Weekly Roundup

Post by Steven Dale

It’s been a fairly slow week for cable, but a few interesting stories and tidbits floated out of the ether…

  • As Vancouver’s Translink agency prepares to study a proposed gondola link between the Skytrain and Simon Fraser University, the usual chorus of cynics chime in: Rail For The Valley calls the study “pointless,” slags the concept as nothing more than a “skyride,” and perpetuates the common myth that Light Rail can carry “over 20,000 pphpd!” (exclamation theirs). The Vancouver gondola is a proposal I’ve followed for almost two years now, and I’ll write a post on it next week.
  • An Op-Ed piece for the Trinidad Express Newspapers called “Send Cable Car to Maracas not Tunnel” invokes the ire of readers and commenters. If you’d like a quick insight into how misinformed many people are about cable technology, this is a good place to start; the comments are particularly illuminating.
  • The EU grants $13.7 million USD to restore a cable car to the top of Mount Snezka, the Czech Republic’s highest mountain. The system will connect the mountain to the nearby city of Pec pod Snezkou.
  • Robo Johor, an Asian travel and food blogger provides a nice photo essay on the Langkawi Cable Car.
  • Thomas Morgan, candidate in an upcoming Wellington, New Zealand election proposes an Urban Gondola as mass urban transit.
  • Reuters reports on successful investment strategies in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. According to the article, one such positive investment was by Mamdouh Mahmoud, an Iraqi businessman responsible for a new cable car in the northern province. Apparently, the system only cost $2.5 million and was built and constructed by a Chinese company. As Chinese companies aren’t exactly known for their meticulous attention to detail and safety, I suspect we’ll be hearing more and more about this system sometime in the future – for all the wrong reasons.
  • Doppelmayr CTEC proposes a gondola transit system for Atlantic City. While promoters insist the idea would be a large generator of jobs, critics don’t see it as being viable in the long-term. The debate within the article is excellent and highlights the tension between short-term job creation via tourism and long-term planning for the future.
  • Also in Wellington: A $1.3 million terminus for Wellington’s cable car may be built to replace the existing terminus which authorities say does not comply with modern safety standards.
  • And lastly, in a story that will unfortunately be remembered for its irony rather than its tragedy, Jimi Heselden, the millionaire owner of the Segway company died last week…while riding a Segway.

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. Wow. I should get into the consultancy racket. I cannot believe you can make money promoting gadgetbahn modes such as cable cars. Anyways, the RftV blogger did not say the $80 million tram was pointless. He was referring to the studies that are fudged to favour Skytrain. He does make a valid point. The Fraser Valley needs quality rail transit, and Rail For the Valley is a credible advocacy group, one blogger nonwithstanding. If Translink is willing to look at a plan for a cable car, why not look at Interurban TramTrain technology too?
  2. Justin, a) I never said that the RftV blogger said the tram was pointless. I said he said that the study was pointless. b) There's no reason why Translink shouldn't look at TramTrain and that has nothing to do with whether they look at gondolas or not. As I've said repeatedly on this site, it's important to explore all possibilities. c) Call it "gadgetbahn" all you want, but the reality of the situation is this: More and more cities are building this technology because it is often faster, cheaper and safer than standard forms of public transit - and with less wait times to boot. The advantages of connecting SFU via gondola instead of bus are demonstrated in the existing feasibility analysis. Furthermore, no rail-based form of transit could even make the trek up Burnaby Mountain. d) I do not get paid to promote cable cars. This site is my own creation and I receive zero compensation for maintaining it. I've made that explicity clear in the past.
  3. Actually LRT can and does carry over 20,000 persons per hour per direction and is why light rail has made light-metros like SkyTrain obsolete. The question about the gondola project (which was released again to counter the RftV TramTrain mews release) is how is it going to be paid for, when the provincial government can't even fund the Evergreen Line. If private money is available, why not is it forthcoming, especially if it gondola will also be a tourist attraction? Personally, if it is built, it should go from Lougheed Mall to SFU as it would more convenient for most customers and getting the Mall to chip in some money.
  4. Zweisystem, Can you tell us which LRT systems do carry over 20,000 pphpd? Especially within a North American context. Generally-speaking an LRT car is going to carry (roughly speaking) 100 people per car. At most, an LRT system will likely have 4 car trains. This is because if a train gets much longer it causes havoc mid-block between intersections (as most LRTs operate in some form of mixed traffic, rather than a fully segregated Right of Way). LRT will also operate at a maximum headway of around 2 minutes. That means thirty 4-car trains every hour. Which equals 12,000 pphpd. Would you be able to theoretically push that number higher? Sure, why not. But in that situation, it's not Light Rail, it's typically Heavy Rail.
