Don’t walk on escalators

People who walk on escalators might say that they do it because they’re “in a hurry,” but we indolent standers know that they only do it to make us feel bad. In an unexpected—and counterintuitive—twist of fate, though, it turns out that the walkers are actually the true societal drain. Research shows that escalators are utilized more efficiently when everyone just packs on and stands, instead of allowing people to choose to walk.

Usually people naturally create two paths on escalators. One (to the right in the United States) is for standing, and the other is for walking. The Guardian reports, though, that during a three-week trial at the Holborn Tube Station (a transfer station used by 56 million people per year) in November, staffers from the municipal group Transport for London attempted to disrupt this norm. Employees used megaphones to ask people not to walk on the escalators. They sent unmoving staffers up and down the escalators to block walking traffic. They even asked couples to stand next to each other and hold hands to discourage the usual walking lane.
Research from the University of Greenwich in 2011 indicated that on average about 75 percent of people will stand on escalators while the other 25 percent walk. Right away you can see how reserving half of an escalator’s real estate for only one-quarter of the people who use it might not make sense. And people tend to create more following distance on the walking side of the escalator versus the standing side. Transport for London’s simulations preliminarily showed that using a whole Holborn Station escalator for standing would allow 31.25 more people per minute to board the escalator (112.5 people on the escalator per minute versus 81.25 people per minute with a walking lane).

In fact the three-week experiment in 2015 had even better results than the Transport for London researchers predicted based on the Greenwich research. For example, one escalator that normally transported 12,745 people between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. on a typical week was able to move 16,220 because of standing rules. But the Guardian reports that commuters pushed back, calling the trial “stupid” or yelling, “This isn’t Russia!”

The approach asks people to do something they are often bad at: delaying instant gratification in the interest of a greater good. A lot of the benefit of universal standing has to do with reducing the bottleneck at the entrance to escalators. The more people can get on per minute, the less time they have to wait to get on in the first place. For walkers this may not intuitively feel like a worthwhile trade-off, though. And creating specific sides for walking/standing is a very ingrained behavior.

Michael Kinsey, a fire engineer who co-authored the 2011 study and has been working on escalator safety at the British consulting firm Arup, told Slate that attempting to change rider behavior for short escalators may not be worth it. “However, for longer escalators, more people typically prefer to ride due to increase in energy expenditure/physical ability of walking,” he said, “Which means less people are using the walker lane. … So for longer escalators, if the main aim is to increase escalator capacity, then asking people to ride on both sides will achieve this.”

Some cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong have considered initiatives for years to reduce escalator walking. But these discussions have mainly been motivated by safety concerns. Peter Kauffmann, a transportation engineer at Gorove/Slade Associates, said he’s not surprised that Transport for London had a lot of resistance to its three-week trial. “Implementing any kind of pedestrian rule is difficult, and here you have the situation where the rule has to be variable, since when things are uncongested riders are going to want to walk to save time (and you’ll want to accommodate them for customer satisfaction).”

He added, though, that the Transport for London data is gratifying for researchers like him who had previously only been able to study escalator ridership optimization with computer simulations (as in a paper Kauffmann co-authored in 2014 titled “Modeling the Practical Capacity of Escalators”). “It’s exciting to see somebody actually testing this,” he said.
It’s hard to change people’s habits, but if it will really get them to work more quickly, they might warm up to the idea of standing patiently on an escalator. Then again, people can get pretty emotional about escalators. “People in a hurry generally do not want to stand still as there is feeling that constantly moving means they are making progress,” Kinsey said.
“We all want to get on the train, in order to reach our destinations; and yet we can’t get to the train,” Hamilton Nolan wrote on Gawker in 2013. “Why can’t we get there? It’s so close. Why not just make our way to the platform in a hasty but orderly fashion and get on the train? Because this motherfucker up here wants to stand still on the escalator.” The stakes are high.


Iconic kiss

George Mendonsa, a 92-year-old veteran from Rhode Island, says he’s sure it’s him

When Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, on Aug. 14, 1945, he knew he’d captured something special. But he likely didn’t realize that the photo would become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century—and one of its most enduring mysteries.

Though the identities of the sailor and nurse have never been confirmed, George Mendonsa, a 92-year-old veteran and retired fisherman, has no doubt the man in the photo is him. “I haven’t found a person yet that I haven’t convinced,” he told CNN, explaining that his large hands, a scar on his brow and his distinct memory of that moment are confirmation enough for him.

Extract from the Aug. 27, 1945, issue of LIFE. “In the middle of New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.

