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Moving sidewalk

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Moving sidewalk

A moving walkway or moving sidewalk (American English), known in British English as a travellator or a travelator (and colloquially known by some as a horizontalator, movealator, walkalator, autowalk or movator), is a slow moving conveyor mechanism that transports people across a horizontal or inclined plane over a short to medium distance.[1] Moving walkways can be used by standing or walking on them. They are often installed in pairs, one for each direction.


The first moving walkway debuted at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago, Illinois. It had two different divisions: one where passengers were seated, and one where riders could stand or walk. It ran in a loop down the length of a lakefront pier to a casino.[2] Six years later a moving walkway was also presented to the public at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900. The walkway consisted of three elevated platforms, the first was stationary, the second moved at a moderate speed, and the third at about six miles an hour. These demonstrations likely served as inspiration for some of H. G. Wells' settings mentioned in the "Science Fiction" section below.

The Beeler Organization, a New York City consulting firm, proposed a Continuous Transit System with Sub-Surface Moving Platforms for Atlanta in 1924, with a design roughly similar to the Paris Exposition system. The proposed drive system used a linear induction motor. The system was not constructed.

The first commercial moving walkway in the United States was installed in 1954 in Jersey City, NJ, inside the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Erie station) at the Pavonia Terminal. Named the "Speedwalk" and built by Goodyear, it was 277 ft (84.5 m) long and moved up a 10 percent grade at a speed of 1.5 mph (2.4 km/h).[3] The walkway was removed a few years later when traffic patterns at the station changed.

The first moving walkway in an airport was installed in 1958 at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. On January 1, 1960, Tina Marie Brandon, age 2, was killed on the moving sidewalk.[4]


Moving walkways are built in one of two basic styles:

  • Pallet type — a continuous series of flat metal plates join together to form a walkway - and are effectively identical to escalators in their construction. Most have a metal surface, though some models have a rubber surface for extra traction.
  • Moving belt — these are generally built with mesh metal belts or rubber walking surfaces over metal rollers. The walking surface may have a solid feel or a "bouncy" feel.

Both types of moving walkway have a grooved surface to mesh with combplates at the ends. Also, nearly all moving walkways are built with moving handrails similar to those on escalators.

Pallet-types consists of one-piece, die-cast aluminium pallets. Example dimensions are: widths (between balustrades): between 32 inches (800 mm) and 56 inches (1200 mm), with a speed of 100 feet per minute (.5 metres per second), powered by an AC induction motor.[5]

High-speed walkways


In the 1970s Dunlop developed the Speedaway system. It was in fact an invention by Gabriel Bouladon and Paul Zuppiger of the Battelle Memorial Institute in Geneva (Switzerland). A prototype was built and demonstrated at the Battelle Institute in Geneva in the early 1970s, as can be attested by a (French-speaking) Swiss television program entitled Un Jour une Heure aired in October 1974. The great advantage of the Speedaway, as compared to the then existing systems, was that the embarking/disembarking zone was both wide and slow moving (up to 4 passengers could embark simultaneously, allowing for a large number of passengers, up to 10,000 per hour), whereas the transportation zone was narrower and fast moving.

The entrance to the system was like a very wide escalator, with broad metal tread plates of a parallelogram shape. After a short distance the tread plates were accelerated to one side, sliding past one another to form progressively into a narrower but faster moving track which travelled at almost a right-angle to the entry section. The passenger was accelerated through a parabolic path to a maximum design speed of 15 km/h (9 mph). The experience was unfamiliar to passengers, who needed to understand how to use the system to be able to do so safely. Developing a moving hand-rail for the system presented a challenge, also solved by the Battelle team. The Speedaway was intended to be used as a stand alone system over short distances or to form acceleration and deceleration units providing entry and exit means for a parallel conventional (but fast running) Starglide walkway which covered longer distances. The system was still in development in 1975 but never went into commercial production.

Another attempt at an accelerated walkway in the 1980s was the TRAX (Trottoir Roulant Accéléré), which was developed by Dassault and RATP and whose prototype was installed in the Paris Invalides metro station. The speed at entry and exit was 3 km/h (2 mph), while the maximum speed was 15 km/h (9 mph). It was a technical failure due to its complexity, and was never commercially exploited.

In the mid 1990s the Loderway Moving Walkway company patented and licenced a design to a number of larger moving walkway manufacturers. Trial systems were installed at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne and Brisbane Airport Australia. These met with a positive response from the public, but no permanent installations were made. This system is of the belt type, with a sequence of belts moving at different speeds to accelerate and decelerate riders. A sequence of different speed handrails is also used.

