What Car Talk knows that WMATA doesn’t

Paulo’s video of the elevator debacle yesterday reminded me of a Car Talk puzzler from a few years ago that made me think about WMATA and their seemingly endless escalator problems. Sadly my thoughts haven’t changed much since I heard this in 2004…

The puzzler, which Tom and Ray credit to Irving Biggio, goes like this: “In our fair city of London, England– not far from the real Cambridge—many of the Underground, or subway, stations have three escalators.

It’s always the case that two of them are up escalators, and one is a down escalator. It doesn’t matter which way the rush hour crowds are moving, or if more people are arriving or leaving, or the time of day: There are always two that go up, and one that goes down. The same is true for underground stations out in the suburbs.


some tips and a link to the answer after the jump.

Irving elaborates somewhat and provides a few answers that aren’t right. “It’s easier to go down than to go up. Or, people going down can also take the stairs. But, he adds parenthetically, most of the Underground stations don’t have stairs.”

“He also provides a hint: When the station with the escalators is elevated above ground, the opposite situation holds. That is, there are two escalators going down, and one going up.”

You can find the answer here, (and the full original question here) but I’ll note before you go that this is not a logic that WMATA seems to follow. Just a week ago I got on at the Smithsonian station and there were two down escalators and only one going up. Perhaps someone should encourage John Catoe to tune in to WAMU on Saturday mornings

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


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