Are Gondolas Too Cheap To Be Accepted As Transit?

Post by Steven Dale

Any good marketer knows that it’s better to sell a product with a higher margin than with a lower one. Furthermore, the higher the margin on the product, the more likely it will be viewed by the buyer as prestigious and luxurious.

It doesn’t matter that one car may be identical to another, the higher price point carries with it a certain cache.

So does such a phenomenon exist in the world of public transit and policy? I think it might, especially since transit planners, policy wonks and politicians aren’t actually playing with their own money when they select one technology over another.

In that situation, why wouldn’t they opt for that which carries more prestige?

When we talk about Cable Propelled Transit, we’re often quick to point out that it is a very cost-effective technology. Same for Bus Rapid Transit. In comparison to Light Rail, BRT is almost always the more cost-effective technology.

But we have to remember that another word for “cost-effective” is “cheap.” And no one ever wants to look cheap.

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  1. maybe one issue is not gondolas as a whole are inexpensive, but that there is no brand recognition per say. with something like a bus you still get the feeling about which is a better bus and which is probably not so good, depending on the bus manufacturer. who's to say if their city, for example, wants a leitner system vs a doppelmayr system? maybe if gondola systems can team up with companies already locally known for prestige and luxury it could help enforce the quality of the system. a system with Kia or Fiat cabins is probably going to be less well received then one with mercedes or ferarri cabins.
  2. Cost-effective and cheap are not the same in my opinion. Cities and city officials must be able to go/look beyond the "gondola is only for skiing" mentality first. Pricing is likely an after thought. It's simply an image and marketing issue.
  3. I think the question is: what can a gondola do? I've seen not much so far. And if it is basically a station and pylons and thats it, I'd say it is still too expensive for what it really is. So in my opinion Doppelmayr for instance is making themself really rich, because of the monopol position. Even if they have to split jobs with Leitner (Leitner is aware of that and happy too, to get the maximum price). To become considered as a serious option you have to proof you can do the job. <- First step. If you are good and people are willing to pay for the product then you are allowed to talk about the price. <- Second step. First step doesn't need any talking. Just needs to be done. Then we can talk about something... and the price. PS: BRT is using an already existing infrastructure. Light Rail isn't. It needs extra space. Some cities simply can not integrate such a technology. Others can/could, but in the beginning the price is much higher than adding a few buses. I think it really depends on the given and future situation followed by sustainable urban and financial planning.
  4. I doubt that cost effectiveness is really a issue to get people around. A motorcycle is very cost effective. In many countries 4-5 persons ride on one motorbike. In the so called western world an average of 1.2 persons uses a own car. But most wont use a motorcycle to get around even its more cost effective and faster. Same with transit. If the level of service is not good enough people will not use transit. A bus is more cost effective but a tram with the same speed and headway will get a significant higher ridership. Gondolas are still to slow and too troublesome to use at the moment. A low floor bus more comfortable to use if you have a lot of luggage or a baby pram than a gondola. Both the bus and gondola have about the same speed if no topological obstacles are present but the bus can cover a larger area and offer more one seat rides.

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