Being First

Post by Steven Dale

It’s only a matter of time before someone builds an urban gondola or Cable Propelled Transit system in your world. It’s only a matter of when, where and whose first.

I know this because I read dozens of documents and reports from amateurs and professionals alike, answer a fair bit of email and listen to what people are saying. Trust me, it’s only a matter of time.

But that’s not the point. This is:

Every one of these documents I read or reports I correct or people I listen to all say the same thing: That an urban gondola or cable transit system is a guaranteed generator of tourism.

That’s only partly right and guarantees are not guaranteed.

For the city in your world that first installs a fully-integrated cable transit system, yes, the tourism dollars it generates will be large. Huge in fact. But only because the city in question was quick enough and smart enough to be first. For everyone else, forget it. Being first is a zero sum game.

Medellin was first and has reaped the rewards. And it will continue to reap the rewards for decades. Why? Because they were first. They were the original. They were the pioneers. For sure, no city wants to be first but there’s no bonus prize for being second.

Does the casual appreciator of art – the generalist – care about cubism? Probably not. But they’ll pay twenty bucks to see a Picasso.

In South America, cable’s about to become common. Cable’s already spread from Medellin to Caracas and plans are under way for CPT systems in Bogota, Cali, and throughout South America. There is literally so much talk about cable in South America, I can barely keep up.

In 10 years time will people travel to those places because of a gondola? Of course they won’t. People don’t travel thousands of miles to learn about, experience and witness something that’s common. Not when they’ve got one in their own backyard.

Once something is common, people choose instead to seek out the original. Which means if you want your gondola transit system to bear the fruits of tourism, you need to be first.

But wait you’re saying. How can my city be first? It’s no longer possible to be first. Medellin was first. Again, only partly right.

Remember, Medellin was only first in their world. Just as your world is far away from most of the rest of the world, Latin America is far away from most of the rest of the world. Not everyone will have the time and resources to travel to Medellin. That means the race to be first is still on. In your world.

It’s on in North America. It’s on in Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s on in Australasia. It’s on in China. It’s on in India. It’s on in Europe. It’s on in Scandanavia. It’s on in Russia. It’s on in the Caribbean. Smart cities know this and are racing towards the finish line. Foolish cities don’t even know the race is on.

So let’s make it official: The race is on. Be first.

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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. If you talk about cable propelled transit and not only gondolas there are many cities which installed funiculars long before Medellin got its gondola system.
  2. Very good point, Matthias. Medellin is really the first system to fully-integrate it's cable system into a public transit grid. And if not the first, it's certainly the most high-profile. Email, after all, existed long before Hotmail, but it was Hotmail that can really be thought of as the first mass, public email system to catch the imagination of the world. Thanks for pointing that out, though!
  3. For me fully integrated transit means the cable propelled transit connect with at least one other rail line and is integrated in the ticketing system. Which is true for several older systems than Medellin. Anyway a race for the most high profile is better as it newer end. We don't want that the race ever stops after all.
  4. Matthias, don't forget that the Metrocable in Medellin has public amenities integrated in the design of the stations, it is not only the fact that connects to the network of massive transportation of the city but also to the community adjacent to the stations. In addition I believe the Metrocable in Caracas is going to do the same. If you don't mind I ask, what cities do you know that have something similar?
  5. Hey Sebastian, Actually the Medellin system doesn't have many public facilities built into the stations for security reasons. Due to the security issues that Medellin used to have, it was felt that more "open plan" stations were necessary. As such, most of the public amenities are public spaces, parks, benches etc. The Caracas system has far more amenities. Most transit systems have some degree of public amenities built into stations (or stations built into public amenities). These are, however, two of the only cable systems to do so. Perugia, Italy as well.

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