What Causes Delays in Elevator Arrival?

You may get annoyed by a slow-moving elevator. Understandably, you’re in a rush and need to get to work, home or to pick up your kids. You probably don’t give much thought to WHY the elevator is delayed, you probably just want it to get here NOW. But there could be a multitude of reasons why the elevator is delayed. Here are a few thoughts.

What Causes Elevator Delays

Behind the Scenes

It’s not quite as arbitrary as you may think. In fact, powerful algorithms decide when the elevator car is finally going to come pick you up, says Popular Mechanics. The elevator system you stand before faces a lot of computational challenges, all of which must be decided in split seconds. When you push the up or down button, a lot of things must happen.

The elevator system must not only decide which car to send you, but also at which time. Should it go up two floors to pick up another fare before heading down to get you at the lobby? The computer has to determine who has been waiting longer, which route would be the most efficient, how to get there and when.

There are a lot of considerations to think of, such as whether it should operate with energy efficiency in mind or appease the person who has been waiting for a pick-up the longest.


It’s like a finely choreographed dance that’s programmed behind the scenes. It’s an engineering marvel, really. It’s not all just numbers and facts. Elevators and their arrival times are oftentimes based on what’s referred to as the “pain index.” This is the rating the elevator gives to the inconvenience of each passenger. So, it may often opt for a quicker pick-up yet longer elevator ride as opposed to a delayed pickup and quicker elevator ride. It’s just like being in traffic in your car: if given a choice of a route that’s congested (such as the highway) or a round-about way that will probably take you a few more minutes of travel time, most people would choose the longer travel time because they feel more proactive and efficient behind the wheel. Same with an elevator.

Think about which one YOU would prefer. A quicker pickup and 10 seconds longer on the elevator or a longer wait but quicker ride? Unless you are claustrophobic, you would likely choose the former.

Elevator Algorithms

To put it simply, elevators use the method of collective control, which follows two main rules:

  • Stay headed in the same direction as long as a passenger is inside or ahead of the elevator who needs to keep going that way.
  • Switch directions once the current directional requests have been met. If no calls are forthcoming, stop and wait for a button to be pushed.

Get in touch with Mowrey Elevator today if you need service on your elevator. We can help!