Doppelmayr – Leader in 3S Technology

Post by Gondola Project

“What does the name 3s mean?” is a question we are often asked by decision-makers, who are considering gondola technology for their cities. We would love to say something sibilant and succinct, like Safe, Speedy and Stabilized. But the truth is more mundane.

The name 3S comes from the German drei Seile, three ropes, because cabins run along 3 cables. Two provide support and the third is for propulsion. And that is where the truth becomes more interesting! 3S tech combines the benefits of continuous-movement and reversible gondola systems.

Similar to an MDG or BDG, a 3S’s detachable grip cabins run in a continuous loop. Unlike those others, a 3S’s extra cables stabilize the ride against wind and can support far more riders.

What are the advantages for city riders and builders?

  • Greater speed — up to 8.5 metres per second. That is over 30kph or nearly 19mph. Consider: Manhattan is 13.4 miles long. When was the last time anyone drove it end to end in 45 minutes during rush hour?
  • Better capacity — can carry up to 35 passengers per gondola and 4,500 passengers per hour in each direction.
  • Easy placement — 3S gondolas can travel longer unsupported distances between towers. With a small footprint, they provide a flexible and simple solution for building infrastructure within dense cities.
  • New levels of safety — a revolutionary recovery concept eliminates the need for a rescue ropeway. Cable cars can simply be returned to the stations.
  • Low energy consumption — especially when compared to subways, trams and buses.
  • Flexibility — given its high wind stability between exceptionally long unsupported distances, the 3S can be adapted to nearly any environment.

Where can you see the best examples?

The world’s longest unsupported rope span between gondola towers in on the Peak 2 Peak lift at the Whistler/Blackcomb resort in British Columbia, Canada. It’s 3,026 meters (nearly 1.9 miles). Even on clear days, passengers have trouble seeing from one tower to the next. Peak 2 Peak also features the world’s greatest height from valley floor reaching 436 meters overhead.

Pardatschgrat, Austria boasts the world’s first self-elevating station in permafrost. At 2,600 meters, the conditions are highly changeable. To accommodate any possible shifts and ground movement, the structure was built on hydraulic jacks. (Previously those extreme conditions forced operators to shut the old system down for 10 to 20 days each season. This system also holds the world record for longest vertical rise: 1,251 meters.

One 3S system built in 2013 in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi holds two world records: 5,386 meter inclined length and a speed of 8.5 meters per second (see above). The other 3S system in the Olympic Village can transport a record-breaking 4,500 people per hour.

The especially observant will note that all three of these systems are built by Doppelmayr. Currently, Doppelmayr is undoubtedly the world leader in 3S ropeway technology. In fact they’ve built nearly all the 3S systems in the world.

Why can’t you see any examples in any cities yet?

While we cannot answer this question, we agree with it. With ever-increasing traffic and human congestion at ground level (and below on subway transit) building overhead makes better and better sense. Plus with extreme weather conditions plaguing great cities, the stability of 3S technology is worth another look. It’s Speedy, Safe, Stable and Strong enough to carry a great deal of the load city infrastructure is no longer supporting. But it needs to be Seen.


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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. One big advantage are the larger cabins. In many ski resorts boarding at an intermediate station is an issue. A cabin size of 30-40 passenger seems to be a good compromise between frequent service and a spacious cabin. It is much more likely a family of four will find some space in a 30 person gondola than a six person gondola. If you add prams, wheelchairs and luggage the need for larger cabins becomes even more evident. To really compete with other means of transport gondola systems need to have more intermediate stations. The speed point is not so fair. Stops at stations are not considered. And the stops are keeping other systems low. So we should compare top speed, cruise speed and travel speed with stops. So the question is how long would a 3 S take to cross Manhattan if it makes 20 stops? Currently gondolas spend quite long in station. With 3S it should be easier to improve this times than with MDG. And to be fair one competitor also make 3S systems.
  2. BTW: Why is the 3S gondola in Koblenz not mentioned. It is made by Doppelmayr, located in a city, crossing a river. A good example for an urban system.
  3. Matt the Engineer
    Have you posted about the safety systems of a 3S? What if, say, a pulley fails and you can't bring the cabins back to the station?
  4. Pulley failure is quite a rare occurrence and doesn't negate most evac systems... Flying over rivers, canals and thoroughfares is definitely a strong suit of the 3S technology. After having just visited my old hometown of Ottawa Canada and musing about their transit troubles, once again it's apparent that 3S technology could provide a solution to their difficult but hoped-for Carling light transit line. It could be known as a Light Elevated Independent Transit (LEIT) solution. Here's the URL to a shared google earth file. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByKXSfFZgsdFTURsM1l0U19zM0U/view?usp=sharing Stations at Transitway, Carlingwood, Maitland, Westgate, Civic Hospital, O-train Carleton and Billings-Bank. A beautiful thing about Ottawa is that it's comparatively low-rise. Here's a related reddit link to the Ottawa transit plans: https://www.reddit.com/r/ottawa/comments/2ia9w8/i_made_a_map_of_ottawas_transit_master_plan/
  5. [img]https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByKXSfFZgsdFaUtnbUhEb3h2NVE/view?usp=sharing[/img]
  6. The curious thing is that 3-S systems (even with a different configurations) were first built in the thirties wite the Schaunisland Bahn in Germany, but the Caracas-El Aguila 3S system built by PHB in 1965 had practically all the features that makes the actual 3S a success - big cabins , several stops, even different type of cabins . The question should be : why this was forgotten for 40 years?
  7. Steven Bochenek
    Good point: we'd like to see more examples of cities, especially G7 cities like Koblenz, using 3S tech.
  8. Most systems are used in ski resort. the season is four months a year and operation is 8 hours a day. I guess low investment cost are more important than low energy consumption or high wind stability. If its bad weather there are not many skiers so it doesn't matter when a MGD or CLD has to shut down. For ski resorts only feeders need to be reliable and especially in old resort they use often aerial tramways or funiculars. There were quite a number of bicable system which were converted to monocable. Also many bulk handling gondolas which traditionally where built as BCD where replaced by conveyor belts. Thus it is logical that manufacturers focused on Monocable especially chairlifts can use the same technology. Nevertheless those system weren't forgotten for 40 years. Alpin express in Saas, Switzerland fee opened 1994 and was the first 3S gondola in Switzerland. It was built by Von Roll and in 1996 Von Roll was purchased by Doppelmayr. Its clear that a company does not want to have to many systems. And for a while Funitel looked more promising than 3S. BTW:: Maybe the gondola project can write an article about the Funivie Savona–San Giuseppe in Italy. It is the longest operating gondola world wide and 16,6 km long and the maximum elevation is 520m. Two parallel BCD transporting coal out of the port of Savona. sure it handles bulk but urban gondolas could have similar length. Over 100 years of operation is an impressive track record and should be worth an article. That most bulk handling system use separate cable for support ans propulsion clearly shows that this is more economical in the long run. http://www.funiviesv.it/ https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seilbahnen_Savona–San_Giuseppe

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