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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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Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach
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holidays
Inside the German Town Where Advent Is the Main Attraction
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach

The German town of Gengenbach takes Christmas very seriously. So seriously that it counts down to the holiday with one of the biggest Advent calendars in the world.

Two decades ago, the town of 11,000 people on the edge of the Black Forest set out to bring in more tourists during the holiday season. So to make its holiday market unique, Gengenbach began turning its town hall into a building-sized Advent calendar.

Now one by one, every night from November 30 to December 23, the windows of Gengenbach’s Baroque city hall light up with artistic creations inspired by a yearly theme. At 6 p.m. each evening, the lights of city hall go up, and a spotlight trains on one window. Then, the window shade pulls up to reveal the new window. By December 23, all the windows are open and on display, and will stay that way until January 6.

Gengenbach's city hall lit up for Christmas
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach

Each year, the windows are decorated according to a theme, like children’s books or the work of famous artists like Marc Chagall. For 2017, all the Advent calendar windows are filled with illustrations by Andy Warhol.

According to Guinness World Records, it’s not the absolute biggest Advent calendar in the world. That record belongs to a roughly 233-foot-high, 75-foot-wide calendar built in London’s St Pancras railway station in 2007. Still, Gengenbach’s may be the biggest Advent calendar that comes back year after year. And as a tourist attraction, it has become a huge success in the last 20 years. The town currently gets upwards of 100,000 visitors every year during the holiday season, according to the local tourist bureau.

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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