Elevator operator

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Japanese elevator operators at work (Odakyu Department Store, Shinjuku)
The Smith Tower in Seattle, Washington uses traditional elevator operators, as seen in this 2008 photo

An elevator operator (in British English, usually lift attendant) is a person specifically employed to operate a manually operated elevator.[1]


Being an effective elevator operator required many skills. Manual elevators were often controlled by a large lever. The elevator operator had to regulate the elevator's speed, which typically required a good sense of timing to consistently stop the elevator parallel to the floor. In addition to their training in operation and safety, department stores later combined the role of operator with greeter and tour guide, announcing product departments, floor by floor, and occasionally mentioning special offers.

Remaining examples[edit]

With the advent of user-operated elevators such as those utilizing push buttons to select the desired floor, few elevator operators remain. A few older buildings still maintain working manually operated elevators and thus elevator operators may be employed to run them. The Young–Quinlan Building in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota; City Hall in Buffalo, New York; the Commodore Apartment Building in Louisville, Kentucky; in City Hall in Asheville, North Carolina; and the Cyr Building in downtown Waterville, Maine are a few in the United States to employ elevator operators.[citation needed] In 2017, it was estimated that over 50 buildings in New York City utilized elevator operators, primarily in apartment buildings on the Upper East and West Sides of Manhattan, as well as some buildings in Brooklyn.[2] The Stockholm Concert Hall, in Sweden, employs an elevator operator by necessity since there is an entrance to the elevator directly from street level, requiring an employee to be positioned in the elevator to inspect tickets.

In more modern buildings, elevator operators are still occasionally encountered. For example, they are commonly seen in Japanese department stores such as Sogo and Mitsukoshi in Japan and Taiwan, as well as high speed elevators in skyscrapers, as seen in Taipei 101, and at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Some monuments, such as the Space Needle in Seattle, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the CN Tower in Toronto employ elevator operators to operate specialized or high-speed elevators, discuss the monument (or the elevator technology) and to help direct crowd traffic.

There are a few elevator operators working in the New York City Subway system. They are located at four stations: 168th Street, 181st Street, 190th Street, and 191st Street subway stations in Washington Heights, upper Manhattan. In these stations, elevators serve as the sole means of non-emergency access. The elevators were made automated during the 1970s, but the operators were retained, albeit being reduced in quantity in 2003. The elevator operators in the New York City Subway system serve as crowd controllers, and elevator operators usually had other jobs in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prior to being assigned to that job.[3]

Theme parks and amusement parks often have observation towers, which employ elevator operators. An example is the Sky Tower at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, California. While these rides may have modern or button-operated elevators that a patron is capable of using, they often employ ride operators for safety and crowd control purposes. Because many jurisdictions have stringent injury liability laws for amusement park operators and the fact that vandalism can be a big problem, some parks do not allow patrons to ride these rides without an employee present. Additionally, if there is a museum at the top of such a ride, the operator will usually give an introduction to the purpose and contents of the museum and other promotional messages about the park.


  1. ^ Ballard Brown, Tanya (March 5, 2010). "The Jobs Of Yesteryear: Obsolete Occupations". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  2. ^ Newman, Andy (2017-12-15). "Riding a Time Capsule to Apartment 8G". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  3. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M. (2011-04-28). "Subway Elevator Operators Dwindle in New York". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-17.