For urban centres, it will be this: (Click on title for answer.)

From the interview on Slate Money with Richard Florida:

Felix Salmon, host: The most efficient form of transportation ever invented … the elevator – that one seems to me to be the real bottleneck.  … I’ve been trying to do the math on elevators, and it just doesn’t work …

Richard Florida: The elevator problem and the transit problem are very similar …  I’ve talked to a lot of commercial real-estate developers … they’ve got a big problem on their hands …

One thing people say is that you’re going to have big queues down the street, how do you deal with that?  Your’e going to have more remote work …  (Google has just said ‘more remote work until late 2021’. … About 40 percent of us can do more remote work.)  …

The second thing people are talking about is staggered commutes.  On one hand, staggered days: you come in every other day or every third day.  And the second on is staggered times.  People will come in at 7, 7:30, 8.  And that’s not because of transit … that’s to take the queues out of the elevator. …

Another thing people are beginning to talk about is: Do you have a short-term rebirth of the suburban office park? … to work in an office closer to where they live part of the time as well as coming to the headquarters or central office part of the time …

It is transit and elevators that are the bottlenecks.

Segment on elevators starts at 16.20.


Further thoughts from PT: the economics of floor-location will change.  The first three floors up from the lobby will have a premium over the previously prestigious locations at the top with the views.  Because you can just walk up without a wait or reservation.

How about making a reservation for an elevator?  For a parking space?  For a time to drive on the HOV lanes? For a particular work-day?  For a desk?  For a gym workout?  For a grocery-store shopping time or pick-up?  And oh yeah, for a restaurant.  

Welcome to the new world of reservations.


  1. In office towers, the emergency stairs are generally locked off at grade (and often above, except crossover floors) for security reasons. Up the tower, emergency stairs may be open during office hours to facilitate movement within a tenant’s adjacent floors (in addition to internal staircases). For internal movement within a tenant’s premises, people already take the stairs, both for exercise the glares from other passengers forced to stop and start for a one or 2 floor trip.

    Even before COVID people had staggered starts and ends – (ie 8am – 10am starts and 4pm-7pm ends).
    The biggest crowds are at lunch time – often because groups go out together, especially on Fridays. One remedy (which may occur naturally) is more people eating at their desk and brown bagging their lunches for fear of mingling with people whether in the elevator, mall, food court or restaurant. Brown bagging may also revert to sandwiches and salads instead of meals that require use of a communal microwave.

  2. PS – you hear about issues with condo towers that are “under elevator’d” . Some towers about town have only 2 elevators for 30-35 stories. Current condo recommendations are for an occupancy of 3 or 4 (one in each corner).

  3. This too shall blow over as death risk is extremely low. Of course more firms will realize they need fewer office spaces so generally speaking less demand for urban office space.

    People will always share spaces though and hug or kiss each other. Everything else is unnatural, such as this phobia bordering perception of risk. Death risk per 100,000 is extremely low and concentrated on the elderly or immune compromised, or on folks in small space with poor circulation like meat factories or discos !

    Elevators btw can be voice activated so that’s likely one improvement coming soon. Being in an elevator with 20 people for 30 seconds with a mask on is extremely low risk.

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