Tuesday, August 5, 2008

MTA to Test Variable Speed Escalators at Roosevelt Island

According to a NY Times City Room blog post this evening starting this Monday the MTA will be switching four (4) of the new escalators at the Roosevelt Island station onto a variable speed system. When each of the escalators has no riders on it the system will switch to an energy efficient 15 feet per second as opposed to the standard 100 feet per second. Conversely after a previously empty escalator has a new rider the system will speed up gradually over 10 seconds from 15 feet per second to 100 feet per second.

My initial reaction is one of concern. The energy efficiency goal is a great one but I am concerned if there ever could be a point where the system may not wait for the full 10 seconds and may lurch from 15 fps to the 100 fps speed without warning shaking unaware transit riders into possibly falling.

Already Roosevelt Island residents have been notified that as of August 25th we are to lose another pair of escalators (ES 413 and 416) to construction for a month to hook up with the current escalators off line (ES 412 and 415). To now turn the remaining escalators ES 411 and 414 into a test situation when they are the only working pair from the lower mezzanine to the street is scary. I am hoping maintenance is on call.


  1. Why does the escalator have to be running at all times anyway? I've seen escalators in Japan that activate when you step on a rubber mat at the landing, the same way you activate a supermarket door. Won't that save even more energy? And if it's starting from a dead stop, riders will of course expect a lurch as it activates and brace for it (the same way riders brace for the lurch of a subway pulling out of a station).

  2. Those kind of escalators are all over Europe, too. The problem is that any kind of moving mechanism is more likely to break at start-up from a full stop than during constant movement. It's a trade-off.