Most Frustrating Part of SEPTA Commute Is Escalators

Why does “life in the fast lane” apply only to Philly roads?

I recently discovered a Suburban Station shortcut that allows me to avoid two blocks of outdoor walking. When it’s raining and I’ve forgotten my umbrella, this shortcut is wonderful. When I’m late and rushing to the office, it isn’t even worth it. Why? Because it involves an escalator, which one might assume makes a trip a little bit faster. However, I’ve noticed that in Philadelphia, this can only slow you down.

Oftentimes, the people riding an escalator stagger themselves as if it’s a crime to stand two steps directly behind someone. They form a zigzag pattern, making it impossible for anyone to walk up, and annoying every commuter who’s in a hurry.

I just moved back to the Philadelphia area after living in London for six months. Anyone who has spent time across the pond knows that standing on the left on escalators in Tube stations is liable to get you shot. Okay, I’m exaggerating (guns are illegal in Britain), but the Brits won’t hesitate to stare angrily at your back or subtly cough until you realize your mistake and apologetically move to the right. This concept is second nature to Londoners, and there are signs on each escalator reminding tourists. After using the Tube every day, I had completely forgotten that we don’t have escalator etiquette here (though we do have cheesesteaks, which are certainly worth the tradeoff).

But why can’t we have both? Lack of knowledge? Ignorance? We’re the “City of Brotherly Love,” so shouldn’t we be the most considerate commuters? The ability to walk up or down an escalator is a huge relief when the trains are late, and we’re talking about SEPTA here, so it would really be helpful. Escalators were created to speed up the flow of human traffic in the same way that moving sidewalks in airports aren’t meant to simply promote laziness. Why do so many assume that escalators are the idle man’s alternative to stairs?

Last year, I had issues with my knee that meant stairs were nearly impossible. For a while, I was one of those people who stood on the right and watched everyone around me hustle up and down escalators. Now that my knee is healed, I’m more than happy to take the stairs to avoid escalator aggravation altogether, but this is a problem that we can (and should) easily solve.

I’m calling for a simple movement, Philly. Let’s think of each other for a minute and remember escalator etiquette. Be kind and considerate of your fellow Philadelphians, and remember that it’s absolutely fine if you don’t want to walk up the escalator. Trust me, some days I don’t want to either. But do your fellow commuters a favor and just stand on the right. Please.

Larissa Hageman is a Philadelphia magazine intern and a student at Arcadia. She’s written about Rick Santorum, college kids carrying guns, and Facebook for the Philly Post.