The Madness of Crowds

[ezcol_1half]Yes, it’s official: standing on a busy escalator IS faster than walking!

If you have ever used the London Tube you will have figured out the convention: you stand on the right to allow people that want to walk up the escalator to do so on the left. Seems sensible?

Why then did Transport for London (TfL) ban it and make everyone stand in order to speed things up? How can it be?

As you can see from the tweet to the right, the good people of London, weren’t best pleased.

Of course comments like these are actually about people not wanting to be told what to do! Before TfL could explain the rationale, we jumped to our own conclusion that it was plainly ridiculous!

But it’s not ridiculous, it’s perfectly sensible.

The Innovation lesson here is; explain clearly what the Challenge is. It WASN’T to help individuals get from the bottom to the top as quickly as they wish….it was to get the CROWD from the bottom to the top as quickly as possible at the busiest times and the simple fact is that the fastest way to get the crowd from the bottom to the top is indeed for no-one to walk and everyone to stand. [/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]1

The public-flow wonks at TfL produced this very simple model. Here’s how it works;


As you can see, it makes perfect sense IF you want to be part of the crowd. If you want to beat the crowd – sprint up the left hand side like a rutting stag – the City-dwellers badge of honour, well, it’s tough luck.

By the case you are interested (I find this stuff kinda interesting, I know, slightly sad – you’ll be excused if you want to stop reading now), but this model only works in a couple of stations as well as Holborn where the escalators are very long – so long that most people that hit the escalator at a sprint actually dip into a gap on the right and stand for the rest of the journey.