  5. Don't take Zweisystem or his Rail for the Valley blog too seriously. The guy is out to lunch with his wishful thinking and biased propagandas. If you read his blogs enough you'll realize there's no credibility in it.
  6. Josh, Possibly, but it's still important to engage in debate, wishful thinking or otherwise. After all, a lot of people might deem what we're trying to do here as "wishful thinking." And when I first started this work, I can assure you I (as well as all my friends, colleagues and family) all thought I was "out to lunch", too :).
  7. Mr. Dale, you are incorrect on the capacity of a LRV. I'll use the Siemens-Duewag U2 car which was the original car of choice for Calgary, Edmonton, and San Diego. The carrying capacity for a Siemens U2 is around 200 passengers. http://www.calgarytransit.com/html/technical_information.html Using your example of a 4 car train at 2 minutes, the capacity will be well over 20,000pph. You do not need to build heavy rail to handle loads up to 20,000pph. Many agencies promote that idea, because they are afraid to give priority to transit over automobiles.
  8. You sound like many LRT opponents who think it is OK to use misleading facts to justify your cause.
  9. Justin, I'm likely to say the same thing regarding your position. You seem to use misleading theoreticaltheoretical maximums to justify your position. Let's break down the numbers you linked to from Calgary Transit. (I'm using the numbers you linked to, incidentally): Currently, they run an am peak of 7,255 pphpd. They're running 600 person vehicles every 5 minutes in that peak. Now remember: Calgary's LRT has more in common with heavy rail than LRT. Huge stretches of it are underground or fully-grade separated. That allows them to have longer vehicles than most other LRT systems. Most older cities, due to their short blocks preclude vehicles this long. The "THEORETICAL" (their bolds, not mine) maximum capacity is dependent upon four things: 4 car trains, carrying over 1,000 people (more than Toronto's own subway system); 2 minute headways; almost perfect schedule adherence; and the assumption that every seat is filled during peak. So yes, theoretically, that can occur. It probably never will however. The site you link to is also very clear on the "theoretical" aspect of this. Let's assume Calgary experiences a 2% rate of ridership growth along their peak C-Train line - a not unreasonable number. After 40 years (40!) they will still only be offering a maximum capacity of around 15,700. I'm very positive on Calgary's C-Train. It's one of the few examples where LRT is both excellently implemented and is justifiable from a ridership and economics perspective. If there were one LRT system I'd suggest mimicking, it's Calgary's. As I've said I-don't-know-how-many-times before, LRT is a wonderful technology when implemented properly and in the right environment. Problem is, it almost never is. Using crass theoretical maximums (that even Calgary hasn't and likely never will reach) to justify building LRT is irresponsible. LRT is a great technology but it's only one out of several.
  10. Mr. Dale, it was you who lied about the capacity of an LRV. Modern LRVs carry well over 100 riders, and I used the example of a Siemens Duewag U2 LRV built in the 80's to refute your claim an LRV carries only 100 people. I just corrected your lie, posted the actual specs, and used your example. LRT CAN handle over 20,000pph if the agency wishes it. Using the same number from the site, the C-train maximum practical capacity is just under 20,000pph, with a theoretical capacity of around 30,000. It's not a myth. LRT system CAN handle large loads. That is the point, and that is why you claiming it to be a myth is simply not true. you probably should not have even said anything about the capacity of LRT, since you really do not seem to know the capacity. You also seem to make a lot of misleading claims. For one, the system only has a a few tunneled segments. Much of the system is at grade with it's ROW in the median of roads. It is not fully grade separated like a subway. The vehicles used by Calgary are the same length used by Sacramento, and San Diego, whose systems are largely at grade. Houston uses the Siemens Avanto, which is actually 5 metres longer than Calgary's vehicle! What's irresponsible is making crass calculations on capacity using low-balled vehicle capacity numbers. You are very guilty of this practice.
