Dear PoPville – Does Metro officially acknowledge the “walk to the left stand to the right” escalator policy?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Nikoo’s Photos

“Dear PoPville,

Does Metro officially acknowledge the “walk to the left stand to the right” escalator policy anywhere? If so, where? If not, they need to… That is all.”

We had a lengthy discussion about this last summer. Metro believes it is a safety issue:

“WMATA does not encourage walking or running on escalators. The majority of escalator-related accidents occur when customers walk or run on escalators. Standing is the safest way to ride an escalator. We regret the inconvenience caused by customers who may block the escalator passageway; however, for your safety and the safety of all customers, we ask customers to refrain from walking or running on our escalators.”

80 Comment

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Then they need to speed up the escalators to move faster than a snail’s pace.

      • justinbc

        The motors have a hard enough time staying in working condition at their current pace…

        • Has everyone forgotten the L’Enfant malfunction that threw riders in the opposite direction?

          I like more speed in theory…but this this infrastructure and maintenance capability?

    • Even if the escalators were faster, you’d still have the stand-still folks clogging up the escalator and drawing the ire of the walkers, as the walkers (which usually includes me) would not be satisfied with people inhibiting them from scaling the escalator as fast as they possibly could. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the escalators are probably as slow as they are because there are plenty of riders who are themselves slower and, more to the point, less sure-footed than the average in-shape, able-bodied, 20/30-something. (Riders like small children, the elderly, people who are ambulatory but maybe use a cane or whatnot.) Honestly, I would settle for the escalators just plain working reliably, even at a slow speed.

  • Only in America would walking not be encouraged.

    • Actually – a couple of Summers back – Metro put huge orange bubbles with arrows saying “walk on the left” and “stand on the right” on the flooring in front of the escalators at some of the more congested stoos ie Chinatown and Metro Center – so at one point they acknowledged it…

    • I think it is very American that so many able bodied people (presumably) would rather stand there aimlessly, than walk, just because of a mechanical wiz bang. Come on people. And also….don’t just barely (and perhaps begrudgingly) stand to the right. make yourself small enough that others can get by without having to reciprocate your begrudgedness by plowing through your left shoulder.

  • epric002

    WMATA asks customers to “refrain from walking…on our escalators”?! holy hell. i like france, where you can wander about on castle ramparts with nary a handrail, warning signs, or hazard tape in sight. le sigh.

    • Yep. So on all those broken ones be sure you step on and wait for WMATA to repair it so you can make it to the top without walking.

      Safety issue? Please. The safety issue is broken escalators and steps that vary in height at the top and bottom of each frozen set of “stairs.”

  • I don’t think they’re allowed to because of liability issues.

  • Maybe metro can install instant replay cams down the hallways so people can see how asinine and dangerous they are when they rush through the stations. Would be a pretty good social experiment, especially if it were between two sets of escalators, to see if individuals improved their behavior on the second leg.

    • The asinine behavior comes from people who saunter through the stations with no awareness of the people around them. You don’t want to hurry? Fine, but don’t be surprised when someone tries to get around you.

      I ride four trains a day, or 20 per week. If I miss two of those trains because I didn’t hustle and have to wait five minutes for the next one, that’s over eight hours a year I spend standing on Metro platforms. I’ve got better things to do and I suspect you might, too.

      • So drive if you have better things to do.

      • I’m a fast walker, and while I don’t care if others don’t hurry, there’s rarely a reason (practically speaking) why we should all have to slow down; there’s almost always enough room for each of us to move at our comfortable pace. Having said that, if you can’t afford to spend time waiting for trains then you shouldn’t be riding metro – never blame other people because you “missed a train”.

        • I should be sitting in traffic instead, then? Thousands and thousands of people ride Metro every day. You’re not just holding me up, you’re taking up the time of every single person behind you.

          But nonono, you’re right. You go ahead and relax, me and my 100 friends will wait.

          • Hey Westegg, if you read my whole comment, *I* am not the one holding you up. I guarantee I am not the one in your way. But you know we don’t get our own private transportation systems so you’re going to have deal with the inconvenience sometimes. If you don’t want to ever have to wait behind other people then you better go somewhere that doesn’t have other people. Grow up and deal with it like an adult.

