Idea Prospecting – Hand Me That Shovel!

Post by Steven Dale

The Chilkoot Trail - also known as the Golden Staircase - one of the major entry points into the Klondike River Valley.

In 1897, tens of thousands of people stormed the Klondike in search of gold and riches. Most of the prospectors came back empty handed. Those that didn’t and found their fortune did so after staking dozens of claims, most of which never paid off.

That’s the thing about prospecting: 99% of the work is for nothing. But you can’t find that 1% unless you’re willing to do the 99% first.

One thing we try really hard to do here at The Gondola Project is approach things – all things – with an open mind.

That’s a requirement if you’re willing to explore the idea of using ski lifts as public transit.

Are we perfect? Of course not. We have our biases and preferences, but generally speaking, I think this is a community of people that avoid Techno-Zealotry and work hard to look at things as objectively as possible. All we really care about is what’s actually in the ground, not what we hope is (or isn’t) there.

One of the ways we do that is to allow ourselves the pleasure of imagining the fun, the amazing and the wonderful. But we also allow ourselves the thrill of exploration, adventure and discovery.

In other words, we like prospecting for new ideas and we’re not going to apologize for that.

Will every one of those ideas be realized? Heck, no. But that doesn’t stop the prospector from prospecting. After all, no prospector in his right mind expects to hit paydirt with every stake driven.

Sure, the consensus around these parts is that the Chinese Tunnel Bus™ is – in all likelihood – nothing more than an expensive deathtrap. That hasn’t, however, prevented most commenters from dissecting the idea; declaring a desire to see it realized; and to one day maybe even ride it.

Ditto with the Dutch Superbus and probably the Aerobus too.

Same with PRT. We may be skeptical of the technology, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to see it happen. If the PRT crowd are able to pull off what they claim, all the more power to them. We just tend to feel that’s a staked claim that’s unlikely to ever pay off. Yet though we may prefer to dig elsewhere, that doesn’t mean we don’t respect the man that’s still panning away.

Cities need imagination, good humour and a reasonable dash of cowboy spirit. That’s what built our cities in the first place. We need people who are willing to look at the status quo and say “hey, that ain’t working, can we look at this for a minute?”

We need more people who will step up and say “we’ve never dug here before, hand me that shovel!”

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  1. Matt the Engineer
    They sure could have used a gondola there.
  2. @ Matt, Funnily enough, they eventually built one.
  3. Out of pure curiosity, please explain how Aerobus is "nothing more than an expensive deathtrap".
  4. @ Dave, I'm not saying that Aerobus is an expensive deathtrap - that's the Chinese Tunnel Bus. I'm saying that most of these technologies we look at have little to no future but it's worth exploring them anyways. And again: I could be wrong, but the Aerobus' track record is what troubles me.
  5. @ Steven, "I could be wrong, but the Aerobus’ track record is what troubles me." I say you're wrong. Because this site is primarily oriented to 'urban cable', let's ignore the fact that an Aerobus system operated for 30 flawless years at a Quebec ski resort. But what about the Aerobus system at Mannheim, Germany?https://picasaweb.google.com/jhm0284/AerobusMannheimBundesgartenschau1975# Eight 100-passenger cabins zipped 3.1 km along and down city streets, navigated curves, even leaped a wide river in a single bound. Over the 6 months it operated, it carried over 2.5 million passengers without so much as a single mishap. By my thinking, that's a pretty good “track record”. And that was 1975. It may not seem much, but compared to CPT, notwithstanding decades of trying by two well-heeled companies, not one single installation in a 'modern' urban environment. There are several good reasons why, and Aerobus answered every one of them. The way I see it, the score is Aerobus 1: CPT 0. I, too, could be wrong...
  6. @ Dave, You can say I'm wrong all you like and may very well be right. Sometimes you gotta' pick your horse, and the horse I picked happens to be gondolas. I don't see many cities clamouring over each other to build an Aerobus and I doubt I will anytime soon (with the exception of the rare Chinese city). I do, however, see cities piling onto the gondola bandwagon. Pick your horse.

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