Absolutely Reckless!

Metro Risks Passenger Safety
by Encouraging Standing on the Side of their Escalators

International Standards

  from   The Institution of Mostly Meaningless Announcements

What This Is

photo of Wheaton escalator by Toytoy
This is linked to a separate webpage describing WMATA's cavalier safety attitude regarding its escalators. This page focuses on Washington Metro's promotion of a "skoozeme, skoozeme" culture, as compared to international safety standards.

Issues include policies to promote walking, promoting pushing past standing riders on the escalator, elimination of yellow boundary markers on escalator steps, slowed operating speeds which promote the "skoozeme, skoozeme" culture on the escalators and train platforms, and a general disregard for passenger safety.

Escalator Safety Notices

First, WMATA's infamous platform announcement, "You will notice people stand to the right."

WMATA's modified safety notice, specifically changed from the notice prepared by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)/American National Standards Institute Escalator Committee. The ASME notice recommends standing to the center of the step and not to one side!

The ASME notice:
"Here are some steps you can take to prevent escalator injuries:
* Make sure shoes are tied before getting on an escalator.
* Stand in the center of the step and be sure to step off of the escalator at the end of your ride.

. . .
* Avoid the sides of steps where entrapment can occur."
CPSC Press Release #08-264

(ASME also recommends 2" (5 cm) brightly colored edge markings.[1] )

... Compare that to the WMATA (Metro) notice
"Elevator Safety
    ← (That's an interesting name for a warning.)
Stand to the right, facing forward
. . .
Stay clear of moving parts. Keep your hands, feet, and clothing clear of the side panels of the escalator. Make sure you have no dangling clothing or loose shoelaces. Baggy clothes, rubber boots, and loose shoelaces can get caught in the moving parts of the escalator.
. . ."

(To their credit, they do suggest removing baggy clothes, etc. Please send photos, but be selective!)

The "moving parts" wording is particularly bizarre for a prepared statement, since the only exposed moving parts on an escalator are the steps and the handrail. It's the stationary parts (e.g., the balustrades) that should be avoided, but that would directly contradict Metro's "Stand to the right" statement.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), together with the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation, published a transit brochure on escalator safety. The WMATA "Tips" are in apparent contradiction with their own industry agencies' recommendations:
· Stand toward the middle of the step — away from the sides and face forward. Don't lean against the sides.

. . .

Apparently Metro's "Stand to the right" statement directly contradicts its own industry association's published safety brochure!

Perhaps US Industry is too safety conscious. Let's see what they do overseas.

Here's one from India:

Well, maybe India is too formal, or perhaps industry is still following British thinking. Let's find an emerging country with a reputation for industrial pragmatism...

We'll try Korea:
Don't even think of going near the escalators.
It is forbidden to refer to the Dear Leader as "that f**kin a**hole" ...

Oh.. wrong Korea.
Here's one...
 Happy Together with Citizens
5 6 7 8 Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp
Public Order ... 3. Please do not walk or run when riding the escalator for your safety."
In reality, Korea had briefly experimented with a "Stand to One Side" regimen a few years back. [3]

The Koreans also seem to know something about escalator reliability. They attribute escalator breakdowns and equipment failures to people standing to one side. WMATA could significantly improve the reliability of its escalators by the simple expedient of restoring the yellow edge stripes on their steps.

More from Korea:
"Safety accident
Escalator safety rule
Riding while holding handrails
Do not walk on left row
 "     http://www.kecc.re.kr/eng/04/02_5.asp see also http://www.kesi.or.kr
from a 2007-09-12 news article:
The Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit - which runs subway lines five through eight - announced last week it is going to ban people from walking up station escalators because of an increase in accidents

"In 2002, there were 16 accidents on escalators on subway lines five to eight, but the accident rate increased to 87 in 2006, mainly due to walking passengers on escalators," SMRT spokesman Kim Wan-gi was quoted as saying ... "We urge passengers not to walk on escalators because it is dangerous."

He added an observation that seems very relevant to Washington Metro:
Kim said the weight of all the passengers standing on the right also has created mechanical problems ... .

Hmm.. Korea is too concerned with advanced technological development. Okay, where else can we look...