  11. Justin, Do you know of any LRT systems in North America that currently carry 30,000 pphpd? Do you know of any systems planned that will carry 30,000 pphpd? How many people are carried on the Sacramento, Houston and San Diego lines? 3,000? 4,000? 5,000? Please also don't accuse me of lying. I am not lying. If you read my comment closely you'll see that I say "generally speaking" and "roughly speaking" to say that a LRT car will carry 100 people. Do some LRT vehicles carry 200? Yes. Do some carry 100? Yes. I also never said that Calgary was fully grade separated, I said that much of it was fully grade-separated. The problem with this argument is that both of us are arguing theoretical capacity based on tech specs. The reality of course is that max capacity (just like max speed) has very little to do with the technology in question and everything to do with the environment and the way in which it's implemented. In order to reach 30,000 pphpd with LRT, you would need the following: 1. Fully separated Right-of-Way the entire length of the line. 2. 1,000 person trains. 3. Complex signaling. 4. Fare collection in a location not within the vehicle. 5. 2 minute headways (hence the need for complex signaling). What's that going to cost you? Once you implement all of these things, the price and scope begins to look a whole lot like heavy rail. The LRT industry may like to throw around terms like "light rail" but if it looks like heavy rail, performs like heavy rail, and acts like heavy rail it is heavy rail. And there's nothing wrong with heavy rail, or subways or metros. Subways (like LRT) are great! But to sell heavy rail statistics with LRT prices is disingenuous at best. If anyone else out there wants to jump into this discussion, please do.
  12. Mr. Dale, you are skirting around the issue. You said LRT being able to handle over 20,000pph is a myth. I have shown you a system that has a practical capacity of 20,000pph, and a theoretical capacity of 30,000. First you ask for systems that carry 20,000pph, I show you proof(using your own analysis, no less, and correcting you little lie about the capacity of a modern LRV) of a system that can carry 20,000pph, and you now want proof of a system that carries 30,000? Amazing! Is that how you think you can get away with fudging numbers? By "roughly" speaking? That is a tad sleazy, no? I am sure you know the lowest capacity vehicle carries around 160 passengers. Much of the system is NOT fully grade seperated, again a lie. The problem here is you, like many others who promote niche technologies think it's necessary to attack LRT, and use misleading statements, and lies to further your agenda. THAT is the problem. it's not about technology, it's about people who feel the need to make up false claims, and analysis to further their agenda. Heck, the first post of this blog is an attack on Toronto's streetcars! You clearly do not know the role of streetcars in Toronto but felt the need to attack them to promote gondolas.
  13. Justin, I don't see how Steven was purposely trying to be misleading. So he made a mistake, get over it. I don't understand why you're so defensive about LRTs. Of course LRTs can have high pph values... hell it could even be theoretical 50,000pph... just make the trains 300m long with 5 second headways. Practical? No. There's a good reason why LRTs don't typically reach 20,000pph. And please don't accuse people of being LRT opponents or "skytrain lobbiest." If I hadn't known better, I'd say you and zweisystem are one. The fact that you think Rail for the Valley is a credible blog says a lot. If you honestly think there is no misinformation perpetrated by zweisystem then I have nothing to say to you.
  14. Besides all being said right now: every 2 minutes a quartered snake going by... it's massive. We are talking here about one line. Unless the city is really prepared for it (like almost no other traffic) I get feelings like living next to a train station. I think if you need that big numbers maybe another system is a solution - even if it costs more. Just by the numbers and imagionation - but I'm not familiar with the whole topic.
  15. Justin, A) you've neither provided evidence of an LRT that can carry 20k nor an LRT that carries 30k. I suspect it would be difficult to find one that even carries 15k. Your analysis is based solely on hypotheticals and theoreticals that have never been proven nor demonstrated in the real world. B) I'm from Toronto and have ridden the streetcars there for well over 25 years. My analysis of the Toronto streetcars is used for purposes of comparison. And a system whereby vehicles that operate in mixed traffic have the same average travel speeds as those that operate in semi-dedicated ROWs is worthy of analysis. C) how many more times must I say that LRT is a great technology when implemented properly? I'm not against LRT, I'm against the idea that LRT is some kind of cure-all when it's just one of several options.
  16. Mr. Dale, I have already shown you a system that is capable of carrying over 20,000pph. You said LRT systems are not capable of carrying 20,000pph. I have shown you a system that is capable. I understand you cannot admit you're wrong, you clearly have a bias against LRT. I do not know anyone who believes LRT is the cure-all. I can name many people who think only Skytrain, buses, subway are options. I understand now, why you seem so biased against the technology. It does not mean you should be using misleading facts, and nit-picking certain aspects of the technology to push your agenda. Of course, you're not the only one, but I will call people out when they post misleading information. Kev, he made a mistake, and he does not want to admit he made a mistake. That is the sign of someone with a bias. I am not affiliated with Rail For the valley, but in Toronto we are facing the same sort of battle with opponents who think only metros, and mini-metros are the answer to the transport problem. Few seem to understand LRT can have in a transport network, and Rail for the Valley is one of the few, along with Steve Munro, and Stephen Rees. who understand it's role.
