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A lovely photographic, philosophic, and scientific look at the mechanics of walking and at the ordinary city street corner…where pedestrians and traffic meet, pause, change course...where life happens. Observations and computer modeling illuminate a million mundane interactions of crowds: i.e. There are perennial slow-downs of crowds upon approaching stairs, as people pause -- to check their phones before mounting. Pedestrian traffic on a cold winter day is 35% faster than on a mild summer day. When people step onto a non-moving escalator, they still experience a “sway”—and adapt their gait. At subway stations, escalators don’t actually improve efficiency -- and when people choose to walk on an escalator, the capacity is,counter-intuitively, decreased. Fascinating article with important implications as cities become ever more congested; see how it checks out next time you’re strolling down the sidewalk…
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Jasper Janssen's profile photoAdrian Mihailescu's profile photoJohn Tessin's profile photoDavid Ivory's profile photo
9 comments
 
"when people choose to walk on an escalator, the capacity is,counter-intuitively, decreased. " sounds very counter intuitive, I'd like to see this demonstrated. At no point in my experience on escalators I've been held back by somebody who was walking in the right direction... how can walking decrease the escalator capacity?
 
If both walkers and standers disembark at walking pace, you can't get a big difference in throughput. Plus you take up the steps you walk from AND to, which probably moves the bottleneck to getting on the escalator.
 
Think about it. When someone is stationary we can snuggle up close. When they are moving we give them space so their misstep doesn't affect us. that means the average person occupied space increases on a per person basis reducing what is left for new passengers.
 
Which is why busy escalators always are standing only and you can only walk on not so busy models.
 
Hear Hear (says the obese patron who would rather let the machine do the work ;) while hoping no one comments about the space taken up by his pulchritude )
 
OK, if we are talking about maximum throughput and we assume similar disembarking speeds for both walkers and standers (although I have my doubts) then it's probably true. Although being from DC and being used with "stand on the right, walk on the left" it never happened to me when I walked on the left to end up being slower than the guys standing on the right, nor I think I slowed down anybody behind me, never noticed anybody going one step back or waiting for me to advance in order to stand after me. Anyway, I don't want to monopolize the discussion... (too bad that G+ doesn't have threaded discussions).
 
I have my own pedestrian observation. When exiting a wide body aeroplane it is usually faster to use the right hand corridor than the left. This is because the right hand queue has to turn left and pass through a galley in order to exit the left side exit doors. These passengers thus have a straight run up to the exit door and have momentum and don't have to turn at the door. Meanwhile left side passengers need to pause and turn at the door before joining the moving line and this slows that side of the plane.

It's one time it pays to be on the right wing.
 
Talking about airplanes, I never understood why they board first class passengers first, from efficiency point of view doesn't it make sense to start to fill the plane from the tail (and not wait for the people in front of you to store their luggage and sit down)? And as for comfort, I don't think it's a big advantage for the first-class passengers, they have to wait for the rest of the passengers to get a seat too anyway... and everybody brushes by them, it would be more comfortable for them to wait in the first-class lounge till all the tail is full and then board.
 
Rank has its privilege. Perhaps you should ask why us peons are not forced to travel in baggage. (sorry for that. the sarcasm table level has been rising and little springs of sarcasm are popping out everywhere. )
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