before another train arrives.

      If a train is arriving every three minutes in each direction, that’s 90 seconds between arriving trains. That’s 40 trains an hour. Field studies say that the observed maximum escalator capacity in Germany (aka “crush load”) is generally about 100 people a minute, or 6000 riders an hour (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352146514000738) although these users are seasoned and German escalators operate at faster speeds than American escalators generally do. In other words, the crush for ST is for 100-150 people on average to be getting off each train (at 90 seconds) when only one escalator is operating. That’s 25-37 people per car when we go to four-car trains. If both escalators are operating, that’s 50-75 people per car if equally distributed, but that’s rather unlikely so I would put it at about 40-60 per car.

      And keep in mind that if a platform doesn’t clear, it will back up further until no one can get on or off the platform. Imagine being unable to get out of your train at the station you want because the platform is too crowded! Imagine being worried that you’ll get pushed onto the tracks because there are so many people! Imagine that paramedics won’t be able to get through a crowd to help someone if needed! Keep in mind too that this is deep underground — so there aren’t any access alternatives and solutions must be designed, budgeted and constructed years ahead of the opening date.

      ST has not revealed what analyses they are doing on escalators and elevators in their current system planning effort that is supposedly happening now. I’m not sure of how to get ST to take notice of this potentially major — and dangerous — problem and analyze it. It make take the Fire Dept to stand up and demand something!

    4. Al – I was very involved in the initial segment of Light rail as an activist, attending most sound transit board meetings for several years. Not once did I ever hear talk of escalators. As you are finding, the light rail system as designed is woefully inadequate. If 2 escalators can’t clear a platform at this early stage, imagine when North Link opens to Northgate. And not having stairs open to the public and only designed for emergency use also seems pretty wasteful. I’m actually writing a book about all of this because I support transit but Seattle deserves better.

    5. They seem to do an outstanding job of having both northbound and southbound trains arrive at the same time at Capitol Hill station to fully overwhelm the 2 escalators. You get to see the full glory of the poor Capitol Hill station design. All it takes is some oblivious person who has never used an escalator outside a mall before to stand in the middle of the escalator to reduce that crush capacity even further.

      1. The schedule is dictated by the need to have the proper amount of layover time at the UW Station, while ensuring that there can never be two trains already parked at the station, while a 3rd train is approaching. The schedule will probably be re-jiggered again in 2021 when Northgate becomes the terminus, and luck of the draw says that the two trains will likely pass by a different times.

      2. Actually, we can look forward to a schedule re-jigger in September 2019, when the buses get kicked out of the DSTT. Trains will not be held up by buses at the platform and will be allowed to move a little faster in the tubes.

        Longer trains are coming to the CHS platforms when Northgate Station opens. Trains coming twice as often will happen when East Link opens, if not sooner.

        The reality is that ST will have to figure out how to clear 8 LRVs full of passengers out of the station, every 4 minutes, by 2023.

        If nothing else, consider opening up one of the emergency stairwells, as has been done permanently at SeaTac Airport Station.

      3. Yes, it’s crowded, but it’s only a thing for an hour or so at rush…and I’ve never been to a city where that isn’t the case in a subway station near the city center. It feels very normal.

  10. Why is it that spokespeople around the nation — from right-wingers to howling Socialists –seem to say something meaningful only when their respective mothers die?

    Instead of “That sounds intriguing” or “The agency has looked at that and rejected it for now.” or even “Thank you. I’ll pass the idea along,”

    Nope, it’s always a bloviation of Delphic gobble-de-gook meant to bury the idea.

    Disgusting.

  11. This station is only 65 feet deep.

    This is shallow enough to allow for a pedestrian tunnel to be bored from the center platform south and/or north to additional station entrances.

    At a 5% grade, 300 feet of incline gets you a rise of 15 feet, which should be enough to get above the train tunnels. From there additional connections could go in a number of directions.

    It seems to me that is what a number of underground stations do: instead of having one huge high capacity entrance they have a number of lower capacity ones scattered over a decent sized area.

    1. Exactly, Glenn. Sound Transit needs to hire some one who has designed stations for New York or London.

      1. I mean aren’t NYC/London stations super shallow? That’s why they don’t have these kinds of problems.

      2. The early London stations were shallow but later stations were really deep. Initially the deep-level stations were elevator only. But escalators became the standard and were added to existing stations. What they mean by doing what London did is have multiple banks of escalators, not just a pair.

        https://www.davros.org/rail/culg/vertical.html

        As for NYC, they don’t have many escalators but stations are shallow and they have a lot of exits to the street as opposed to one or two like later subways.

    2. I feel like this still doesn’t address the main bottlenecks of the issue – how do you get people off the platform? Unless you’re proposing a super long ramp.

  12. This is a very good suggestion, and seems like a fairly simply thing to implement. To be clear, this should not be a common occurrence. Most of the time, you want your escalators moving both directions. OK, in some suburban locations I could see ridership being very directional, but in general, suburban locations don’t have huge ridership, so it isn’t as big of a problem.