  17. "I do not know anyone who believes LRT is the cure-all." "I understand now, why you seem so biased against the technology. It does not mean you should be using misleading facts, and nit-picking certain aspects of the technology to push your agenda." "he made a mistake, and he does not want to admit he made a mistake. That is the sign of someone with a bias." ------------------------------------------ Sounds like you're describing Zweisystem from Rail for the Valley. Of course you wouldn't know because you're biased towards LRT.
  18. Justin, A) You have shown me a system that is "capable" of carrying over 20,000 pphpd, but you've not shown a system that "does" carry 20,000. Those are two VERY different things. My bank account is capable of holding millions of dollars, but I can assure you there are many other issues that will prevent it from ever actually doing so. Capable and Actual are two different things. B) Using Calgary as a reference point only demonstrates a system that carries 7,500 pphpd, almost 1/3 of your 20,000. So again: Do you know of any LRT systems that actually carry 20,000 pphpd? C) I do not have an agenda except to foster an open dialogue and suggest to people that there are other ways to look at transit other than standard rail-and-road-based modes. I am not against subway, bus, LRT, ferries, jitneys, taxis, cars, feet, ponies, bicycles, tricycles, vespas, three-legged races, skipping, or water slides. Whatever gets people where they need to go in the quickest, cheapest and most pleasant way possible, I'm for. I am decidedly pro-multi-modal. Just because this site is pro-cable does not mean it is anti-LRT. My problem with LRT is that it is often implemented poorly in completely inappropriate locations. Calgary's a great example of a successful LRT, but it is only one success in a sea of failures.
  19. "slags the concept as nothing more than a “skyride,” and perpetuates the common myth that Light Rail CAN CARRY “over 20,000 pphpd!” (exclamation theirs)." You said this, did you not? Or are you going to skirt around the issue again? I understand you have a bias against LRT, and surface rail. It's OK. You could at least not post misleading facts in your cause. Since I have shown that there are systems that CAN CARRY 20,000pph, I am going to leave this debate for now. Reading this blog, I unfortunately do see a bias against rail. I noticed their was a article in the Star about your blog. ""We've spent so long imagining our transit as what we have right now and there's a whole bunch of other ideas out there," he said. "Light rail, for me, is not the best technology. "Light rail happens to be stuck between a technology we don't like – buses – and a technology we can't afford – subways."" http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/transportation/article/744088--is-it-time-for-toronto-to-finally-get-cable#article You do not have a bias? Like I said before, I could less if you have a bias, at least be honest about it! I am least glad the TTC decided not to waste time studying cable. Getting Transit City, the DRL, and improving bus service should be priority over even spending money on niche technology.
  20. Justin, I know you've "left this debate" but I don't see how saying "light rail happens to be stuck between a technology we don't link - buses - and a technology we can't afford - subways." as indicative of a bias. Saying a technology is "not the best technology" is not equivalent to saying "I am against this technology". Thai food is not - in my opinion - the best Asian cuisine. Japanese - in my opinion - is. That doesn't mean, however, that I do not enjoy Thai food nor understand its merits.
  21. ~everyone says cable is a niche technology, but at what point does a technology go from being part of a specialized market to mainstream? clearly everything has to start somewhere. cable technology (although in its most basic form has been around for over 2,000 years) in the way it is being proposed on this blog (urban uses), while designed, built, and proven, is still quite the anomaly. but remember, there was a first time engineers buried train tracks (a tried a true technology) and invented the subway, so at some point subways were a "niche" technology. capacity and speed details aside, it is a functioning technology and is beginning to catch more and more attention as a viable solution. so call it "niche" all you like, doesn't mean it doesn't work, doesn't mean it isn't improving all the time, and doesn't mean it won't be implemented in cities around the world. it's not a one solution fits all, but really, what is?
  22. Justin is funny, he doesn't have a clue what he's saying.
  23. I haven't read through all the debate above, so sorry if i repeat anything that had already been said. The Manila LRT1 has a capacity of 40000 pphpd It is possible to build a high capacity LRT line, just it requires advanced signaling, grade separation etc. I don't think cable can compete against (high capacity) rail for capacity, but it can compete with street running systems. Both have distinct advantages.
  24. I agree with Scott B absolutely. That's the only point. Every situation needs its own solution - if only by bikes, cars, buses, cable, lrt or metro.
