The “Piano Stairs” Experiment

In many situations, escalators are just stupid.


Exhibit A: One really stupid escalator

In an article called “Taken for a Ride: The Insanity of Escalators,” Jeffrey Hill rises to the challenge of describing how wasteful they are:

The national energy use of escalators is estimated at 2.6 billion kilowatt hours per year, equivalent to powering 375,000 houses; its cost is roughly $260 million. What’s harder than stomaching these statistics is finding sources to back them up.

The escalator industry is extremely secretive about pricing and energy specifications on specific models. Even though Kone Inc. provides detailed CAD drawings on their website, their cheery phone representatives claim they can’t verify the figures: “it’s a 9-11 thing.”

Hill notes that the treads are extremely heavy, and quotes a sales rep who claims that each job has to be customized (which adds to the expense). Here’s my favorite quote:

Although quiet and convenient, escalators unfortunately cost more money to install, operate, and maintain than raising a child, and there are 30,000 of them in the United States.

So I was cheered this morning to see Joseph Rose’s Hard Drive blog, where he posts this great video of a little experiment in Stockholm:

What happened afterwards? The video more or less speaks for itself. Those humans are having fun! They’re also using the stairs 66% more than normal. Good for them.

Why can’t we have more keyboard stairs instead of escalators?


6 thoughts on “The “Piano Stairs” Experiment

  1. This is an interesting article and a great video clip. One question, how much is the cost of installation and maintanance of the keyboard stairs??? Curious to see the ratio…

  2. Novelty is clearly very important to this. Luckily, it looks like would be pretty easy to periodically re-program the stairs to make different instrument noises or have the notes in a different order.

  3. I think this was a proof of concept experiment, but with a little maintenance, I don’t see why it couldn’t be a permanent attraction. As a parent, I know that kids, in particular, would dig it.

    No idea about the cost. The fun theory site doesn’t go into detail.

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