“Gondolas Are For Ski Hills”

Post by Steven Dale

Above: The Aerobus. Let's just ignore the fact that this is not a gondola, okay?

That’s what rail transit advocate Tim Mollison of the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group said about a proposal to bring the Aerobus to the Kitchener-Waterloo region in Ontario, Canada.

“Gondolas are for ski hills.”

Now, listen. Just because you’re an advocate of one thing doesn’t mean you need to be ignorant about another thing.

In fact, the exact opposite is the better strategic choice. Being informed about those things you don’t agree with only reinforces and strengthens your position.

To be ignorant of that which you oppose only invalidates your opposition and makes you look foolish.

Had Tim actually taken the time to research his position (he could’ve started here) and reasonably articulated why he didn’t like the Aerobus concept (and there are many, many legitimate reasons why one shouldn’t like the Aerobus), he wouldn’t have come across as so – how shall I put this delicately? – thick.

Advocacy and ignorance often go hand-in-hand, but they don’t necessarily have to.

Update: I just realized I never actually linked to the original article that quoted Mr. Mollison. That’s been remedied.

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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. Jeffrey Bridgman
    Head-up: Your link to "here" is broken.
  2. I wonder if people still can say: I'm not familiar with that / Haven't looked into it or didn't consider it. I guess this it what makes politicians and lots of experts. A (not even made up) opinion about everything.
  3. @ "...there are many, many legitimate reasons why one shouldn’t like the Aerobus" Don't hold us in suspense. Lets hear them.
  4. Whats the problem with the Aerobus? It has all what it takes to be a modern transit. Look at the 1975 Mannheim temporary installation for the Buga garden show. It goes around curves. Has a high operating speed and the same dwell time like a streetcar. It can run on monorail track as well as suspended ables. When running on cables the optical impact is very low. Unfortunately it was to revolutionary to really catch on. His company GMD was not big enough to push the Aerobus. With more money behind it it could have become a success. http://www.rothenhoefer-wiesloch.de/bahn/Aerobus.html BTW the Aerobus was invented my Gerhard Müller which also made a grip for Monocable Gondolas and Chairlift. before his invention Monocables detachable grips where not safe enough for passenger comfort. Müller also invented the T-Bar ski lift. He invented the aerobus because he wanted a cable suspended transit and gondolas where not up to the task at that time.
  5. @ Mattias and Dave, My main issue with the Aerobus is that we have so little information on it. How many people can it carry? What's its speed? What's it's energy consumption? What's its station footprint? What's the ability of the industry to provide spare parts? I'm all for innovation and inventive thinking about transit and the urban form, but we know so very little about the Aerobus that people have to step up and start informing us about the technology more.
  6. @ Matthias, One thing I do, however, like about the Aerobus concept is that the line configuration provides a more "horizontal" structure. That gives it much more heft and avoids the problem of 'sag' and 'belly' in the cable. I'd love to know if this could be remixed for detachable gondolas.
  7. As you can see the Aerobus has the size of a large bus or a streetcar. It is claimed to be able to go 80km/h or faster depending on the vehicle or guideway. The spare part for traction can be taken from trolleybus or streetcars. Mechanically it is quite a simply vehicle. Basically just a trolleybus with the wheels on top. The size of the station has to match the vehicle size. No acceleration are deceleration stretch is needed as the vehicles are self propelled. If you search on the net you can find the relevant information. They main problem is that the Aerobus website hasn't seen an update for years. A transit agency will think many times whether to make a contract with such a small companies. Regardless of the technology such projects cost hundred of millions and huge financial securities are required. So again the main problem is not technical nature. In fact the Aerobus technology has only a chance if it is taken over by a big player. Leitner or Doppelmayr are much larger companies but still have troubles to get a foot into the transit market, as they are no match for established transit companies. As you note the guideway is suspended every metre from a suspension cable. Just like an suspension bridge. A gondola would need a majou redesign to be able to ride on such a configuration.
  8. Aside from the lighter supporting infrastructure, I don't see how the Aerobus is much different from the: Wuppertal Schwebebahn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuppertal_Schwebebahn), the Shonan Monorail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shonan_Monorail) or the Chiba Monorail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiba_Monorail). If the cost/km is similar to other transit technologies, aside from "aesthetics" and "image" issues, I don't see why congested cities aren't considering these top-supported systems.
