So far, commuters are mainly ignoring it.

 

Welcome to the future #bravenewworld 🙍🏼

A video posted by Simon (@simonbenhaus) on

London’s Tube Network has a new weapon in its bid to get people to stand on both sides of the escalator: a singing hologram. Try to exit the city’s Holborn Station during morning rush hour and you’re now greeted by a blond woman projected onto a human-shaped cutout. As the video above shows, this smiling Stepford Train Guard urges you to stand on both sides of the escalator rather than reserve one side for walking only. As if the hologram’s grating cheerfulness wasn’t enough (all cheerfulness is grating before 9 a.m.), she has now apparently started singing. According to recent commuter reports, the ghost guard has started blurting slogans and breaking into a somewhat tuneless renditions of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,” among other songs.

The approach isn’t just novel, it’s completely ineffective. Visiting Holborn during rush hour this morning, I can verify that not a single person was standing on the escalator’s left side. This recent photo from Twitter shows a few passengers cooperating, while most continue to ignore the hologram’s orders.

Still, the hologram is genuinely trying to help. As Citylab reported in April, London’s transit authority has been trying to break down London escalators’ stand-on-the-right/walk-on-the-left rule. They’ve pitted themselves against it because it actually slows down rush hour traffic. So few people want to walk the whole way up an escalator that typically only half the stairway is fully occupied, creating bottlenecks at the foot of each escalator, where long orderly lines form (this is Britain, after all) made up of people who prefer to stand.

This habit is heavily ingrained. London commuters can be lax about some things—such as throwing away newspapers or eating strong-smelling food on the train—but standing on the wrong side of the escalator is completely taboo. It’s the sort of behavior that marks out not just tourists (who are generally welcome), but the kind of clueless, bovine-looking tourist that can’t even be bothered to look around them to see how others are behaving. Asking Londoners to break this rule is as culturally jarring as asking New Yorkers to walk slowly.

As you might expect, locals have turned to social media to express their scorn. Scrolling through Twitter comments on the hologram, I failed to find a single one in favour.

We shouldn’t assume from this mini-backlash, however, that Londoners are genuinely upset. Low-level grumpiness is a sport here, and these detractors are most likely enjoying themselves heartily. You know what else Londoners enjoy? Standing on the right.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Why Affordable Housing Isn’t More Affordable

    Local regulations—and the NIMBY sentiments behind them—are a big driver of costs of low-income housing developers. Why don’t we know exactly how much?

  2. A man stands on a railway bridge to check the level of a flooded river.
    Equity

    Mapping Where Environmental Justice Is Most Threatened in the Carolinas

    Eight places have long been vulnerable—and without them, we may not have the language, knowledge, and tools to fight environmental injustice in the age of climate change.

  3. Equity

    When a Hospital Plays Housing Developer

    A children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is trying to treat a difficult patient: Its own struggling neighborhood.

  4. Passengers wait in a German subway station
    Transportation

    The Global Mass Transit Revolution

    A new report confirms that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in mass transit.

  5. A row of homes under the Montreal sun.
    Perspective

    Why Is the Homebuilding Industry Stuck in the 1940s?

    Embrace pre-fabricated, adaptable homes! Growing inequity, out-of-reach housing prices, and the speed of innovation in energy efficiency and technology demand it.