          • justinbc

            Imagine, just for the sake of argument, that you miss all 4 trains in one day JUST as they are departing, and that costs you your maximum estimation of 20 minutes on that day. Seriously, what’s 20 minutes? Not even a whole episode of some crappy TV show? Waiting for and drinking a fraction of a beer at a bar? Part of a run? I think you’re exaggerating the importance of your time in your mind to justify a selfish viewpoint (and I say this as someone who 90% of the time walks up/down the escalator myself).

          • epric002

            anon @ 2:29- dealing with it like an adult goes both ways. saying “excuse me”, or asking someone politely to let you pass is an appropriate response, just like getting out of everyone’s way when asked is an appropriate response.

          • epric002. Yes that is true. I know that and perhaps WestEgg knows that too and just doesn’t know how to express it in a blog comment. But I didn’t read anything WestEgg wrote and think, “hey, this person is probably very polite.”

          • Hey buddy, not everyone can walk quickly. There’s lots of people out there with mobility problems, even if they’re not completely handicapped/disabled.
            Chill out and eat a hot dog.

          • Believe it or not, I’m actually a very polite person! “Excuse me, please!” is my standard response in this situation. I’m the epitome of grace under fire 😉

            Look, okay, I’m getting a little testy here. I shouldn’t have made this about me and the waiting I have to do for trains. Justin is right, 20 minutes isn’t that much for me; but there are lots of other “me’s” trying to get someplace, too. So I stand to the right when I’m taking my time, and I issue a polite “excuse me” when I’m in a rush. The HuffPo piece linked below hits the nail on the head — there are a lot of people in this city and not a lot of space, so we all ought to be conscientious of one another.

          • Thanks for the clarification WestEgg, it sounds like you and I are actually very much on the same page then. Few things get me riled up more than people who think their stuff is more important than everyone else’s and that’s kind of what I thought you were saying. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

      • I’ll give you an example of dumb behavior on the metro. frequently enough, I am waiting on a platform for a train door to open and for the folks on board to get out. someone will come from behind me and stand in front of me and block the exit of the train so that they can be the first person to get on. i think this probably slows down the entire process, and does not speed it up, and these people usually look like they ride the train every day.

  • I learned last summer the hard lesson that you shouldn’t speed down the escalators. I slipped down the 10th St. exit escalator at the U St. metro, which is quite short, because I was running late to work. I ended up breaking my ankle and have some bad scars from the escalator grooves on my legs and the top of my foot. It was pretty gruesome when it happened. While most people are probably less clumsy/more graceful than I am, I understand why WMATA doesn’t want to look like it is condoning walking down the escalator (unless it’s broken). Getting around the city in a cast/boot for three months was not fun. I may walk up the escalators now, but I never hurry down them.

  • Inpatient people….
    My favorite escalator related story is when the woman behind me was screaming at me for not walking down and escalator…..I simply turned around and told her “I am sorry but their is blind woman in front of me with her dog….”

    • Yeah, i”m a fast walker, and I’ll admit I get annoyed sometimes when people stand on the left, but I’ve seen people be wayy too rude and aggressive about it. I was once behind a guy who was using forearm crutches to move slowly up the escalator. This jerk came up from behind and nearly knocked the both of us over trying to rush past. There’s your standard hustle and bustle of being in a city at rush hour and then there are those obnoxious people who are just SO IMPORTANT that they don’t have time to consider others. When I find myself getting annoyed at people holding me up, I just remind myself that it’s really my own fault that I’m running late in the first place.

    • I really had that happen to me. I was going up and there was a huge guy in front of me and I thought he was just being an ass when he told me very sternly to “just wait” when I asked him to move. He realized there was an ass behind him (me!) and he moved to the side enough to show me that there was a blind guy and a dog in front of him. He smiled I smiled and I got my dose of humility for the week.

  • There are (very tiny) signs on some Metro escalators that instruct people to stand to the right. They don’t say “and walk to the left,” but that’s obviously implied. I’ve seen them at L’Enfant Plaza – I’m sure they’re elsewhere in the system too.

  • Didn’t there use to be signs on Metro telling people to stand to the right?

  • A “policy” is something official. “Walk on the left, stand on the right” is a practice that has developed over time. There is nothing official about it.
    People in DC have it pretty good, even if on a rare occasion they can’t run or walk up or down an escalator – as if that’s going to be the difference maker in getting someplace on time. When I travel back to NYC I am struck at how difficult that metro system is for anyone not pretty able-bodied to get around. Elevators are rare and escalators are even more rare. I didn’t think about it all all when I was growing up there because it was the norm. But the difference is pretty striking now.

