Pressed for time? Sorry, the elevator close-door button doesn’t really work

September 7, 2018

Among our everyday heroes are those folks who put a hand—or an arm—across an elevator door sensor to keep the car open while we are rushing toward them at breakneck speed.

But what about those other guys who have been standing in the “lift” for what they feel is way too long—maybe 20 seconds—before they start to push the “door close” button? They see you, but they have a meeting upstairs—or worse yet, they see you, but they don’t want to travel several floors together because you are scary or overweight or unhygienic, or have shopping bags (or they are in a bad mood).

You may end up having the last laugh.

Over 325 million riders take an elevator daily, according to the Elevator/Escalator Safety Foundation—and about 210 billion riders travel on elevators or escalators each year in North America. Most of them don’t know that the “close door” buttons have not been programmed to work since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by 1990.

In fact, the National Elevator Industry, a trade association, told The New York Times a couple of years ago, that door-close buttons simply are “obsolescent.” Executive Director Karen Penafiel noted that the ADA requires elevator doors to remain open long enough for anyone who uses crutches, a cane, or a wheelchair to get on board.

“The riding public would not be able to make those doors close any faster,” she said, noting that firefighters and elevator technicians are the only ones with that privilege.

So how long should the elevator door remain open on a routine run? It depends on the distance between the buttons and the door on each lift, but the average is about five seconds. Most are programmed to remain ajar for a longer period on the lobby floor.

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