How about China? After all, China is known for safety conscious procedures.
(If video does not display, select Watch this video on YouTube)
If we can only find something in English. Oh, here's something:
"Some commuters, however, have the habit of walking on the 'fast lane' of escalators, exposing themselves to the risk of accidents and injury.
Users are cautioned to exercise care and remain alert while riding an escalator. And always remember: stand firm, hold the handrail and do not walk on escalators.
Other safety tips include:
... but that's a consumer group. Maybe the local government is less pedantic. Here's something from "EMSD" (Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, The Government of the Hong Kong SAR) that explains the problems caused by people walking:
 Why should I hold the handrail when taking the escalator?
Some people like to walk or even run on the escalator. It is indeed very dangerous. Not only do they affect other passengers on the escalator, they would also easily lose their balance and trip over. In case the escalator stops for emergency, those walking on the escalator are likely to tumble and bump onto other passengers, causing serious injuries. ...

80% of the escalator incidents last year involved passengers losing balance and tripping over ...
Do not walk on it and do not stand close to the side edge of the escalator step.
 "       English version of E&M Safety Newsletter

The Hong Kong metropolitan railway also adapts their escalator speeds to discourage walking. Their speed ranges between 0.5 m/sec (slightly faster than Metro[4) to 0.67 m/sec. (30 to 40 m/minute), presumably dependent on access to elevators. During rush hour peaks, the speed can be increased to 0.75 m/sec. (45 m/minute).
But.. but... that's Hong Kong. Okay, maybe Hong Kong has different standards ... oh, here's the reaction from the Nanjing subway system Nanjing Public Security Bureau's subway branch:
"The authorities on a subway system in eastern China have stopped encouraging escalator users to 'walk on the left and stand on the right', claiming its damaging the machinery and safer to stand stationary while using the walkways ..."   South China Morning Post article on Namjing subway safety measures see also China Daily Updated 2017-01-04   (Namjing Subways also acknowledged that damage was caused by riding to one side.)
and Guangzhou:
"Just stand still: Chinese subway scraps left-right escalator rule over safety fears"

"Earlier this month, the Guangzhou Metro operator in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, said in an official social media post that it would stop promoting 'walk on the left, stand on the right' for safety reasons and instead encourage commuters to stand on both sides."

"Maintenance data showed that 95 per cent of the network’s escalators showed more wear on the right, resulting in more malfunctions, and eventually a shorter service life."

"A Guangzhou Metro employee also said it was also not safe to walk on the escalator because the steps had higher risers than staircases and passengers could easily trip over."   South China Morning Post 29-Apr-2018
General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping described achieving "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." and forward-thinking to "comprehensively develop modestly prosperous society (one of The Four Comprehensives)." I would say that accessible and safe public conveyances are forward-looking common values.

Okay, then Metro doesn't meet the safety standards of developing countries, but for good reason... Countries like China may be just too strict when it comes to safety. (Or more likely just consider passenger safety a priority.)

Perhaps they could look toward other systems in the US. Hows-about New York? No, too formal.

Make that New Jersey -- PATH (The Port Authority of NJ and NY Trans Hudson Railroad).
No "Happy Together with Citizens". Their motto is, "Yeah, we run PATH. What's it to you?"

They got to keep the escalators safe because they's got people buried in the concrete underneath them.

It turns out PATH does differ from the industry standard warning:

        . . .
  • Do not walk on escalators. "

Simple and straightforward. In New Jersey, if you want to hear something like one of Metro's announcements, you need the lyrics to Springsteen's Blinded By the Light, or just street graffiti. For escalator safety on the PATH, "Do not walk on escalators" will have to do.

It's now apparent why WMATA calls its passengers "customers" and not "riders" or "patrons". "Customers" are treated with utter contempt and total disregard for safety.

[1]^     The American Society of Mechanical Engineers/American National Standards Institute Escalator Committee set a voluntary standard for escalators. The standard requires that each step have painted foot prints or brightly colored borders. (Brightly colored borders are of course far more common.) from Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reference
CPSC Press Release #08-264

[2]^     http://www.smrt.co.kr/Eng/Subway/Etiquettes/Etiquettes.jsp

[3]^     Korea went to a "do not walk" rule after experimenting with a "stand right, pass left" rule in line with a nationwide reversal of "walk left" imposed under Japanese colonial rule. The result was a 500% increase in serious injury accidents (16 vs. 87).

[4]^     Metro operates their escalators at 0.45 m/sec. (28 m / minute), compared to 0.6 to 0.9 m/sec. (35 to 55 m / minute) of typical escalator operation. Washington Post, 16-May-2004

back to WMATA's cavalier safety attitude regarding its escalators
Is Metro Authorised to Tell Passengers Whether They Can Drink Coffee in Virginia?
back to index

Courtesy of Stan Protigal

Comments about this site: email me

first posted 21-Feb-10; rev 19-Aug-20 This page copyright 2010, Stan Protigal

privacy policy