Don’t Take The Escalator

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Escalators are such commonplace conveniences that riders rarely give them a second thought. The forward-thinking folks at Next American City (#19), though, know what we’ve been overlooking: They’re totally insane, energy-siphoning dinosaurs. There are 30,000 escalators in the United States and, collectively, the innocuous-looking machines drink up enough energy to power 375,000 homes—or the city of Dayton, Ohio, and its suburbs, if you prefer. Perpetual motion is part of the madness; escalators chug along even when they’re not carrying passengers, which is most of the time. But the bulky metal steps (and the energy required to move them) are where sanity took the stairs. There’s interest in lighter plastic steps, but escalators “ultimately represent an outmoded method of transporting masses of people.” (One study found that a 170-pound passenger ascending a 30-step escalator increases the energy cost of running that machine by a mere one-thousandth of a cent.) There’s just no reason to blow all that energy when stairs—and an elevator for people who are elderly or disabled—would take care of our people-moving needs.