Plans for the Central-Mid-Levels escalator system were proposed in 1987 as a means of transporting a growing population through the island's challenging slopes. Prior to the project's completion in 1993, commuters were obliged to take a circuitous route consisting of several miles of zigzagging roads in order to travel between the two districts. The Central-Mid-Levels escalators introduced a pedestrian option that was much more direct. It takes roughly 20 minutes to cover the entire length of the network, which at times weaves its way through residential blocks as well as more commercial areas. Most commuters shorten the trip by walking some or all of the way while the escalators are in motion.
The escalators also provide a free, leisurely option for tourists looking to explore the area. Numerous entrances offer ample opportunities to enter and exit in order to investigate nearby restaurants, markets, and shops. Visitors should keep in mind that the system runs in one direction only — downhill during the morning rush hour and uphill from 10:30 am to midnight. A stairwell runs alongside the elevators, providing pedestrian access for those traveling in the opposite direction.