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March 26, 2004 12:12 AM

Broken: Stockholm subway buttons

Sarah Jensen writes:

These images are from the subway, or "tunnelbana" system, in Stockholm, Sweden. Two types of trains are in use these days: the old ones and the new ones. Both trains come equipped with "Open" buttons outside the trains' doors. Here's how the buttons work:

On the old trains:
During the winter the doors are kept closed, to keep the heat in, until the user presses the open button. During the summer the doors open automatically.

On the new trains:
The doors always open automatically, making the button completely irrelevant. In addition, there's a strange, circa 5 second pause (an eternity in the AM rush hour!) before the door opens, and I have often seen hopeful passengers pressing the "open" buttons to no avail. Since these buttons don't work I have no idea why they are on the trains at all!


I'm sorry to destroy your point, the öppna knappen is used when a train is in the station where it goes from (e.g. Åkeshov) and the train is waiting for its time of departure... Then the light around the buttons have a different color and if you press a button the door opens.

Posted by: David at March 26, 2004 05:35 PM

David's correction is partly true - but the verrrrrry long delay before the doors open on the new trains, means there's always someone who begins desperately pressing the (entirely inneffective) 'open door' button, and looking very confused when nothing happens.

Posted by: plastman at March 31, 2004 06:32 AM

I ran into a similar problem recently trying to open the door to the train in Ottawa. I wear gloves in the winter because it is cold (-5 to -30 Celcius). When touching the door pad--remarkably similar in design to picture--it would not open and I had to scramble to get in behind someone else at a different entry point. I was later told that the button only works with a bare hand.

Posted by: Candu at March 31, 2004 03:04 PM

I remember that last year they had some lights around, which could indicate one could press it, but people told me it wasn't needed.

Now, I have been looking to those buttons and I never see any lights, so it seems they are always off, which indicates that the button doesn't do anything. Although a button looks like something to click ;-)

The delay you said happens sometimes. I already went off in some stations that the door oppened very fast... so it might be some internal timer to keep the schedule they have.

Posted by: adler at March 31, 2004 07:17 PM

The same problem exists with the london underground - the train doors are automatic, but still have open buttons.

Posted by: Jasper at April 1, 2004 08:42 AM

Even if the buttons are innefective at most stations, they will make waiting passengers feel a bit more in control of their situation. Most buttons at New York traffic lights act only as placebos.

Posted by: Calum Matheson at April 1, 2004 11:01 AM

Screw the button, what about the picture of the guy standing by the train with a red arrow shooting up at him from underneath? Obviously, this is a warning about the crocodiles that live under the railway carriages of the Stockholm subway. Stand too close, and they'll getcha! Ow!

Posted by: DrVomact at April 1, 2004 08:27 PM

Hermann, in Spain there are many different train types, and that is correct only for some of them (i.e. in Madrid, Line 10). You can try and wait 5 seconds in, say, Line 6 in Madrid, but if you don't press the button the doors will never open... :)

Posted by: Susana at April 12, 2004 11:12 AM

This reminds me slightly of the buttons on traffic light poles that used to change the light... they no longer do anything. But then I'll see some poor guy pressing it to no avail, trying to hurry the light up.

Though I DO understand the reason why those are still there. Would cost too much to remove them...

Same basic idea, from what I see.

Posted by: Elizabeth at May 23, 2004 05:16 PM

The busses in Halifax (Canada) have at least 5 generations out there now, some with rear doors that you have to push open, some open when you step in front of them, still others are opened by waving your (ungloved, heat-emmiting) hand at them, and some where you have to push on a strip of plastic on the door. Nowadays, it's a routine to see people pushing, waving and stomping at the door all at once in a vain attempt to open it. The drivers usually just manually open the doors from the central controls now, leaving all the other sensors and buttons useless.

Posted by: Luke at August 8, 2004 03:14 PM

At the my school there were several crosswalks which used to have buttons, then a new automatic system was installed where the lights ran on a timer. people complained that the lights took too long to change and that they wanted the buttons back. The maintenence department simply took the old buttons, screwed them to the poles with no wires connected, and there have been no complaints since. I guess people want to feel like they have some control over their environment, even if their actions have no effect.

Posted by: alex at October 22, 2005 05:37 PM

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