How should it come to pass that a state could have exactly as many up and down escalators as it does senators? There is certainly no lack of multi-story buildings across the state’s more populous cities, so what’s the deal? Is this lack of automated upward mobility an omen of downward social mobility? Does blame lie with the Big Stair lobby, or simply with big lobby stairs?
According to self-professed escalator experts, there is no single explanation behind the anti-escalation anomaly, but one might have to do with the shape of the state itself. For many buildings in Wyoming, including the state’s major malls and airports, it’s easier to build outward than upward. “In the Great Out West, I think land is probably cheaper,” says Sue Goodman in the Sheridan, Wyoming City Planning Office. Instead of building up, “we spread out.”
Another possible explanation might have to do with local fire codes. According to Dick Mason in the Cheyenne building office, “There are code issues involved with escalators, which make them somewhat less popular… The code does not want openings between adjacent floors that are unprotected.” So, while a stairwell or elevator shaft might provide adequate separation between floors, uncovered escalators do not. A flaming escalator would serve only to transport the fire from one floor to another, moving a few leisurely feet per second.
Whatever the reasons, Wyoming’s paltry escalators-per-capita numbers are not as unique as you might think. Neighboring South Dakota, for one, has 300 percent more escalators within its state borders (that is to say, six sets of escalators). Nearby Montana has at least six, as well—not too shabby for a state with only one area code. So, is there a unified theory behind the midwest’s seeming escalator aversion? “I’ve been to Wyoming once,” one Reddit user writes. “There’s kind of no-nonsense ‘why the hell would we need moving stairs?’ vibe blowing over the rough terrain out there.”
Another user responds: “As a Wyomingite, I’d say you read our vibe well.”
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