  9. That was my first thought too, Mono. In fact I have this feeling the technology of the three examples you mentioned is better, because there is no moving within the tracks like it is on those supported-rope-tracks. And I wouldn't call the supporting infrastructure so much lighter, cause those support towers have to be very high and much stronger - like used for bridges. Using the aerobus technology to me seems just fine, when it comes to long straight lines - like connecting an island with main land.
  10. A cable supported system has a the longest span. A SAFEGE Monorail has to take a much higher wind load and the guideway itself is much heavier. Of course the SAFEGE system has other benefits like running surfaces protected by the elements. All suspended means of transport have a psychological disadvantage. Newer and stricter evacuation regulation also don't help much. In fact in some countries it will be legally impossible to operate a gondola or any type of monorail as a transit system simply because they do not have an emergency walkway. Siemens for example has ditched its H-Bahn monorail in favor of the VAL system.
  11. That's an interesting point you make matthias. It would be informative to see what type of legal implications exist for implementing suspended transport types. Seems that cable is ill-defined in many places and some countries even consider it to be a type of rail system. God knows how an aerobus would be governed....
  12. Could you expain a little? Safege and VAL?
  13. SAFEGE stands for Société Anonyme Française d' Etude de Gestion et d' Entreprises They invented a monorail system where the wheels run inside the beam. They couldn't sell their system but the name is now used for this Type of Monorail. Examples: Shonan and Chiba Monorail in Japan. Dortmund H-Bahn und Düsseldorf Skytrain in Germany. VAL once stood for Villeneuve d'Ascq à Lille now it stand for Véhicule Automatique Léger. Which means light automated vehicle. It is an Automated ligth metro run on rubber tyres. Its the AGT made by Siemns .It is the type of automated transit most used and sometimes used also as a synonyme for other automated systems. The evacuation issue also affects underground transit. Example the tunnels of the London tube are so narrow that you cannot get of the train while in a tunnel. New subway system need an emergency walkway so passenger can leave the train at any time plus the need to be emergency exits from the tunnels to the surface. This makes underground transit much more expensive and in fact make small scale subways not feasible. If just for the vehicle you could built a nice transit system with tubes the size of a large sewage pipe. For gondola sized vehicle a tunnel diameter of only 2.5 m would be enough. But would not comply with todays rules and regulations.At Zurich airport there is a nice cable propelled APM which runs in a tunnels. The cable propulsion was even selected to keep the tunnel small. But the tunnel diameter is larger that the one from the London tube, just because of the walkway. So as long as a transit system with a certain speed and capacity needs an emergency walkway there is little chance for gondolas, monorails oe small subways being widely adopted for transit. This why we see gondola transit system in countries with not that strict rules.
  14. @ Matthias, That's an excellent point. One thing that's interesting, however, is that gondolas are rarely actually classified as transit in the developed world. As I understand it - and this could be wrong - gondolas tend to be classified as amusement rides.
  15. In Canada, we think about gondolas from a technical perspective as passenger ropeways. Sounds simple. But from a regulatory perspective it gets a little more complicated when cable is introduced into the world of transit. A perfect case in point is the Toronto airport APM. At the time of construction, it was uncertain which regulatory body would have jurisdiction over the system, and so the airport authority chose to use the Technical Standards Safety Authority (TSSA) to provide the regulatory oversight, especially in regards safety functions, etc. The TSSA regulates many diverse areas, among them passenger ropeways, elevating devices, and amusement rides. Cable propelled APMS are becoming increasingly easy regulated due to the fact that there is an increasing number of them in existence, which has caused regulatory groups (especially the ASCE) to pay more attention to them when devising relevant codes. I suspect that the same will be true for gondolas.
  16. @ Sean, All good points. I think one of the fascinating things about the Pearson cable-propelled APM is that there is actually no "escape" walkway along the system.
  17. For my understand i doesn't mater if its an amusement ride or an transit because the level of safety should be the same anyway. If an amusement ride has lesser requirement you just declare your transit system as an amusement ride. Regulation for example are different for vehicle size and total passengers in the system at a time. In some cases a cable propelled shuttle is legally considered as an elevator. A gondola is just an vehicle with no operator on board. An aerial tramway is a vehicle with an operator. Thats why in many countries the height above ground for gondolas and chair lifts is limited. Aerial tramways have a higher limit because in case of an evacuation the operator can help and instruct the passengers. So some systems must be built as an Aerial tramway because although technically possible it is not legal to built a gondola. Or to be legal the capacity of the gondola will be to low.
  18. Steven it would be interesting if you write an article about that issue.

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