The demise of the elevator waiting-rooms from Mass Effect 1 was confirmed a while ago. BioWare said in April they'd be replaced by something that "turns the loads themselves into part of the game experience." In other words, loading screens.
Here's what was said back in April, by BioWare's Ray Muzyka:
We have a completely new system to handle transitions between areas that speeds the load times and turns the loads themselves into part of the game experience. It's one of many points of feedback we've heard and directly responded to in enhancing the gameplay in Mass Effect 2.
Now here's what was said on Friday, by BioWare's Thomas R. Roy:
The elevators were made in ME1 so we didn't have to show boring loading screens. However there were a lot of complaints, so we've gone back to loading screens and movies. We still have elevators in ME2, but you don't wait inside them. We'll cut to a loading screen instead. [emphasis added]
We've tried to make the loading screen more interesting this time by adding interesting visuals and information.
The elevator conversations had some funny moments, but hopefully people will enjoy this new system better than the old one!
BioWare's taken a lot of crap for the Mass Effect elevators - it's sort of their horse armor - and really, it's unreasonable to expect a game of this depth to not have loading screens. It'll be on two discs, after all. Maybe they have sped up the wait times. Provided loading times are not ridiculously long, loading screens are a minor and expected inconvenience of gaming, and really not worth outsmarting ourselves over it.
Of course, there still are people who are lovin' an elevator. Within the same thread, one writes (everything sic'd):
I (seriously) would like some old Mass Effect One type elevators in Mass Effect 2. Ya know, for that nastalgia feel. With out slow elevators the ME Universe won't seem the same to me.
Speak for yourself, bub.
"Please insert Your 2nd Disc" and Say Goodbye To Elevators [The Save Points via Destructoid]