The Next Ten Years of Urban Gondola Transit

Post by Steven Dale

Here are five things that are likely to occur with Cable Propelled Transit technology in the near future:

ONE. A new competitor will enter the market. Arguably and to some extent, the urban public transit market is being ignored by the existing cable transit industry. That’s too huge a market to ignore. How long do you think a well-financed engineer or state-funded consortium (from China?) is going to leave all that business on the table

TWO. The technology will increase in price beyond the rate of inflation. This one’s inevitable. It costs more to sell to a city than it does to sell to a ski resort. That cost will be reflected in the end price. Add in the scope creep and pork barrelling that’s typical of public transit projects and upward pressure on capital costs are all but certain.

THREE. Continued growth in the developing world. As I’ve described before, cable benefits from physically, topographically and economically challenged environments – because no other technology can compete there. Expect the industry to line their coffers at the “lower end” of the market for the next few years.

FOUR. The jump to the developed world will be swift. Once a silver bullet line is built in a stable, western-style democracy, expect many other developed world cities to follow suit. Remember: All cities have physical and topographical challenges that cable can exploit and put to good use.

FIVE. Sustainable improvements will come from within, disruptive ones from without. The industry has demonstrated a great ability at making sustained and continued improvements in their technologies. No reason to think that won’t continue to be the case. But large scale disruptive changes tend not to come from within large, stable companies, but are instead forced upon an industry by outside insurgents. No reason to believe this won’t be the case here.


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. Matt the Engineer
    I think price for the technology is a big question mark. If cities use off-the-shelf components, then price should drop as quantity increases (thanks to economies of scale). What would really help is your prediction #1. There's nothing inherently expensive about gondolas except the design of parts and systems. The few companies that exist probably hold all of the patents, though I wonder how much is in the public domain (certainly not S3, but how old is monocable design?).
  2. Generally, I'd agree with you, Matt but I think those economies of scale will be offset (and more) by increased costs associated with government. Maybe not in developing nations, but certainly in the developed world. As for patents, remember that each of the two companies have ways around each other's patents. Dopps builds a 3S, then so does P-L. The technology's pretty old with only incremental improvements. As for major disruptive technological change, that could certainly yield more patents.
  3. Matt the Engineer
    So without the intellectual property issue, all we have left is lack of competition. Again, the basic technology shouldn't be expensive - we're talking about a few big motors, some large chunks of concrete, and steel cable. The cars might be a bit expensive, but don't have to be with simple designs and mass production. I'm much less afraid of government increasing the cost of systems. The overall projects, yes - government will end up with beautiful stations that will function as more than transportation. But governments are fairly good at buying products (and would consider gondola system a product) - they'll just use "best value technically acceptable", and price compete the systems. Collusion might be an issue (an illegal one, at that) with just two manufacturers, but the risk of collusion will go down with more competition.
  4. I'm not worried about collusion, but if we look at the prices of systems in Portland, Caracas and Burnaby, we begin to see a disturbing trend. True, most of the cost overruns had little to do with the electro-mechanical itself, but who's going to take the time to differentiate?
  5. If you build a network of CPT, stations must become standardized and cheaper.

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