Aria Bendix is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, and a former editorial fellow at CityLab. Her work has appeared on Bustle and The Harvard Crimson.
For the next six months, passengers at Holborn station will be asked to stand on both sides.
What was once a temporary nuisance for passengers at the Holborn station in London will now become an enduring fixture of their daily commutes for the next six months. Starting this week, Transport for London (TfL) rolled out a six-month trial program that requires passengers to stand on both the right and left sides of the escalator. The program comes on the heels of a successful three-week trial conducted in November, which accommodated nearly 30 percent more passengers by encouraging them to stand on both sides.
In the days of the initial trial, feedback seemed to be mixed. Passengers were hesitant to follow the standing-only rule, but eventually warmed up to the idea once the third week rolled around. Still, many lamented the fact that they were being denied exercise or the chance to walk. “There was a great deal of non-verbal communication in the form of head-shaking, particularly if the person concerned met the eyes of a member of staff,” said the TfL draft report.
Interestingly enough, TfL has found that few customers actually walk along the left side of the Holborn escalators, given their considerable length. But those who do are equally, if not more, frustrated with the new six-month trial. A number of passengers took to social media this week to air their grievances about not being allowed to walk up the escalator.
Asking British people to stand on the left of an escalator is like asking mice on the tube to wash their hands before eating. #Holborn— Ed Snowdon (@LondonSnowman) April 18, 2016
The power walk up the escalators at Holborn was my daily cardio. Don't take it away from me, TFL!— Rosie Findlay (@fashademic) April 20, 2016
Many continue to ignore the rule entirely, despite footprints on the escalator steps, handprints on the handrails, signs on the floor, and a talking hologram that instructs them to stand.
Should these measures fail to convince passengers, there is still the option to use a third “up” escalator that permits walking. But the fact that only one escalator is available for this purpose has angered many Londoners.
If the previous three-week trial did not predict this reaction, a 2002 study of the London Underground most certainly did. “To move towards a policy of standing on both sides would be unpopular and would penalize those who are most rushed and those who place most value on their time,” the authors concluded.
Indeed, if the purpose of the six-month trial is to make commutes easier and more enjoyable, it seems that passengers have already made up their minds: Crowding at the foot of the escalator is far better than having to stand the whole way up.
H/T: Condé Nast Traveler