Walking in the Charlotte Airport inspired me to do some research into the economics of moving walkways. I’m currently sitting (in a wooden rocking chair!) in front of one, which clearly illustrates a common thought: why do people stand on moving walkways?

Often being positioned in areas designed to get you from one place to another (say, transportation hubs), I think it should be obvious that moving walkways do not exist to present an opportunity of leisure and rest, but to propel us faster toward our ultimate destination.

The paper “An Armchair View of Escalators and Moving Walkways” (pdf link) by Roger W. Garrison presents a neoclassical microeconomic analysis of exactly the trade-offs involved in deciding to stand or walk, and is an enjoyable, short read.

I’ll spoil the ending by giving this quote:

The only downside to exposing students to this armchair view of escalators and moving walkways is that they may never again be able to pass through an airport without thinking of indifference-curve analysis.

(Perhaps I will now attempt to collect empirical data on moving walkway usage).