  25. scott, good points. about the manila system though, does it actually run at capacity? also, it sounds more like heavy rail system if it can carry 40000pphpd. so where does the distinction happen between light and heavy rail? ... the cars? the infrastructure around the system? the capacity? the signaling?
  26. The problem with light rail in Vancouver is that we have had over 30 years of pro SkyTrain propaganda to contend with, but why doesn't anyone else build with SkyTrain? Transit truth has been censored, for fear of real comparisons be made between SkyTrain and LRT. Today's modern LRV carries 220 to 250 passengers, depending upon design. Today's LRV can operate in multiple units at headways as close as 30 seconds apart. This gives modern LRT a tremendous lift, if needed. Today, in Karlsruhe Germany, transit authorities are building a tram tunnel under the main-street because of the huge success of the TramTrain, the tram route through the 'haupt strasse' sees 2 car trains at 45 second headways, giving a peak hour capacity of over 38,000 pphpd! Only in Vancouver, would this cause 'shock and disbelief". http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/ The following study from 1986 shows that modern LRT could carry 20,000 pphpd then, as it can today. But then, like the Luddites of old, you cannot accept modern LRT operational fact. http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/the-1986-lrta-study-bus-lrt-metro-comparison/ Manila's 'elevated' LRT line (uses LRV's) operates as a light metro on elevated rights-of-ways, operates 4 car trains at 2 minute headways, giving a capacity in excess of 40,000 pphpd in peak hours. The manila LRT still retains the ability to operate on much cheaper 'at-grade' RoW's if need be.
  27. In the USA there are very strict rules for railway vehicles which make than very heavy and not economic for urban transit. This they have light rail which has a much lower axle load thus can build with a cheaper infrastructure. There huge diferences between Europe Japan and North America. A Japanese heavy rail Multiple unit would be a light rail in the US. Just to compare a Stadler GTW complies with the latest EU regulation for crashworthiness in Europe those Units are used on the same tracks like freight and Intercity train. In the USA they need to be seperated from freight traffic. Maybe Canada has a bit more relaxed rules but basically they comply with the US FRA rules. Just from the axle loading even a high speed Shinkansen would need to be considered light rail. The axle loading is less than half of a North American freight. train Then you have different levels of infrastructure and signaling. A streetcar runs in street and has very little signalling, vehicles run on sight. The skytrain has a completely grade separated track and operates automatic. Both are considered Light Rail Transit. Sometimes even rubber tired metros are called light rail transit. Thus it would be better to use terms like tram,streetcar, interurban, light metro etc. Personally i think rail and cable propelled transit can get along very well. Examples of fully integrated cable transit show that a funicular or gondola can be a very good feeder to traditional heavy or light rail. Cable propelled transit is still restricted in capacity, speed, length and routing flexibility. This can be improved over time if teh manufacturesrs are really interested . in the meantime there are enough applications where a short distance low capacity system can help to connect to existing transit stations. The Metrocable is a good example. One major point of its ridership is that it connect to the metro line. Its a win win situation there are more passengers on the metro and the cable line provides access to quarters no one would have build any rail service.
  28. Thanks LX and Frankie Frankie. The daily record for the LRT 1 (yellow) line is 582,989. Assuming it was open its standard 16 hours a day, this is an average of 34 400 riders an hour, or 18 200 riders per hour per direction. I guess that in peak times loading is likely to be more than double the average loading. I can’t find better stats than the ones above. I know some people will just do short trips etc. My general impression based on road vehicles in manila it that it is completely normal to use them over capacity (That was the first time I saw passengers on the roof of a bus. Putting three or four people on a 125cc motorbike was common). I would be surprised if the LRT1 had never been run over capacity. I agree think the line between light and heavy rail is quite blurred. LRT generally has lower top speed, wagon length, turning radius and axle load. I think there is something to do with the bogies being under the articulation point too. The manila LRT stock has a top speed of about 60 km/h. This is much slower than typical heavy trains I think lower speed is a major characteristic. Zweisystem Much of Manila LTR1 is at ground level. However it does have a (well fenced) dedicated corridor, and all road crossings are grade separated. Most are elevated but I remember at least one being underground. Matthias I agree with your last paragraph I see cable as being able to provide efficient medium capacity feeder lines to a RTN backbone, and to provide extensions to an RTN line where it is no longer possible or economic to continue the main line. Medellin Metro cable is an example of the former, while the Hong Kong Ngong Ping 360 is an example of the latter.

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