the Metro escalator: DC’s greatest battlefield


There is a particular phenomenon in DC that never ceases to amaze me and that is the DC Metro escalator rule.

If you’ve never been here, the escalators in the DC Metro are essentially two-lane highways. As you ascend to the platform, you have the option of being in the left or the right lane. And these lanes function in much the same way highway lanes in Chicago do: slow drivers stay in the right lane.

There is an unspoken rule on the DC escalators and that is: stand on the right, walk on the left. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, violate this rule and suffer the consequences. DC-ers have no qualms about openly reprimanding standers blocking the left passing lane. In fact, I’ve even seen Op-Eds in the newspaper bemoaning those incompetent people who can’t figure out “the system.”

The DC Metro escalators are, perhaps, the greatest battlefield in this city, the most common cause of interpersonal conflict, and a source of heightened anxiety for we who cannot help but note with nerves and remorse a violation of this rule as we anticipate the inevitable outburst from the anxious suit trying to pass.

Fighting the urge to succumb to the systematic efficiency, I have been forcing myself to stand on the right, instead of walking, as I ride up and down the DC Metro escalators. It is an exercise in preservation of the soul.


2 thoughts on “the Metro escalator: DC’s greatest battlefield

  1. apparently then, i’m not a true DCist.

    every time i get stuck behind a “stander” in the left lane, i just plain FREEZE.

    do you say something?? really? i know what a local would do — but that just seems so “rushed.” and a little mean.

    but then again, if i DON’T say anything, will they ever really learn the system?!? maybe i’m doing them a disservice by not asking them to step aside.

    ahh … i just don’t know. on one hand i’m glad i’m not hardened to the DCist’s way of life. on the other — i just want to be a local. such a dilemma.


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