Ten Gondola Transit Talking Points & Tactics

Post by Steven Dale

Image by flickr user Invattur

If you’re into Urban Gondolas and Cable Propelled Transit (and you are or you probably wouldn’t be here), you’ve likely tried to ‘chat up’ the idea at your local pub, council meeting, industry association or sock hop (those things still exist, right?).

You’ve likely also been met with blank stares, dismissive nods and the terrifying realization that suggesting ski lifts as public transit maybe wasn’t the career-launching move you’d thought it would be.

But don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Here are ten things to get you out of that particular jam:


ONE. Admit from the very beginning that using ski lifts as public transit is the most ridiculous idea you’d ever heard of, too.

This is a particularly effective strategy if you’re met only with the aforementioned silence and dumbfounded expressions.

People respond and empathize with people that share a similar experience and worldview. By admitting this was the dumbest thing you’d ever heard – which it likely was – you’ll make an instant connection with that person. It allows you to move the conversation from this is stupid to let me tell you why it isn’t stupid.


TWO. Cable Transit is one of many tools.

No one likes a zealot – except zealots who only actually like zealots that share their particular worldview. If you come off as a cable zealot – and they exist – no one will pay attention to you. Monorails, anyone?

Cable isn’t the be all, end all, best technology around. It has it’s strengths and its weaknesses just like every other transit technology in the world. It’s a tool. And like any tool, you have to match the right tool, for the right situation.


THREE. Resist the urge towards frustration.

When people ask if cable works in winter – and people will ask – you’re immediate reaction is likely to be It’s a !@#%@^#$% ski lift!!!!

Resist that urge. You won’t make any friends calling someone out on their ignorance.

People don’t need you flying off the handle like some latter-day Howard Beale. Instead, just laugh it off and tell the person how many times you’ve heard that question before (likely dozens). Then remind them politely that cable transit was developed primarily in ski resort situations. Let them put two-and-two together for themselves.


FOUR. Remember: This isn’t your idea, it isn’t your invention.

This isn’t your idea. This isn’t my idea. This isn’t anyone’s idea. This is simply something that’s happening around the world.

Cable’s been around for more than 2,000 years. This will ease any concerns people may have about blatant self-promotion.


FIVE. Find out who skis.

Figure out who the skiers and snowboarders are in your group. Talk to them. They’ll get it. Almost immediately.


SIX. Local comparisons work.

If you have time and are really committed to this, find ways to compare the technology to transit in your local area – or the local area of the people you’re speaking with.

I do this all the time with my hometown of Toronto.

For example, when discussing the speed of cable, I tend to use the example of Toronto’s famed streetcars. They’re built to travel at speeds up to 100 km/hr, yet they average only 12. Gondolas may only reach a maximum speed of 25 – 35 km/hr (depending upon technology choice), but they actually do reach those maximum speeds.

Another example from Toronto: The 501 Queen streetcar in Toronto is the longest streetcar line in the world at roughly 25 km length. It moves 40,000 riders per day. The Medellin Metrocable moves the exact same number of people – along only 2 km of length.


SEVEN. The Safety Dance.

You’re going to be asked about safety at some point. Probably best to simply say something to the effect of “when was the last time you heard about someone dying in a gondola or aerial tram?”

This might end that conversation, it might not. If not, use the safety arguments we’ve compiled here – they work.


EIGHT. Don’t debate. Engage.

Except for the small handful of people who actually enjoy making others look foolish in front their peers, no one likes a debate. People don’t like conflict and will do everything in their power to avoid it.

Instead, engage people and listen to their concerns and questions. Answer them and wait for others. Tell stories and use examples. You’re not trying to change people’s worldview, you’re trying to broaden it and add another tool to their arsenal.

Be prepared, however, because every group has at least one individual who does like to debate, and they will come at you guns blazing. They may even like the idea but like the hunt more. These people won’t let you off the hook for a second. Probably best to deal with their myriad of questions in isolation.


NINE. Don’t try to change people’s minds.

It’s worth remembering that if someone has an interest (vested or otherwise) in transit, they’ve probably already decided whose team they’re on. Trying to get them to flip from one mode to yours isn’t likely to happen.

Worse, they may take your advances as an attack and find ways to cut-off the discussion before it even begins.


TEN. The Gondola Project.

Lastly, Send them to this site . . . we can always use more traffic. Please excuse the shameless self-promotion.

What talking points and tactics have you found that work?

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. I think it can help to suggest to people that they ask themselves where gondolas might work in their locale. Give them some simple rules: straight lines between stations; don't run into tall buildings; but don't worry about rivers or hills; and so on. I also think it can help to identify specific local problems/needs that have been left unsolved/unmet by other forms of transit, and which gondolas might be able to address.
  2. I came across the term "gondola rapid transit". I wonder this name would help as it sounds more established and the word "rapid" will help reinforce the speed aspect.
  3. Or possibly "aerial rapid transit".
  4. On the other hand, it ain't really "rapid".
  5. @ ant6n "Rapid" is relative like "cheap".
  6. How about "light areal transit".
  7. @ Sean "aerial rapid transit" I've actually heard that term a few times before. Check out tomorrow's post and we'll discuss it further.
  8. >>THREE. Resist the urge towards frustration. When people ask if cable works in winter – and people will ask – you’re immediate reaction is likely to be It’s a !@#%@^#$% ski lift!!!!<< Well it is crucial for every conversation. Know your facts and sell them GOOD! In case of Point THREE: A little more than necessary: "Yes, you could say its a ******* ski lift, but where are the skies? Do you know how the Bank of America started? As the Bank of Italy. Or Lamborghini... (we already had that conversation)." Better: you could come up with the word ski lift yourself. "Did you know NYC got a cable car too? They used the same design as they did in the mountains in Switzerland." (and maybe show amazing pictures including both locations) Or like that guy did: "Good question. Think about where the system origi..."
  9. I thought I had come up with a clever term. I was a little deflated after hearing that it has already been coined. Worse yet, after a quick google search, I came up with a Popular Mechanics from 1917 which used it. bit.ly/emDuDf

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