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I was getting off at a metro stop when it occurred to me that the modern rail transit station Is a petty good metaphor for America’s transportation choices.

Passengers arriving at a heavy rail station have to pass from the street level to the track level, often via a concourse.  As these are each usually at separate levels, they have to move up or down to reach the transit platform and their desired ride.  For systems built before the transit revival of the 1960s, this was unanimously via stairs, with some expensive retrofits for electric elevators and escalators.  For the systems planned in the 1960s and built in the 1970s and 1980s, this usually included at least some elevators and escalators.  After the 1992 Americans with Disabilities act, elevators became mandatory for all new stations, and strongly suggested for all of the old ones.  Most of our heavy rail stations were built before the revival, and mechanized mouthed of getting to the track platform are an afterthought.

Stairs, the oldest way of moving up and down, invented with larger architecture 8,000 years ago, call for walkers, developed 6 million years ago.  Many opt to take the stairs after the escalators are full, or when they are in the mood for a bit of exercise.

Escalators, invented in 1898, can be used while walking or standing.  They deliver passengers to the same places as the stairs with the same or greater speed.  They make exercise at the station optional.  The important distinction of the escalator is that they are continuously moving.  Passengers can use them whenever they want, and then relax for five seconds while they are delivered effortlessly to the next platform.  Since they are continuously moving , they use the most energy of the three, much like automobiles in traffic.

Elevators, invented in 300 BC but perfected in 1852, offer vertical movement of a flat platform from one level to the next.  The important thing about them is that you have to wait for them, and then move on their schedule.  Much like transit.

This was just a thought I had, I figured I’d share it with you while it was still in my head.



I’ve been traveling and posting from Asia for about a month now, and its time for that to wind down.  I’m going to post one more photolog of what we saw in Delhi, though the time in Delhi was far more “family event” and far less “sightseeing.  We would not have made the trip if not to wish our uncle and aunt a happy 50th anniversary, but I am not going to blog about that.

This weekend, I’ll post those pictures from Delhi, and Monday I’ll post about the spatial aspects of Washington, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Istanbul, Mumbai, and Delhi.