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What Is a Passenger Hoist?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A passenger hoist is a lifting system often used at construction sites to lift personnel and materials to upper levels of unfinished buildings. The passenger hoist itself consists of a cage or car in which people will stand during transport, and a track that is mounted to the building. The car or cage will travel along this track by means of a rack and pinion drive system, and the car can be stopped at various locations along the track. This allows people to load or unload at any floor along the length of the track.

The track itself is usually made of steel and is constructed of several lengths attached together. This provides stability, and it makes the construction process of the passenger hoist much quicker and easier. These structures are usually temporary, so smaller track sections will make deconstruction and transportation of the pieces much more manageable as well. The height of the passenger hoist will vary according to how many sections of track are secured to the building. In most cases, the track pieces come in 25 foot (7.62 meter) sections, so the height of the finished track will generally be a multiple of 25.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Once the track is in place, a car or cage can be secured to it. This will be the primary supporting structure of the goods or people being transported, and it is usually an open-air structure that is surrounded on all sides by a wall or gate. In some cases, the cage may be enclosed to prevent injury from falling debris or other items. The cage is driven along the passenger hoist system by a motor that powers a rack and pinion system; this means two or more gears will work in conjunction with each other to lift or lower the cage. The specific design of the system will vary according to the size and application of the passenger hoist.

Very often the entire system is mounted to the outside of a building, though in some cases it is possible to mount the system within the structure of the building. This is a much more difficult process, however, as the lengths of track usually need to be placed by a large crane. Sometimes the passenger hoist is an independent unit that does not need to be secured to a building; this type of lift often features a platform at its top that allows passengers to walk from the hoist system to the structure being constructed.

Discussion Comments


The indoor botanical garden in my town sends its workers up in a passenger hoist to care for plants on the living wall. This is a stone wall with holes in it through which vines grow and climb.

The plants are kept moist with an interior irrigation system and an automatic mister, but someone has to trim off the dead parts and spray the leaves with foliar fertilizer. For this, they have a passenger hoist.

While I was there walking around, I saw a man with garden shears and a sprayer going up in the hoist in front of the wall. He stopped at intervals to do his job, and then he continued on his way.


I have a fear of heights, so you can imagine how hard it was for me to ride in a passenger hoist. My boyfriend works construction, and I was supposed to meet him on the top floor of the building with takeout for lunch.

I just assumed that I would be riding up an indoor elevator, but he didn’t tell me that this building didn’t have one yet. They hadn’t even built the staircase yet.

So, the guys on the ground told me that the passenger hoist was the only way to the top. I was glad to see that it was enclosed with a wire mesh all the way around, but the fact that I could see through it while ascending made me shake and sweat.


My husband works for a construction company, and has access to a lot of equipment that an average person would not have, or have to rent if needed.

When lived in a house that had four levels, and when it came time to paint the outside of our house, we knew we didn't want to do it all with just ladders.

He was able to get some hoisting equipment from his company that made the job so much easier. We only had the equipment on the weekends, so worked as long and fast as we could for a few weekends until the job was completed.

Having a piece of equipment that would lift you up to a certain position where you could work was so much better than climbing up and down a ladder and working from there.

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      Man with a drill