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Hate Waiting for the Elevator? Blame This Mathematician

Elevator ButtonsElevators travel hundreds of thousands of floors every year. In fact, they probably travel tens of millions of floors every year. Every time you visit a mall, you no doubt use an elevator to climb the floors. The same goes when you visit a hospital. You may even work in an office building on a floor that is simply too high to reach by stairs – in that case you would probably take the elevator every day. No matter when you use home, commericial or residential elevators, waiting for your cabin once you’ve pressed the button probably bothers you after a certain amount of time. How long does it take to bother you?

One mathematician says 20 seconds, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Theresa Christy is the focus of this article – she is an expert in the field of elevator systems:

“Ms. Christy, 55, has spent a quarter-century developing systems that make elevators run as perfectly as possible—which means getting most riders into a car in less than 20 seconds. ‘Traditionally, the wait time is the most important factor,” she says. ‘The thing people hate the most is waiting.’”

Christy doesn’t just work on the standard elevator systems with default settings, the article says. In fact, she has worked on some of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Petronas Towers, which stand at almost 1,500 feet. A lot of an elevator mathematician’s job includes maximizing tourism efforts, like that of a spot like the Empire State Building:

“During the recent $550 million upgrade of the Empire State Building, Ms. Christy was asked whether she could help get more people up to the observation deck. She said she couldn’t get more people into a car but could move them up more quickly.”

Instead of getting mad at the elevator the next time you’re late for a meeting, think about blaming a mathematician!


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