    This is a special event, like a ball game or a concert. Like all major events, you have special traffic management. You have cops waving people this way and that, instead of drivers following the old traffic lights. The same should be true inside the subway station.

  13. If people would just be willing to walk left, stand right, things would move a whole lot more quickly. All it takes is just one person per escalator who insists on standing on the left to hold up the entire line.

    1. I support walking on the left and standing on the right, because that allows people who have made it to the escalator to exit faster. But it doesn’t allow more people to get on the escalator, which means that it doesn’t empty the platforms any faster. The bottleneck is for that first step onto the escalator. Even if everyone on that left side then begins marching up the stairs, it doesn’t allow for faster access to the escalator. This isn’t intuitive, but it is why in London they have basically encouraged people to just get on the escalator. If a significant people are waiting to get into the right side of the escalator (because they don’t want to walk) then it makes the bottleneck worse. In an ideal world half the people would go to either side, but it wouldn’t solve the problem Brent it trying to solve (crowded platforms). .

      1. In London they still have the signs all along the escalators that tell you to “walk left, stand right” as well as the occasional announcement to do so (or at least they did last month, so I’m assuming still). Londoners famously ignore them, as well as other signs that would make transiting the labyrinthine stations easier – many stations with cross-tube passages have every other passage signed “Do Not Enter” so as to separate passengers walking in either direction, something that is best honored in its breach. I wouldn’t hold up London as a shining beacon of station usage, except for the fact that TfL manages to make it work anyway.

        Give people here 150 years experience of using the system, as Londoners have, and things will likely improve. My anecdotal observations are that people actually are no worse than anywhere else with the “walk/stand” escalator behavior, and this without signage. (Seattle also seems to have far more people walk up the escalators than I see elsewhere.)

      2. People were “standing right, walking left” at UW Station last week when I caught the end of the AM peak (usually I go later and it’s uncrowded). The escalator was working but there were two escalator-fulls of people. The left lane was actually empty half the time, then some people started walking up it. It looked to me like it was less effective than if people stood in the left lane. London recently tried that as an experiment, telling people to stand on both sides at one heavily-used station during peak. I think the result was that standing generates more capacity, but it’s only recommended for very high-volume locations and times. Otherwise if it’s just medium crowded, you might as well let poople who want to walk faster do so. The problem with walking is that it requires more space between people, just like cars require more space around them when they’re moving. Standing people use every other step (or every step in cultures that don’t have American space-phobia), while walking people use only every third or fourth step.

      3. Mike Orr, the problem in London was that on very long escalators, few people were walking at all. If enough people walk to keep the walking side (the right in London) reasonably full, that’s more efficient. If *everyone* walked on both sides of the escalator, that would maximize capacity (but that’s unreasonable to ask). But when nearly everyone is standing, the left side of the escalator was full (because most people in London at rush hour really do walk right stand left) while the left side was empty; that halved capacity.

        On shorter escalators where half or close to half of people walk, standing on one side and walking on the other still leads to higher capacity.

      4. The way that Seattle (at least CHS and UWS) has adopted “stand right, walk left” without being told to do so almost brings tears of joy to my eyes. On a normal weekday rush period, it’s pretty rare to see a yahoo standing on the left side of the escalator. Also, I’m proud of how most Seattleites in these stations walk up instead of treating the escalator like an amusement park ride. Often, there are more people walking up than standing. It’s a testament to something, not exactly sure what, but it feels virtuous in a very PNW way.

      5. That London study might have been referenced in an open thread here (I don’t recall); I think that I read something about it in The Guardian as well. It was a really interesting experiment but went against many people’s reasoning (I prefer to walk rather quickly up myself where possible; I get out much faster but according to the study by doing so that may have slowed the greater number down more).

        Mike, “poople” may have been the greatest typo in STB history! :) Those damnable poople, what with their walking and rushing past us and the like! Although I’d use the fine new word, perhaps, to describe some of our out-of-district legislators and their enablers.

        Felsen, I agree wholeheartedly. Even at the airport, where due to bags it isn’t always possible, I see this. So many older systems with people who’ve grown up using it have to post signs – not a bad idea, but telling. (Oh, and Go Dawgs!)

      6. It also depends on who is using the station. I’ve seen many times when 95% of the UW riders are walking up both sides of the escalator and going around two or three standees. It must because they’re mostly young twentysomethings with plenty of energy.

      7. At the end of the day, I dont care what side people stand on so long as people can pass.

        Some people would really like to catch that train arriving into the station (or connecting bus pulling up)

  14. It would be courteous if those who want to ride passively would keep right so those in a rush can run up on the left. This is more of a problem when stairs aren’t present as an option. Can we make a move to do this, America? It’s extremely efficient for the flow of foot traffic.

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