The Grandview Cut staircase

They're repairing the escalators for the next two years at a train station on my commute, creating a hilarious little moment of confusion.

To enter and exit the station's platform, instead of going up the escalator, you now have two options through 2025: a wide staircase and an emergency exit-type side staircase at the end of the platform. (And the elevator, of course.)

The station attendants have decided that the wide staircase is for commuters getting off at this station, exiting after arrival on a train; and that the emergency stairs are for getting down to the platform to board a train. That's because the wide staircase isn't quite wide enough for two-way traffic; it would clog up.

The problem is how tucked-away the emergency exit is, compared to the wide main staircase. Whether you're a tourist or on autopilot in your early morning routine, you won't see it.

To deal with that situation, the attendants put four signs in front of the wide staircase when you walk toward the platform: "DO NOT ENTER." "NO ACCESS." Two attendants stand there, and they have one job: telling you to walk around to the left and use the emergency stairs to get down onto the platform.

And yet, going that way takes longer, and statistically most of the time you want to get to the platform, no trains are arriving -- which means the wide staircase is empty.

Similarly, in the morning when you commute at peak times, the hundreds of people at a time who fit themselves up the wide staircase make for a slow climb, and you'd be faster to climb up the emergency stairs, the ones that they tell you to go down. You'll move faster when doing the opposite, whenever you can, of what the transit authority pays people and makes signs to get you to do.

Back to blog