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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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Air Quality in American National Parks and Big Cities Is Roughly the Same
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National parks usually have more vegetation, wildlife, and open spaces than urban areas, but the two don't look much different when it comes to air quality. As City Lab reports, a new study published in Science Advances found that U.S. national parks and the nation's largest cities have comparable ozone levels.

For their research, scientists from Iowa State University and Cornell University looked at air pollution data collected over 24 years from 33 national parks and the 20 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Their results show that average ozone concentrations were "statistically indistinguishable" between the two groups from 1990 to 2014.

On their own, the statistics look grim for America's protected areas, but they're actually a sign that environmental protection measures are working. Prior to the 1990s, major cities had higher ozone concentrations than national parks. At the start of the decade, the federal government passed the Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments in an effort to fight urban air pollution, and ozone levels have been declining ever since.

The average ozone in national parks did increase in the 1990s, but then in 1999 the EPA enacted the Regional Haze Rule, which specifically aims to improve air quality and visibility in national parks. Ozone levels in national parks are now back to the levels they were at in 1990.

Ground-level ozone doesn't just make America's national parks harder to see: It can also damage plants and make it difficult for human visitors to breathe. Vehicles, especially gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, are some of the biggest producers of the pollutant.

[h/t City Lab]

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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