Win Some, Lose Some: Media Response To Urban Gondolas In Calgary

Post by Steven Dale

Considering how nascent the idea of urban gondola transit in Calgary is, it’s incredible to see how the media has pounced on it – and in some situations gotten the story completely wrong.

More than likely, the media attention has been little more than a light-hearted distraction from the more serious business of Canada’s Federal election and the death of Osama Bin Laden, both of which having dominated Canadian news for the last few days.

But whether the interest is genuine, or just a time-filler, it’s important for the media to report responsibly and accurately on the story. And – as always when dealing with responsible reporting in the media – you win some and you lose some.

First the good. Check out Bindu Suri’s report with Global News Calgary:


This is a responsible report. It doesn’t pass judgement, gets the facts right, remains fairly objective and lays out the particulars:

  • It’s an idea other cities have successfully implemented.
  • The idea is in the early stages.
  • Images of systems comparable to what’s being discussed in Calgary (such as Medellin and Koblenz) are given.
  • A brief mention of the fact that Aerial Trams are different than gondolas.

Now let’s contrast Ms. Suri’s report with that of Kevin Rich’s at CTV Calgary. (Unfortunately, CTV does not allow their videos to be embedded on outside sites, as such, you’ll have to click through to view the report.)

  • The idea is referred to as a “gondola balloon.”
  • It’s reported that myself, Steven Dale, is the initiator of the project – which is completely and utterly incorrect. I’ve given a few talks on the subject in Calgary, but that’s about the extent of it. It’s remarkable that Kevin Rich gets this aspect of the story so wrong, considering he interviewed me for the story last night.
  • The report confuses Aerial Trams with Gondolas – witness the very first image of the Roosevelt Island Tram while the reporter says “they’re called urban gondolas.” Also strange, considering I made the distinction perfectly clear during my conversation with Kevin Rich during our interview.
  • Rather than having images of actual urban gondolas throughout the world, the report relies on conceptual images of funitels and out-dated and laughably inaccurate images of the Aerobus. (Note: the image is so out-dated, I can’t even figure out where they got the image from). This implants an idea about the topic in the viewers head that is completely counter to the idea in play.
  • And lastly: While it’s important to have a differing opinion on the topic, urban planner Bryan Romanesky’s concern about the system being too static and a lack of ability to “move it somewhere else” is completely off-base for two reasons: Firstly, with the exception of buses all transit is basically static and unmovable. And secondly, as we’ve seen with the gondola systems in Rostock and Munich, gondolas can be relocated to other places.

Nothing wrong with healthy, dissenting and skeptical debate about any and all ideas. It’s important, however, that the media provides enough accurate information to allow those debates to occur.

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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. Matt the Engineer
    Seattle had a little gondola during the world's fair in the 60's. It has since been moved to Puyallup, WA. So it's a bit strange that while I'm trying to bring a new gondola to Seattle someone is making the argument that they can't be moved!
  2. I think that's the whole point of this site . . . too many people think they "know" about the technology because they've ridden one at a ski hill or some other place. But what they "know" is often demonstrably false. How's the Seattle idea coming? Want to do a guest post? ;)
  3. I believe that picture is not of the Aerobus but a different technology known as Skytram. I was able to find 4 different articles on it: * Mass Tram America Introduces "Highway in the Sky" Concept - GoodCleanTech http://bit.ly/l962dx * Sustainable Mass Transit Options - Skytram http://bit.ly/meE1Kt * Heavenly Tram give a second life to old aircraft http://bit.ly/kIg1dv * Monorail made from wingless airplanes - Boing Boing http://bit.ly/jx7CnD
  4. Matt the Engineer
    The armchair transit community is becoming increasingly intrigued and many are proposing routes, but I haven't even recieved a form-letter response from the mayor or anyone from the city council. The Seattle Dept. of Transportation gave me a one sentence reply: "An interesting idea, but one with its own issues and logistical concerns." So it still belongs in the category of pipe dream. That said, if I could get the right people to pay attention, it could be a really great solution to more than a few transit problems - we're a city that's been built-up for 100 years that are constrained geographically and surrounded by water and hills. It takes me over half an hour to get the 3 miles to work even though my home and work are right on a major bus route. I can't think of a better location for gondolas. I'd be happy to write up a guest post.
  5. The accompanying article says that Portland has a gondola and is considering adding more "cable cars?!" Unfortunately, we have an aerial tram, and the neither the city nor transit agency seems interested in adding more CPT. I would like to think that Portland really is looking into gondolas, but I think this is just incredibly sloppy reporting.
  6. It's pretty understandable that Portland wouldn't want another after their experience with the Tram. My gut says their experience would've been completely different had they opted for a gondola - but hindsight is 20/20, right? That's the nature of any new tech. If anyone gets it wrong, it can poison the well for everyone. Thankfully, we've got Medellin and Caracas to show how this should really be done.

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