# Stairs versus Escalator

Does it take more energy to walk up an escalator than it does to walk up a staircase of the same length? My thinking was that by virtue of the fact that the escalator is moving, it both creates a slight acceleration vector (which is like additional gravity) and the target for where you’re stepping is also moving, requiring you, ever so slightly, to have to step up a little more. Now, it’s possible that because you are being moved along with the staircase that whatever effects there are by virtue of the escalator’s movement are offset by the effects on your own (Einstein’s train car and all that), but I was wondering if the effect had ever been studied and whether there was any merit to climbing the escalator beyond getting out of the DC Metro faster.

Clearly, you have to walk a shorter distance on an escalator, which is why they are used.

The energy gained or lost (depending on point of view) through acceleration is returned at the end with deceleration.

The escalator moves at a constant velocity, so the acceleration only affects you when getting on and off.

It depends on which way the escalator is moving, and whether or not it is moving at all.

Next time there’s not a lot of foot traffic in the area, count how many stairs it is to the top. Then walk up the escalator and count how many steps you actually take. They will be fewer than on the staircase. You gain the same amount of gravitational potential energy getting to the top, but the escalator does a portion of that work for you. For those people who just stand there, the escalator does all the work.

Good point. I regularly run up the down escalator at school (the kids are amused, that’s all I ask).

Am I doing more work than running up stationary stairs?

[huff] Yes. [huff, huff]

Every now and then someone running up the down escalator misses an step and down they go. Blood all over the place. Kids may be amused, they usually are by peope that they have lost their resspect for.

Running down the up ecalator is worse. When they trip it is not just down, it is down and heads over heals and twice the mess and normaly parametics are called.

Snnipe, is running the wrong way on an escalator any more dangerous than running on stairs? If so, how?

I would assume it’s more dangerous because they are moving; it complicates things.

Stairs don’t move. The front edge of stairs are often round. Escalator steps are groved and sharp when you landon the edge.

What kind of a school has an escalator where the stairs should be? Shouldn’t your school sink all that money into something important like a football stadium?

Hey, I did it at the mall. I was supposed to be in school, but that’s another matter.

It’s a piece of machinery that’s only a few short steps removed from a meat grinder. You’re made of meat.

Yeah, I was thinking that an escalator would definitely win in a fight.

I like it that when you must walk down a broken, still escalator, you stumble on the first few steps–such is the imprint of muscle memory.

I have to check next time if my dog does that (he’s a service dog and we take trains constantly).

I was going to mention that, and ask if anyone else experienced the same thing. It happens to me whether walking down or up a broken escalator.

They’re moving, but at a fixed speed. In terms of inertia and accelerations, it’s no different than a stationary flight of stairs. However, I think there is a complication in that while the steps are moving, the remainder of your visual environment is not; there is perhaps some small element of visual confusion that may prove disorienting when someone is trying to make quick decisions about balance and the placement of feet/hands.

The other hazard has been noted by Snnipe 70E: the exposed edges of escalator steps are typically comprised of metal fins. They’re not razor sharp, but they do present a much smaller contact area than the smoothly contoured, contiguous bullnose edge of a stationary treadplate.

Years ago my brother-in-law was running up a down-moving escalator; he tripped and broke his fall with one hand on the edge of a step, and it tore the skin of his palm down to the bone.

[moderating]
Got it.

Thread title changed from “Stairs versus Elevator” to “Stairs versus Escalator.”
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