In 2002, an experimental high-speed walkway was installed in the Montparnasse—Bienvenüe Métro station in Paris. At first it operated at 12 km/h (7 mph) but due to people losing their balance, the speed was reduced to 9 km/h (6 mph). It has been estimated that commuters using a walkway such as this twice a day would save 15 minutes per week and 10 hours a year.

Using the high-speed walkway is like using any other moving walkway, except that for safety there are special procedures to follow when joining or leaving. When this walkway was introduced, staff (seen here in yellow jackets) determined who could and who could not use it. As riders must have at least one hand free to hold the handrail, those carrying bags, shopping, etc., or who are infirm, must use the ordinary walkway nearby.

On entering, there is a 10-metre acceleration zone where the 'ground' is a series of metal rollers. Riders stand still with both feet on these rollers and use one hand to hold the handrail and let it pull them so that they glide over the rollers. The idea is to accelerate the riders so that they will be traveling fast enough to step onto the moving walkway belt. Riders who try to walk on these rollers are at significant risk of falling over.

Once on the walkway, riders can stand or walk. Owing to Newton's laws of motion, there is no special sensation of travelling at speed, except for headwind.

At the exit, the same technique is used to decelerate the riders. Users step on to a series of rollers which decelerate them slowly, rather than the abrupt halt which would otherwise take place.

In 2007, a similar high-speed walkway was opened in the newly opened Pier F of Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada. This walkway is of the pallet type rather than the belt type. The pallets "intermesh" with a comb and slot arrangement. They expand out of each other when speeding up, and compress into each other when slowing down. The handrailings work in a similar manner. The walkway moves at roughly 2 km/h when riders step onto it, speeds up to approximately 7 km/h for the bulk of the length, and slows to 2 km/h again at the end.

In May 2009 it was announced that because of its unreliability and the number of users having accidents, in 2011 the Parisian high-speed moving walkway will be replaced with a standard moving walkway.

Inclined moving walkways

An inclined moving walkway is used in airports and supermarkets to move people to another floor with the convenience of an elevator (namely, that people can take along their suitcase trolley or shopping cart, or baby carriage) and the capacity of an escalator.

The carts have either a brake that is automatically applied when the cart handle is released, strong magnets in the wheels to stay adhered to the floor, or specially designed wheels that secure the cart within the grooves of the ramp, so that wheeled items travel alongside the riders and do not slip away.

Some department stores instead use shopping cart conveyors to transport passengers and their carts between store levels simultaneously.


Moving walkways are frequently found in the following locations:


Moving walkways are commonly used in larger airports, as passengers – often with heavy luggage in tow – typically need to walk considerable distances. Moving walkways may be used:

  • in passageways between concourses and the terminal
  • within particularly long concourses
  • as a connector between terminals, or
  • as access to a parking facility or a ground transport station.

Of particular note is the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France, which has several moving walkways inside a series of futuristic suspended tubes.

Museum exhibits

Moving sidewalks may be used:

  • to ensure that a museum exhibit is viewed in a certain sequence
  • to provide a particular aesthetic effect
  • to make sure the crowd moves through at a reliable pace.

The 1975-76 American Freedom Train did this; they had a moving walkway inside each successive railroad car, thus maximizing the number of people who could view the interior exhibits in the limited time the train was stopped in each town.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC uses a moving walkway to connect the two main galleries.

The Tower of London in London, UK, uses a moving walkway where visitors are passing the cabinets which contain the Crown Jewels.


Similar to museums, some zoological park exhibits have a moving walkway to ease guests through an animal display or habitat. An aquarium at the Mall of America does this with a moving walkway made up of specially rounded pallets that enable it to change directions en route. The San Diego Zoo uses moving ramps to help guests ascend steep grades.

Theme parks

Some amusement park rides, such as continuous-motion dark rides like Disney's Haunted Mansion, make use of a moving sidewalk to assist passengers in boarding and disembarking rides and attractions. Some examples include:

  • the Ultra Twister, a roller coaster at the now closed Astroworld in Houston, Texas. (It had a moving walkway with no handrail for passengers to step on prior to boarding their car. The walkway would move at the same speed as the approaching cars, allowing passengers completing the ride to step off and for boarding passengers to enter the car. A loudspeaker announced "Moving conveyor, please watch your step" to warn of the moving walkway.)
  • the exit from the Space Mountain attraction at Walt Disney World has a long moving walkway which changes inclination multiple times.
  • the exit from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Walt Disney World has an inclined moving walkway leading towards a gift shop.
  • the exit from the Haunted Mansion attraction at Walt Disney World has a straight moving walkway which leads to the ride's exit.


The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber uses a travelator in the number 'The Phantom of the Opera' (act one, scene six), to give the illusion the Phantom and Christine are traveling the catacombs below the Paris Opera House a great distance to the Phantom's lair on the subterranean lake.

