Walk Left, Stand Right

One of my regular correspondents, David Crawford, passed on this post on the torontoist blog about the disappearing escalator signs.

Click here.

David comments:

For a group of people who can’t find time to put up clear and current signage (lots of examples on your site) I find it amazing they can find time and man-power to remove signs that seem, to me anyway, as being very useful.  They have them in London where the escalators are very orderly,  they do not have them in Montreal, where it’s chaotic –  draw your own conclusions!)

From my point of view, the most walking that happens on escalators is at times when they are not running at all.  This has not been as bad of late as the months I documented earlier in 2006, but it still happens far too often.

As for claims that an escalator cannot be restarted without an extensive technical check, here’s a counter example.  A few days ago, at Broadview Station, the oft-stopped escalator was restarted by someone who just arrived on the scene, inserted a key to start it, and then wandered off again.  So much for a complex inspection, just another of those wonderful TTC excuses for not providing good service.

10 thoughts on “Walk Left, Stand Right

  1. One of the major problems about TTC escalators is not that people do not get clear of them when they get off, leading to congestion and possible injury behind them. I think this is especially true of downward escalators at generally overcrowded platforms like Bloor.


  2. I don’t believe most of the people who read this, or yourself, understand how a escalator’s safety switches work.  When a person presses the stop button, for whatever reason, the machine can be restarted by simply inserting a key and starting up the machine.  This can be a janitor, a mechanic, or a collector.. it doesnt matter who.  BUT if any “safety” switches are tripped on a machine (most machines have at least 8 and up to 30+ of these switches through the machine) then the machine must be reset, and then started with a key.  It should be also checked for what caused the stoppage in the first place.  Either kids foolling around, or a mechanical problem, weather issue … whatever.

    Steve:  Thank you for clarifying this.  My point is that in at least some cases, a simple restart is all that is needed, but I suspect that this isn’t tried as a first attempt.


  3. Why doesn’t the TTC make the escalators go faster?  I have [been] on some transit systems where the escalators are 20-30% faster than the TTC.  This would move traffic much faster at very crowded stations like St. George, Finch, Bloor-Yonge.

    Steve:  The big problem is that people don’t move quickly away from the off-ramps quickly enough today, let alone on a faster escalator.  Part of this is a function of station design — there has to be some place for them to go.  Part of this is simply a case of what people are used to. 

    I know that there are people who worry now about getting on and off escalators, and speeding them up will only worsen the situation.  Better to have a crowd waiting to get on the escalator than one blocking the exit from a speedier machine.


  4. I’m not sure if you can draw conclusions as to the efficacy of signage based on behaviour. Let’s consider road signage. London (and England in general) and Montreal both have road signs – but driving behaviour is radically different. The British are among the best – if not the best – drivers in the world. The same CANNOT be said of Montrealers.


  5. They can’t be serious about removing the Walk Left Stand Right signs. The practice of WLSR has been an international convention, if not standard, for as long as I can remember. In Europe, one simply assumes everyone knows about it. On this continent, however, it’s a different story.

    There’s little I find more annoying than those people who both take up room and, hence, slow down escalators for people who are simply trying to get somewhere. This lack of consideration is not just a problem on the TTC, it’s rampant in shopping malls, too.

    One is forced to wonder if there’s a connexion between these lazy and/or inconsiderate people and the increase in obesity in North America.

    Perhaps we should point out to the TTC the health benefits of walking up and down escalators, so that they can put the signs back, theeby doing their part in reducing ill-health due to obesity. It might have a greater health benefit to our population than the health loss created by a very few people having minor accidents on the escalators.


  6. Does anyone remember from the 70’s, the “meep-meep” a-la-roadrunner campaign the TTC tried in order to get people to clear away from the doorway passages on the subway cars?  I’m not making this up.  I tried it, and the CBC even did a feature on it.  We were treated as the crazies we were!  THAT’S why they moved out of the way.  Needless to say, the campaign was a failure.


  7. Trevor said, “This lack of consideration is not just a problem on the TTC, it’s rampant in shopping malls, too.”

    It doesn’t just stop there: just look at the traffic situation. Why do people drive like they are the only vehicle in the entire universe?!?

    To be correct, they do change from that mode if you infringe on their “bubble of comfort” — that is an imaginary zone around them that they believe no one else has the right to enter, for any reason (ie: don’t squeeze next to them closer than 2 metres, or move in front of them closer than 3 metres per km/h they are moving).

    I had to drive while on business in Rome a couple of years ago, and at first it seemed like a madhouse. Once I shook off my “North American habbits”, I started to notice that things actually moved smoother. My commute each day was consistent: it always took more or less the same amount of time, and the slow-downs were in the same location with the same severity each day. No surprizes like you get in the GTA.

    The bottom line was that there (and I noticed this in Buenos Aires as well recently), people drive like they have to share the road with others (and used the escalators in the subways the same way). There was also the sense that sometimes other people are in more of a hurry than yourself.


  8. Last time I was in London (which was a long time ago) the signs said to walk left and stand right except during rush hour, when you should stand both sides.

    As for drawing conclusions about the character of people who won’t walk on the escalator, I usually stand because I have a mild mobility disability which is not visible.  Coming up the narrow back escalators at my local station I will walk if there is someone behind me, but it is not a pleasant experience.

    As for behaviour on escalators contributing to obesity, get a grip.  Figure out how many calories you expend walking up an escalator.  Four?  Five?

    As for the bubble of comfort, Canadians have repeatedly been shown to maintain larger personal spaces than any other people.  Rather than expecting them to conform to technology, how about providing technology which conforms to them?  Why should we be the servants of machines?

    If that’s not possible then provide explanations of why you’re asking them to conform to the technology — which means in the end I agree the signs should stay, or preferably be replaced by more prominent ones.


  9. >Last time I was in London (which was a long time ago) the signs said to walk left and stand right except during rush hour, when you should stand both sides.

    You will annoy a lot of Londoners if you do that.
    It’s strictly walking on the left at all times.


  10. I was in Toronto in the 70s, and I definitely remember the “meep” campaign. Also remember it being laughed out of town!



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