Why Commute When You Could Be Transported?

Post by Gondola Project


The Passo Salati, nearly 3,000m above sea level in Italy’s beautiful val d’Aosta, made easily accessible by Leitner’s uplifting cable car technology. Image by Steven Bochenek.

Oddly, one of the simplest but greatest joys I’ve experienced as a parent were Saturday morning subway rides with my daughter when she was between 3 and 6 years old. She loved the whole experience, from giving a ticket to the attendant in the booth, to looking out the window as the tunnel lights rushed by. “Thank you, daddy!” she’d openly gush, unaware how workaday the experience should be. Later, she took the same view of chairlifts and gondolas when she began skiing lessons at 7. “Look at the view! What a ride!” She found the actual skiing a fairly enjoyable bonus but, in those early days, looked far more forward to each exciting ride into the sky.

All kids are enthralled with all forms of transportation, be they buses, trams, cable cars or subways. The ride itself is the destination and we grownup commuters could learn a lot from our kids’ simple untainted wisdom. Luckily, when we ride with these tiny newcomers, we get to experience it anew through their eyes.

These days, a subway ride in any city in the world but my own can awaken some of the vicarious enthusiasm I felt on those Saturday mornings. But a ride in a cable car can immediately put me in her tiny ski boots! A subway ride is a commute. A gondola ride is transporting.

This past winter I was fortunate enough to spend a few days skiing in the Italian Alps, a top-ten bucket lister (now I just have to walk the Great Wall of China, run an ultra-marathon, and invent a time machine, then I’m done). The thrill of being dragged into the air and spoiled with gobsmacking views for the next 10 minutes practically pays for the cost of the lift ticket. Like my daughter during her first ski lessons, I almost found the ride down the slopes a pleasant bonus.


Though Canadian, I am currently resident in Italy and, like all New Worlders in Europe, am continually agog at the innumerable palaces, cathedrals and museums in the Old World’s many storied cities. However bizarrely, among the most palatial structures I have yet to witness in Europe are the subways in Russia’s premier cities. Many stations are as opulent as any church in Christendom. OK — legacies of communism, these underground palaces are really temples to the glory of “goin’ t work” and even I find that a bit extreme.

Furthermore, as lovely as I found the St Petersburg underground, it had nothing on the city overhead. The place beggars description, but I’ll try anyway. Imagine commissioning the designers of metropolitan Paris to rebuild Venice on the Steppes.

Wow. Beautiful. And a bit overwhelming.

As with all beautiful things, it got me thinking. Instead of descending into what is really a magnificently decorated hole every morning to go to work, what would it be like to be transported above Nevksy Prospekt, the city’s grand main street, glide over its many canals and past the Winter Palace, another Versailles but in the city of a city, during the White Nights of late June when the sun barely sets.

It would take a lot of rides to work before you became jaded. Gondolas, at the risk of sounding obvious and cute, are genuinely uplifting.


Back here on the other side of Europe, I’m clumsily learning Italian. I’ve always loved how languages imbue the values of a people. Consider the Italian for commuter: pendolare. How marvelously descriptive and insightful! It suggests the commuter is a pendulum, a passive victim hung and swung back and forth between work and home. Tick, tock! The picture embodies that sense of victimhood most adult commuters around the world feel when they ride the bus, train or tram too often without their kids.

But imagine those same pendolare hanging instead in a cable car as it ascends past Milan’s Duomo whose hundreds of decorative outdoor statues are as individual as you and me.

Picture being bathed in the busy lights of Piccadilly Circus on the way home from the office on a dark November evening. Magic.

How would it feel to glance up from a report you’re reviewing and notice you’re silently gliding past the Acropolis or Central Park? Breathtaking.

Even some tawdry burger shack in a faceless suburban plaza, not unlike where I grew up, takes on a certain depth when viewed from heightened perspectives.

Would you get used to such experiences eventually and would they become workaday? Probably. But, regardless of where you live, you would also regularly be able to view the trip through newcomers’ eyes. Cable cars attract tourists, newcomers who want to ride for the sake of the ride itself.

As public transport, a cable car system’s infrastructure costs far less to build than a tram or subway, and it’s completed far sooner. Statistically speaking, cable propelled transit is safer than any other. It’s unaffected by traffic and doesn’t create air pollution. So far, that’s a win-win-win-win but it gets better.

Gondolas attract tourists, who are happy to pay a premium for a ride (and tend to ride during off-peak hours, so they don’t clog it during most commuters commutes). Tourism is the biggest service sector industry in the world and every city wants a piece. Offer them something they want and they’ll pay. What is it that tourist want? What we all do, everyday: to be transported. You can see their point of view.

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.

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