Passenger Safety

Post by Steven Dale

As cable transit is fully automated, operators can focus on passengers and their needs, rather than road traffic.

It’s a new year, folks! Congratulations, we survived another one!

My column yesterday attracted the site’s first Rabble and I don’t expect it to be the last. Among “thickslab’s” (please don’t post anonymously on this site, folks, and try to be respectful) concerns was the issue of passenger safety. I don’t mean in the sense of a technological failure (a rarity anyways), but in the sense of conflicts between riders and undesirables.

Is this a legitimate concern? Yes and no. It’s legitimate in that every time we choose to leave our front doors (or even when we don’t) we risk harm by other people. It’s just a question of how we minimize those risks. It’s not a legitimate concern in that the risk is no greater with cable than with any other public transit technology:

  • Being in an elevator with someone you don’t know?
  • Taking a taxi cab with a “foreign” driver.
  • The end of a subway platform where monitors aren’t installed.
  • A public-access stairwell late at night.
  • A subway car whose driver is 5 cars away.
  • Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

Most public transit cable systems use closed-circuit television in each car. These live feeds are monitored continually by staff located in stations or in an on-board monitoring station. As vehicles are equipped with additional communications devices, safety is as close as the nearest station. Smaller vehicles also mean that those communication devices are typically closer at hand to passengers than larger vehicles.

When staff spots or is alerted to an issue, security personnel and staff can be dispatched immediately to the station whereby the perpetrator can be apprehended. Furthermore, vehicles that carry a large number of passengers almost always have an attendant in-vehicle at all times.

Additionally, as operators and staff do not have to worry about contending with traffic and the actual driving of the vehicle, I’d argue that they are more capable of attending to the safety of passengers because their attention is not focused on “the road.” In the picture above, you can see the “driver” of a cable vehicle in Innsbruck who can actually monitor the activity of all five cars he’s responsible for.

This is simple fear-mongering and it doesn’t work: Even after last week’s unfortunate attempt by a youth to bring down an airliner bound for Detroit, hundreds of thousands of people still continue to fly (with unnecessary hassle, by the way).

People accept that a life lived around other people is a life that involves some degree of risk. But most of us choose to ignore that risk and live a happy life.

I would, however, be interested to know statistically-speaking how many passenger incidents occur in public cable systems as opposed to public non-cable systems. If anyone has any information on the matter, I’d love to see it.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.


  1. Steven, I'm impressed with the the cable technology and it's potential applications to transit... A question comes to mind, especially where gondolas are concerned... how do you address the needs of the disabled and elderly... especially wheel chair users in a "public" transit system, and in a North American marketplace? You may already have worked on this issue and have an answer...
  2. Doug, The cable industry long ago recognized the need for all vehicles to be accessible. So while some older systems are not as accessible as they could be, every current system is 100% accessible. In fact, one system which I've yet to discuss, uses a ferris-wheel-like device to allow users to load from street-level to avoid stairs or elevators. There's no such thing in cable as a "low floor" accessible vehicle, because all cable technology is automatically "low floor" and accessible.
  3. Ron Wm. Hurlbut
    Hi Steven, I'm trying to wrap my head around this whole concept/technology. You said that Gondolas slow down through a Station/Stop to allow passengers to alight and then they speed up again between Station/Stops. As long as everything [All the Gondolas] remain in constant motion and maintain specific spacing, all is well. However, a handicapped disabled patron could bring a Gondola to a full stop in order to enter/egress. This will mess up the timing/spacing of the Gondolas and potentially cause several to bunch up. How is this issue addressed?
  4. I'm glad to hear that you're "trying to wrap your head around" cable. Keep it up! It's worth it. As per your question, it's important to remember, Ron, that the gondolas do not have to be perfectly spaced apart. There is a lot of "wiggle room" there and systems have computer controls that correct for any issues. Counter to what you may initially think, the weight of the cable is far heavier than the gondola itself and it's passengers, so the extra addition of the weight is somewhat negligible. That's actually one of the beauties of cable: To add greater capacity to the line involves only the marginal cost of a new vehicle, which are one of the least costly components of a cable system. So long as vehicles are spaced relatively evenly, there's no issue. I've never seen, heard of, read about or witnessed a situation of cable transit bunches. Maybe with old San Francisco style cars, but never with modern cable systems.
  5. Ron Wm. Hurlbut
    I imagine that people will be reluctant to use Gondolas at first. Getting the hang of stepping on and off of a moving target. Sort of like the following anecdote: Toronto Railway Heritage Group: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/ToRyHeritage/ December 12, 1904: Timothy Eaton installs Toronto's first escalator in his Yonge Street store. Originally known as "flat-step moving staircases," customers were apprehensive about using the new device so Eaton placed store mannequins on the escalators to entice riders. Derek Boles

Leave a comment

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.