  • There is just so much wrong with this statement that I won’t even go there.

    I often forget how entitled people think they are – you who are running late or feel like your time is more valuable.

    Like a one minute ride up or down an escalator, behind someone who needs to hold on (either side for whatever reason) is going to waste your precious time.

    Give me a break.

  • Isn’t this more of just a life rule? Walk in a city like you are supposed to drive your car. Don’t stop suddenly when people are behind you, try not to cut people off, no texting while walking/driving, and slower traffic stay to the right.

  • In Switzerland they have signs that say “Links gehen, rechts stehen”, which means left go, right stand. You’ll still see people standing on the left, and they are much more into following rules than we are. I think it might be a hopeless battle.

  • justinbc

    This question really only has one answer: No, they do not.
    (As for the “need to” part, see the other things above/below.)
    They did however at one point warn people of the dangers of wearing Crocs on escalators.

  • Honest question – why do people (who aren’t elderly/with children/differently-abled) stand on an escalator? I’m rarely in a hurry but I prefer walking for the sake of exercise. I especially don’t understand it for rush hour commuters who have been sitting on their asses all day. I bet Michelle Obama would walk up the escalators.

    • Emmaleigh504

      They are tired, their feet hurt, they have an invisible condition that makes walking up/down the escalators difficult, heavy bags, or they just don’t feel like it. All valid reasons to stand to the right.

    • justinbc

      Many people work / live in a very fast paced or frantic environment and appreciate the few automated conveniences they can get each day.

    • epric002

      i have a knee injury (hopefully just temporary!) that makes it painful to walk down stairs (going up is ok for some reason). and on certain days it bothers me more than others, so i tend to stand going down but walk going up.

    • There’s a segment of the population standing on the escalator simply because Michelle Obama suggested they walk. (These are the same folks appalled by her efforts to get kids to eat more veggies.)

    • I think if I had to take the escalator at Woodley Park every day, I am pretty sure there would be an ocassional day where I would really not be in the mood to walk it up.

    • I have the opposite problem from epric002-I’m fine walking down, but a knew problem prevents me from walking up. My sister has a heart condition that prevents her from walking up flights of stairs. My mother has MS (though, now she’s probably old enough that you would consider it acceptable for her to stand). Is it really that difficult to think of reasons why someone might choose to stand?

    • I use stand-on-the-right-escalator-time to put my smart trip card back in my wallet, dig around in my purse for my keys/sunglasses/phone, etc. so I’m not tempted to do it while I’m walking.

    • we’re not all office jobbers. i’m mostly on my feet all day. and i walk a lot.
      if i’m tired, i’m going to stand.
      if its hot and i don’t want to get hotter, i’ll stand.
      if i’m talking with someone, i’ll stand.
      if im checking my phone, i’ll stand.
      if my legs hurt, or my knees are having an especially bad day, i’ll stand.

    • Encouraging people to stand on the right and not the left. Don’t read any more into it than what you see (I’m being serious.)

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Could someone please get justinbc a job?

  • walking is bad for the escalator mechanism and causes them to break down faster.

  • While Westegg doesn’t cite the best example, I’ve had the experience of being stuck behind people standing on the left, missed the train and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. Another example: it’s pouring rain outside, or below freezing and you don’t want to walk 1 mile home. You end up missing the bus because of such people. And while rush-hour buses are plentiful in the morning, they’re not so regular in the evening.

  • Most unintentionally funny thread of the week. there are 75 posts mostly whining about not being able to walk up/down the escalator. No one mentions the simplest intervention, which involves no non-visible signs. You want to to walk, you simply say “excuse me” and pass-by. Very simple, and it almost always works.

    The idea that Americans are the only ones not to walk is comical. I’ve been to quite a few countries on different continents and people everywhere happily standstill on escalators, perhaps because the escalator is supposed to move. The real problem is that so many DCers expect someone else to just move and follow an imaginary “rule” and assume anyone in their way is lazy. Almost any able bodied person will move if asked.Being a selfish tool does not provide some sort of moral high ground.

  • I would never understand why people choose to take metro when God invented Mercedes Benz

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