For Exercise in New York Futility, Push Button

For years, at thousands of New York City intersections, well-worn push buttons have offered harried walkers a rare promise of control over their pedestrian lives. The signs mounted above explained their purpose:

To Cross Street

Push Button

Wait for Walk Signal

Dept. of Transportation

Millions of dutiful city residents and tourists have pushed them over the years, thinking it would help speed them in their journeys. Many trusting souls might have believed they actually worked. Others, more cynical, might have suspected they were broken but pushed anyway, out of habit, or in the off chance they might bring a walk sign more quickly.

As it turns out, the cynics were right.

The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show. Any benefit from them is only imagined.

“I always push,” said Réna, an employee at Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, who was too embarrassed to give her last name after she pushed a button on Atlantic Avenue and was told the truth. “The sign says push, so I push. I think it works.”

Most of the buttons scattered through the city, mainly outside of Manhattan, are relics of the 1970’s, before computers began tightly choreographing traffic signal patterns on major arteries. They were installed at a time when traffic was much lighter, said Michael Primeggia, deputy commissioner of traffic operations for the city’s Transportation Department.

The first “semi-actuated signal,” as they are called by traffic engineers, is believed to have appeared in the city in 1964, a brainstorm of the legendary traffic commissioner, Henry Barnes, the inventor of the “Barnes Dance,” the traffic system that stops all vehicles in the intersection and allows pedestrians to cross in every direction at the same time. Barnes was also instrumental in completing the one-way conversion of major avenues in New York.

Typically, they were positioned at intersections of a major thoroughfare and a minor street. The major road would have a green light until someone pressed the button or a sensor in the roadway detected a car on the minor street. Then, after 90 seconds or so, the light would change.

The goal, Mr. Primeggia said, was to make traffic flow on the major artery more efficient. The buttons made sense when traffic was generally minimal on the minor street. But as traffic grew steadily, their existence became imperiled.

In 1975, about 750,000 cars entered Manhattan daily; this past holiday season, there were more than 1.1 million. The other boroughs have gone through similar growth, Mr. Primeggia said. As even minor streets became congested, the need for the semi-actuated signal largely disappeared, because they were constantly being tripped anyway by cars rolling up to the intersection. Many walk buttons also interfered with the computer-programmed coordination of lights that is now the rule in the city to facilitate traffic flow.

By the late 1980’s, most of the buttons had been deactivated, their steel exteriors masking the lie within. But city officials say they do not remember ever publishing an obituary, and the white and black signs stayed up, many of them looking as new and official as ever.

“I don’t always push, but I do it in the off-chance that I might save two seconds,” said Joanne Downes, 63, a retired nursing professor, after pushing a broken button to cross the West Side Highway from Chelsea Piers on West 23rd Street yesterday morning. “I have guessed that they don’t work, but why are they there?”

There are 750 locations where the buttons actually do work, Mr. Primeggia said. Some of them have been installed more recently, while others are holdovers from two decades ago. The working buttons are only at intersections where the walk signal will never come unless the button is pushed or a car trips the sensor, Mr. Primeggia said. He cited two examples, one at Hicks and Summitt Streets in Brooklyn and the other on Flatbush Avenue just south of the Belt Parkway exit ramp. But other working push buttons are hard to find. A random survey of more than 30 intersections in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan found one, at Marathon Parkway and 51st Avenue in Little Neck, Queens, that worked.

At $300 or $400 per intersection, it would cost about $1 million to remove the disconnected mechanisms, Mr. Primeggia said. About 500 have been removed during the course of major reconstruction projects. But city officials over the years decided it was not worth the cost for the rest, given other needs like rebuilding roads or installing new traffic signals.

“We think of this from time to time,” Mr. Primeggia said. “But there’s always a better need for the money.”

And in the bigger scheme of things, he said, it doesn’t really matter if people push a working button. “The public is going to get the walk signal regardless,” he said. “I guess that’s the point. There’s no harm in having it at the locations.”

Many veteran New Yorkers have long learned to ignore them. They have never made sense, said Maryam Ceesay, 24, standing at a downtown Brooklyn push-button intersection. If pedestrians could simply push them and always get a walk signal, “cars would never cross,” she said. “Traffic would stop.”

But Ms. Ceesay was at that moment baby-sitting 4-year-old Benjamin Miles. Despite his baby-sitter’s explanations that the buttons “never work,” Benjamin still pushed away at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Henry Street. Why?

His explanation may be the best reason for the continued existence of the buttons.

“Because,” he said, “it’s fun.”


Avoid pickpocketing

Placing the wallet with the opening(sideways) facing down into the back pocket will discourage even the most skilled pickpocket from attempting to steal.

This simply means you should place your wallet horizontally with the opening face down and NOT vertically which 99.9% of us do.

This is not a discovery. This advice comes straight from the World famous pickpocket king Bob Arno.

Here is some help: