In one of Hong Kong's smartest residential area called Mid-levels, the public is served by an unusual form of transport - the longest outdoor escalator system in the world. The Central-Mid-Levels escalator system covers over 800 meters in distance and elevates approximately 135 meters from bottom to top. It consists of 20 escalators and 3 moving walkways, connected in places by footbridges and with 14 entrances and exits. To ride the complete length of the escalator system one-way takes about 20 minutes. The trip can be shortened if you walk while the escalator is moving, which most people do. Due to the geography of the area, the same distance is equivalent to several miles of zigzagging roads if travelled by car. Opened in 1993, the Hong Kong Central-Mid-Levels escalator now carries more than 55,000 people each day.
The escalator begins on Queen's Road Central in Central and ends at Conduit Road in the Mid-Levels through narrow streets. Due to lack of space it wasn’t possible to build two escalators to run both ways, and so the escalators travel downwards from Mid-Levels from 6am to 10am daily, enabling commuters to reach their offices in Central. After 10am, the flow is then reversed so that the escalators travel uphill until midnight.
A second, 800-meter continuous escalator travelling between Conduit Street and Centre Street in Sai Ying Pun was proposed, but the project did not proceed. More recently, in 2011, another plan was put forward for an 880-meter “second Mid-Levels escalators” linking Conduit Road with Queen’s Road West near Sheung Wan Municipal Services Building. This project is still under consideration.
The Central-Mid-Levels escalator system was initially criticized for overstretching the budget by one and a half times, and at the same time failing to achieve its main objective of easing traffic congestion between Central and Mid-Levels. However, residents and commuters soon liked it for providing an effortless free method of transportation and patronage quickly grew to over 55,000 people daily, more than twice the original forecast. The escalator system has also revitalized the areas through which it passes. Many restaurants and other economic establishments have opened around all the elevated level.
For visitors, a journey on the escalators offers an excellent opportunity to explore the busy, bustling streets of Central Hong Kong packed with restaurants, bars and shops, as well as the old market district with museums and historic buildings.