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Why Standing Still on Crowded Escalators Is Actually More Efficient

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Standing still on the wrong side of an escalator during rush hour can often illicit angry glances from other stressed out travelers. But now, Transport for London (TfL) is attempting to shift this line of thinking in order to make one of their most crowded Tube stations more efficient.

The Guardian recently reported on an experimental three-week trial run that took place at London’s Holborn station requiring all passengers to stand in place while riding the escalator. The goal wasn’t to annoy grouchy commuters, but rather funnel them out of the congested station at a faster and more efficient pace.

While the idea may seem counterintuitive, concrete data exists to back it up. According to the escalator traffic laws unofficially recognized by subway commuters everywhere, standers must stay to the right side to make room for climbers to pass on the left. This system becomes less efficient when fewer people choose to walk, a factor that's directly impacted by the length of the escalator. With especially tall flights that are often found in subway stations, this leads to commuters reserving half the escalator for a minority of people, which causes more congestion. This phenomenon was observed in London’s Holborn station specifically, where one of the escalators stretches 77 feet long.

According to The Guardian, a 2002 study of escalator capacity on London's underground railway system found that on escalators of about 79 feet (similar to Holborn's), only 40 percent of commuters would even contemplate walking instead of standing still—significantly reducing the escalator's efficiency.

Further data modeling supported this theory. If all commuters were to approach the escalator at the same speed then stand still while riding it, an average of 31 more passengers would be transported per minute.

The trial that took place at Holborn station was enforced by real-life employees instructing commuters to stand still, but if the rule ever becomes permanent, TfL plans to take a more high-tech approach: In place of a human being, a holographic customer service representative will be present to instruct people to stand on both sides of the escalator.

[h/t: Gizmodo]

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Courtesy Umbrellium
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Tokyo Tops List of Safest Cities in the World, New Report Says
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When choosing a city to call home, some might weigh factors like affordability, potential for job growth, and even the number of bookstores and libraries. But for many aspiring urbanites, safety is a top concern. This list of the world’s safest cities from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) proves you don’t need to trade your sense of welfare for the hustle and bustle of city life—especially if you're headed to Tokyo.

As Quartz reports, the EIU assessed the overall safety of 60 major cities using categories like health safety, infrastructure safety, personal safety, and the cybersecurity of smart city technology. With an overall score in 89.80 out of 100 points, Tokyo is the 2017 Safe Cities Index's highest-ranking city for the third year in a row.

While it was rated in the top five places for cybersecurity, health security, and personal security, Tokyo's No. 12 spot in the infrastructure security category kept it from receiving an even higher score. The next two spots on the EIU list also belong to East Asian cities, with Singapore snagging second place with a score of 89.64 and Osaka coming in third with 88.67. Toronto and Melbourne round out the top five. View more from the list below.

1. Tokyo
2. Singapore
3. Osaka
4. Toronto
5. Melbourne
6. Amsterdam
7. Sydney
8. Stockholm
9. Hong Kong
10. Zurich

You may have noticed that no U.S. cities broke into the top 10. The best-rated American metropolis is San Francisco, which came in 15th place with a score of 83.55. Meanwhile, New York, which used to hold the No. 10 slot, fell to No. 21 this year. The report blames the U.S.'s poor performance in part on America's aging infrastructure, which regularly receives failing grades from reports like these due to lack of maintenance and upgrades.

Surprised by your city's rank? For an idea of how other countries view the U.S. in terms of safety, check out this list of travel warnings to foreign visitors.

[h/t Quartz]


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