Public transport

Moving walkways are useful for remote platforms in underground subway/metro stations, or assisting with lengthier connections between lines, for example Waterloo Underground Station in London, United Kingdom, and between Central and Hong Kong stations on Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, as well as between Tsim Sha Tsui and East Tsim Sha Tsui stations in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Similar walkways exist in Singapore's Bugis MRT Station, Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station and Serangoon MRT Station. In Glasgow, Scotland's Buchanan Street subway station a moving walkway is used to connect the Subway station with Glasgow Queen Street Station.

In Toronto, Canada, a moving walkway existed between Spadina station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line and Spadina station on the Yonge–University–Spadina line. Installed in 1978, this series of moving walkways has since been removed (2004) and patrons are now required to walk between the stations.

Urban areas

Hong Kong is one of the world's most heavily populated cities, and has public escalators that connect many streets. See: Central–Mid-Levels escalators


Moving walkways known as Magic carpets are also used in ski resorts. Skiers can place their skis on the walkway which is designed to provide a strong level of grip. Since the walkways cannot be too steep and are slow compared to other aerial lifts, they are used especially for beginners or to transport people over a short uphill distance, such as to reach a restaurant or another lift's station. Moving walkways can also be found at chairlifts' entrances to help passengers in the boarding process.

Science fiction

The concept of a megalopolis based on high-speed walkways is common in science fiction. The first works set in such a location are "A Story of the Days To Come" (1897) and When The Sleeper Wakes (1899) (also republished as The Sleeper Awakes) written by H. G. Wells, which take place in a future London. Thirty years later, the silent film Metropolis (1927) depicted several scenes showing moving sidewalks and escalators between skyscrapers at high levels. Later, the short story "The Roads Must Roll" (1940), written by Robert A. Heinlein, depicts the risk of a transportation strike in a society based on similar-speed sidewalks. The novel is part of the Future History saga, and takes place in 1976. Isaac Asimov, in the novel The Caves of Steel (1954) and its sequels in the Robot series, uses similar enormous underground cities with a similar sidewalk system. The period described is about the year 3000.

In each of these cases there is a massive network of parallel moving belts, the inner ones moving faster. Passengers are screened from wind, and there are chairs and even shops on the belt. In the Heinlein work the fast lane runs at 100 mph (160 km/h), and the first "mechanical road" was built in 1960 between Cincinnati and Cleveland. The relative speed of two adjacent belts is 5 mph (8 km/h)[6] (in the book the fast lane stops, and the second lane keeps running at 95 mph (152 km/h)). In the Wells and Asimov works there are more steps in the speed scale and the speeds are less extreme.

In Arthur C. Clarke's novel, Against the Fall of Night (later rewritten as The City and the Stars) the Megacity of Diaspar is interwoven with "moving ways" which, unlike Heinlein's conveyor belts, are solid floors that can mysteriously move as a fluid. On pages 11–13 of the novel, Clarke writes,
An engineer of the ancient world would have gone slowly mad trying to understand how a solid roadway could be fixed at both ends while its centre travelled at a hundred miles an hour... The corridor still inclined upwards, and in a few hundred feet had curved through a complete right-angle. But only logic knew this: to the senses it was now as if one were being hurried along an absolutely level corridor. The fact that he was in reality travelling up a vertical shaft thousands of feet deep gave Alvin no sense of insecurity, for a failure of the polarizing field was unthinkable.

In his non-fiction book Profiles of the Future, Arthur C. Clarke mentions moving sidewalks but made of some sort of anisotropic material that could flow in the direction of travel but hold the weight of a person. The fluid would have the advantage of offering a continuous gradient of speed from the edge to edge so there would be no jumps, and simply moving from side to side would effect a change in speed.

In the Strugatsky brothers Noon Universe, the worldwide network of moving roads is one of the first megaprojects undertaken on newly united Earth, before the advent of FTL starships and its consequences turned everybody's attention to the stars. These roads there are quasiliving organisms similar to Clarke's description and were used for both local commuting and long-distance non-urgent transport until their use was eclipsed by an instant teleportation network.

The animated TV series The Jetsons depicts moving walkways everywhere, even in private homes.

See also


External links

  • Videoclip (on 'youtube') showing the Parisian high speed walkway. This clip is hand held, and at times it is a little unsteady. Towards the end of the clip note how the other people leaving the moving walkway stand with both feet firmly on the ground and one hand on the handrail whilst passing through the deceleration zone.
  • Paris. (provided by CNIM)
  • Briton dies in Rome station accident, BB
  • Paleofuture: Moving sidewalks before the Jetsons
  • Smart Links — Website for professionals working with short distance automated transport.
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