Standing Still On An Escalator -- Not Walking Up It -- Is Fastest

The key is getting people to actually agree to it.

If you've ever rushed up an escalator only to be stopped dead in your tracks by a person taking up too much space of the "passing lane," it is actually you who's the problem, not your stagnant escalator-riding counterpart.

This counterintuitive piece of efficiency wisdom comes from the experts at Transport for London, the government organization responsible for London's transportation system.

The caveat to this rule of economy is getting people to actually agree to it. When you've been commuting to the tube the same way for 30 years, it can be tough to change your ways. That's why workers at London's Holborn station stood by the escalators as "encouragers" during a three week trial-period in which escalator passengers stood two per step. These encouragers held loud speakers to direct commuters in a polite manner.

While some riders were initially resistant (“Can’t you let us walk if we want to?” one protestor asked, “This isn’t Russia!”), the experiment proved successful. An escalator that carried 12,745 customers between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. in a standard week carried 16,220 when the new standing practices were enforced, The Guardian reported. The change increased the number of passengers who rode the escalator in that one-hour time period by 27 percent and reduced the large crowds of people waiting to ride.

Despite its success, one week after the trial period ended, passengers returned to their old escalator riding ways: Most people who didn't want to walk stayed to the right and stair shufflers hurried up the left. If we could all distance ourselves from the unwritten escalator rules that insist there must be a passing lane, well, we'd be going places.

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