Escalators and Travelators: What Are Their Advantages in the Modern World?


April 30, 2015

Escalators and travelators are moving stairs / walkways used commercially to efficiently and safely transport large masses of people, cargo, and equipment from point to point.


Escalators are essentially “moving stairs” that transport masses of people up or down between floors of a building. They are installed indoors or outdoors and the constant speed can be adjusted to accommodate increases or decreases in volume of passengers. Escalator width depends upon the age of the mechanism as well as the volume of riders. Single-rider widths are between 16” and 24”. Airport and metro escalator widths are 31” to 39” and accommodate a passenger with luggage or two passengers side-by-side.

The escalator’s metal grooved steps are linked together and driven by a motor-driven chain on tracks. In the event the mechanism breaks down, the escalator can still be used as a staircase access. Escalators have moving safety handrails. As the escalator ends, the steps each disappear into an end comb-plate. Escalators are installed in pairs to keep opposite flows of people all moving their designated up or down direction.

The commonly recognized type of escalator is the step-type. Older leat-type escalators had upward-tilted wooden or cleat metal steps. Escalators may be spiral, curve, or move forward without rising or descending (like a travelator).


The Brits call them travelators. In the US, “travelators” are known as “moving walkways” or “a moving sidewalk.” Essentially a travelator / moving walkway is a conveyor transport mechanism that slowly and safely moves people relatively short distances either along level ground or inclined distance, such as between two floors of a building.

Similar to using escalators, people stand, or walk, on the travelator as its conveyor walkway rolls along. Travelators are typically installed in pairs to keep opposite flows of people all moving their designated direction.

Moving walkways may be a pallet-type similar in appearance to escalator steps that have metal or rubber grip surfaces, or a moving belt type, which have rubber or mesh metal walking surfaces that move over metal rollers, and feel more flexible underfoot.

Walkways are equipped with moving safety handrails. As the walkway ends, the surface disappears into end comb-plates.

Escalators and Travelators Today

Inclined moving walkways and escalators are used in airports and department stores to move people from one floor to another. Inclined travelators are often have special shopping carts equipped with a brake that engages wheel magnets to keep the cart in place on smooth surfaces, or wheels that secure themselves within ramp-grooves.

Nearly all airports use moving walkways to more speedily move passengers with heavy luggage the increasingly long distances between concourses and the terminal or terminal to parking and transport stations. Escalators have been moving passengers between levels of airport terminals, train stations, subway stations, and other public transport and urban areas around the world for decades.

Museums, zoos, theme parks, and exhibits install moving walkways to channel visitors and spectators safely to pass through venues in a certain sequence. They are installed at ski areas to move people short uphill distances to runs or restaurants or provide assistance in getting on chair lifts.

Escalators and walkways help transport people from one level to another, or between floors of a building, theatre, arena, stadium, mall, or exhibit. They are efficient public transportation equipment. They move military personnel and aircraft carrier pilots as well as cargo between carrier floors. They are practical as well as profitable factory features.

Connor Pincus Group. Consulting Engineers.

Address: 1196 Toorak Road, CAMBERWELL, VIC 3124

Phone: (03) 9835 5000
Fax: (03) 9835 5050

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