London’s Tube Network has a new weapon in its bid to get people to stand on both sides of the escalator: a singing hologram. Try to exit the city’s Holborn Station during morning rush hour and you’re now greeted by a blond woman projected onto a human-shaped cutout.
The smiling Stepford Train Guard urges you to stand on both sides of the escalator rather than reserve one side for walking only. As if the hologram’s grating cheerfulness wasn’t enough (all cheerfulness is grating before 9 a.m.) she has now apparently started singing.
According to recent commuter reports, the ghost guard has started blurting slogans and breaking into a somewhat tuneless renditions of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,” among other songs.
The approach isn’t just novel, it’s completely ineffective. During a recent visit to Holborn during rush hour, a visitor reported not seeing a single person standing on the escalator’s left side. This recent photo from Twitter shows a few pax cooperating, while most continue to ignore the hologram’s orders.
Still, the hologram is genuinely trying to help. As Citylab reported in April, London’s transit authority has been trying to break down London escalators’ stand-on-the-right/walk-on-the-left rule. They’ve pitted themselves against it because it actually slows down rush hour traffic. So few people want to walk the whole way up an escalator that typically only half the stairway is fully occupied, creating bottlenecks at the foot of each escalator, where long orderly lines form (this is Britain, after all) made up of people who prefer to stand.
CityLab says the habit is heavily ingrained. “LON commuters can be lax about some things - such as throwing away newspapers or eating strong-smelling food on the train - but standing on the wrong side of the escalator is completely taboo. It’s the sort of behaviour that marks not just tourists (who are generally welcome) but the kind of clueless, bovine-looking tourist that can’t even be bothered to look around them to see how others are behaving. Asking Londoners to break this rule is as culturally jarring as asking New Yorkers to walk slowly.”
As you might expect, locals have turned to social media to express their scorn.
“Ok. The hologram at Holborn station is bloody terrifying.”
“Just encountered the hologram tube lady at #holborn station and am now properly worried for the future #donttrustrobots.”