New York’s Elevators Define The City

Brilliant article by  Oliver Roeder at FiveThirtyEight on New York's love affair with the elevator (or the more prosaic lift, over here in the UK).

In 1857, still years before the Civil War, the world’s first commercial passenger elevator was installed in New York, in the Haughwout Building, then a five-story department store, at the corner of Broadway and Broome Street in SoHo. The original Haughwout elevator is long gone, but the elevator ignited what The New York Times called a “tall-building revolution,” quite literally shaping the city as we know it. And now the things are everywhere. And they’re remarkably safe: There are only about 30 elevator and escalator deaths in this country each year. About 1,900 people die taking the stairs.

I'm fascinated by how cities are defined by the ways in which we move around them, both for good and ill. My recent Pecha Kucha talk couldn't avoid pivoting around Hong Kong's Great Escalator as a fulcrum for the city, and some things we're planning for later in the year will immerse us further in that city's mass-transportation systems, and in the data-highways that never quite replaced them.