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The longest outdoor escalator system in the world

This morning I took the mid-level escalators down to Hong Kong station so that I could catch the express train to the airport. At over 800m, it is supposedly the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world.

If you’ve ever walked the streets of Hong Kong you’ll know that the ground plane can be inhospitable at times. There’s limited space, but no shortage of steep pitches. I can’t imagine having a physical disability and trying to navigate this city.

So this system must have been a real innovation when it was constructed in the early 90′s. In total it moves up and down about 135m in elevation. That’s about the equivalent of a 45 storey tower. And I got down from the mid-levels and was on a train to the airport within 15 minutes.

But because the streets here are so narrow it’s a unidirectional system with one line of escalators. They bring people down to the CBD during the morning rush, but then the direction flips and they bring people up the hill for the remainder of the day — until midnight I believe. Living near these escalators is considered a win.

Hong Kong Island surely isn’t the easiest of environments in which to build and operate one of the world’s most important global cities. There’s relatively little developable flatland. But they more than made it work by being creative and by building up. Hong Kong is not just a tall city, but a truly vertical city.

Too bad my efficient morning commute was followed by a cancelled United flight. Tomorrow is not going to be a fun day travel.

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