Moving walkways are built in one of two basic styles:
Both types of moving walkway have a grooved surface to mesh with combplates at the ends. Also, nearly all moving walkways are built with moving handrails similar to those on escalators.
In the late 1960s Dunlop developed the Speedaway system. A prototype was demonstrated at the 1970 Osaka Expo and later at the Battelle Institute in Geneva. The entrance to the system was like a very wide escalator, with broad metal tread plates of a parallelogram shape. After a short distance the tread plates were accelerated to one side, sliding past one another to form progressively into a narrower but faster moving track which travelled at almost a right-angle to the entry section. The passenger was accelerated through a parabolic path to a maximum design speed of km/h ( mph). The experience was unfamiliar to passengers, who needed to understand how to use the system to be able to do so safely. Developing a moving hand-rail for the system presented a problem. The Speedaway was intended to be used as a stand alone system over short distances or to form acceleration and deceleration units providing entry and exit means for a parallel conventional (but fast running) Starglide walkway which covered longer distances. The system was still in development in 1975 but never went into commercial production.
Another attempt at an accelerated walkway in the 1980s was the TRAX (Trottoir Roulant Accéléré), which was developed by Dassault and RATP and whose prototype was installed in the Paris Invalides metro station. The speed at entry and exit was km/h ( mph), while the maximum speed was km/h ( mph). It was a technical failure due to its complexity, and was never commercially exploited.
In the mid 1990s the Loderway Moving Walkway company patented and licenced a design to a number of larger moving walkway manufacturers Trial systems were installed at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne and Brisbane Airport Australia. These met with a positive response from the public, but no permanent installations were made. This system is of the belt type, with a sequence of belts moving at different speeds to accelerate and decelerate riders. A sequence of different speed handrails is also used. A video of the trials systems can be found at the following link
In 2002, the first successful high-speed walkway was installed in the Montparnasse—Bienvenüe Métro station in Paris. At first it operated at 12 km/h (7 mph) but due to people losing their balance, the speed was reduced to 9 km/h (6 mph). It has been estimated that commuters using a walkway such as this twice a day would save 11.5 hours a year.
Using the high-speed walkway is like using any other moving walkway, except that for safety there are special procedures to follow when joining or leaving. When this walkway was introduced, staff (seen here in yellow jackets) determined who could and who could not use it. As riders must have at least one hand free to hold the handrail, those carrying bags, shopping, etc., or who are infirm, must use the ordinary walkway nearby.
On entering, there is a 10-meter acceleration zone where the 'ground' is a series of metal rollers. Riders stand still with both feet on these rollers and use one hand to hold the handrail and let it pull them so that they glide over the rollers. The idea is to accelerate the riders so that they will be traveling fast enough to step onto the moving walkway belt. Riders who try to walk on these rollers are at significant risk of falling over.
At the exit, the same technique is used to decelerate the riders. Users step on to a series of rollers which decelerate them slowly, rather than the abrupt halt which would otherwise take place.
In 2007, a similar high-speed walkway was opened in the newly opened Pier F of Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada - This walkway is of the pallet type rather than the belt type. The pallets "intermesh" with a comb and slot arrangement. They expand out of each other when speeding up, and compress into each other when slowing down. The handrailings work in a similar manner. The walkway moves at roughly 2 km/h when riders step onto it, speeds up to approximately 7 km/h for the bulk of the length, and slows to 2 km/h again at the end.
The Central-Mid-levels escalator system on Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong also has several inclined moving sidewalks. In Carlton, Victoria, Australia, another inclined moving sidewalk can be found at Lygon Court.
Some department stores instead use Vermaports—conveying systems that move shopping carts in a similar fashion to an escalator—to transport passengers and their carts between store levels simultaneously.
The first moving walkway debuted at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago, Illinois. It had two different divisions: one where passengers were seated, and one where riders could stand or walk. It ran in a loop down the length of a lakefront pier to a casino. Six years later a moving walkway was also presented to the public at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900. The walkway consisted of three elevated platforms, the first was stationary, the second moved at a moderate speed, and the third at about six miles an hour. These demonstrations likely served as inspiration for some of H. G. Wells' settings mentioned in the "Science Fiction" section below.
The first commercial moving walkway in the United States was installed in 1954 in Jersey City, NJ, inside the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad's Erie station) . Named the "Speedwalk" and built by Goodyear, it was 277 ft (84.5 m) long and moved up a 10 percent grade at a speed of 1.5 mph (2.4 km/h). The walkway was removed a few years later when traffic patterns at the station changed.
Moving walkways are frequently found in the following locations:
The 1975-76 American Freedom Train did this; they had a moving walkway inside each successive railroad car, thus maximizing the number of people who could view the interior exhibits in the limited time the train was stopped in each town.
In each of these cases there is a massive network of parallel moving belts, the inner ones faster. Passengers are screened from wind, and there are chairs and even shops on the belt. In the Heinlein work the fast lane runs at 180 km/h, and the first "mechanical road" was built in 1960 between Cincinnati and Cleveland. The relative speed of two adjacent belts is an unrealistic 20 km/h (in the book the fast lane stops, and the second lane keeps running at 160 km/h). In the Wells and Asimov works there are more steps in the speed scale and the speeds are less extreme.
In Arthur C. Clarke's novel, Against the Fall of Night (later rewritten as The City and the Stars) the Megacity of Diaspar is interwoven with "moving ways" which, unlike Heinlein's conveyor belts, are solid floors that can mysteriously move as a fluid. On pages 11-13 of the novel, Clarke writes,
An engineer of the ancient world would have gone slowly mad trying to understand how a solid roadway could be fixed at both ends while its centre travelled at a hundred miles an hour... The corridor still inclined upwards, and in a few hundred feet had curved through a complete right-angle. But only logic knew this: to the senses it was now as if one were being hurried along an absolutely level corridor. The fact that he was in reality travelling up a vertical shaft thousands of feet deep gave Alvin no sense of insecurity, for a failure of the polarizing field was unthinkable.
In Strygatsky brothers Noon Universe the worldwide network of moving roads is the one of the first megaprojects undertaken on newly united Earth before the advent of FTL starships and its consequences turned everybody's attention to the stars. These roads there are quasiliving organisms close to Clarke's description and were used for both local commuting and long-distance non-urgent transport until their eclipse in form of instant teleportation network.
The animated TV series The Jetsons depicts moving walkways everywhere, even in private homes.