Designed right, ropeway technology makes an excellent complement to urban transit. Naturally, a crucial element of that right ropeway design must be the rope itself. In this article, we’d like to look at which rope could suit crowded cities best.

Among the many issues designers need to consider, environmental impact steals the headlines at the planning stages, but maintenance time and costs — all of the inevitable downtime — is what people notice later. The right rope will help at both stages.

So what does an urban environment require? Firstly, you should choose a rope that can travel at high speeds and carry a great deal of weight for long hours. All ropes gradually wear and eventually need to be replaced. To minimize downtime, the key is to select one that lasts longer. You also want to consider a rope that lessens the environmental impact.

The only product we know of that fulfills these needs and was specifically designed for city use is the Performa-DT® from FATZER®. Earlier this year, it was recognized for its innovativeness in design with a Red Dot Award.

So what makes Performa-DT right for urban gondolas? Its reduced vibrations, noise and elongation — in short, performance.

First there’s the speed and strength. The initials DT are short for detachable. This rope is specifically designed for gondolas or chairlifts that detach in the station. The net benefit? The rope needn’t slow while the gondola car unloads and fills up with passengers. (Its smaller-in-diameter sister product, Performa rope, was designed for those automatic people movers you see mainly in airports, which are clamped and do not detach.)

Next there’s endurance. Any transit system requires regular maintenance but that means downtime. Part of your cable car system’s maintenance retinue entails switching the ropes when they’ve reached their best-before date.

All ropes wear but, according to its producers, the Performa-DT should last from 2.5 to 3 times longer than a typical rope.

“Normally a rope stretches slightly each year,” says Daniel Graf, Head of Transportation Ropes at Fatzer. “Performa stretches far less. Therefor there is no need for a shortening of the rope in the first year. We call this ‘reduced settlement’.”

The company has its own ropeway test installation in Romanshorn Switzerland, where they perform ‘cycle testing’. Looking like a complete mini gondola system, which they call the world’s fastest ropeway in this video, the installation contains two full-sized bull wheels just metres apart. Its producers can accelerate a given rope’s ending cycles — that is, when the rope needs to be replaced — by testing it on this very short system. Consider. The greatest amount of wear and tear on a rope happens when it cycles past the bullwheel, bending the metal fibres and plastic. Bending then straightening it 24/7 at high speeds for months, they learn its strengths, weaknesses and length of life.

Of course, then there’s the real world. How does the Performa-DT perform here?

In 2014, Barcelona replaced its Teleferic de Montjuic ropeway with an appropriately gauged Performa-DT. The results have made for an excellent before/after case study. The clients recently reported the elongation was has been very low and “after 22,000 hours of operation, we need not provide for a shortening of the rope.”

But what about the aforementioned environmental benefits?

Taking cars off roads and putting their riders into electric powered gondolas is one obvious environmental plus of ropeway technology, but there other considerations in urban environments. A big one is noise. The ambient hum of a ropeway is far preferable to the loud revving of a passing diesel bus — but the Performa-DT goes further, lessening that hum considerably.

In Barcelona, “Vibrations caused by the rope passage on line sheaves is considerably reduced. It is particularly noticeable in the absence of vibrations in the towers structures and increasing the comfort of the cabins.” Which makes for happier riders.

However, the vibration and hum are part of a larger issue too: expended energy through friction. Again in Barcelona, “bullwheels and sheaves linings wear is decreased. It consequently brings lower power consumption due to the lower friction of the rope with all different rolling elements.”

How would it fare your city?

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.



Plus ça Change — Revisiting Lessons Learned


This very morning, the mayor of the Gondola Project’s home city, announced that Toronto will not pursue a bid for the Olympics because it’s too risky and expensive, plus there simply is not the necessary support from enough citizens and other levels of government. Toronto’s long-time rival in sports, Boston, made the same decision last week.

Opinions regarding the Olympics are not uniform but most agree that investing in and building infrastructure is great for a city’s economy and lifelong. But building infrastructure that must first be approved by an undemocratic and private group of power brokers who do not live in the city? Support among Toronto and Boston’s citizenry is tepid at best.

In the spirit of the day, we revisit a post Steven Dale wrote 3 years ago regarding expensive infrastructure that doesn’t serve the locals first. Interestingly the subject city, Sydney, is purported by many to have hosted the best Olympics ever’. Enjoy.

Dead Train Walking, The Sydney Monorail. CC image via Wikipedia.

On the recent news of the soon-in-the-offing death of the Sydney Monorail, Jarrett Walker at Human Transit had this to say:

Technophile commenters will doubtless chalk this up the Sydney decision as a defeat for monorails in general.  I disagree.  It’s a defeat for one-way loops, poor connectivity, and symbolic as opposed to actual mobility.  The monorail didn’t fail just because it was a monorail, but because it was a poorly designed line.

Couldn’t agree more. But I’d like to expand on those words:

Imagine, if you will, a 3.6 kilometre long light rail “loop” with 8 different stations and a flat fee to travel within it. Whether you travel one stop or all six it’s going to cost you roughly five bucks. The line doesn’t allow for integrated fare transfers between local subway or bus connections – not that you’d want to transfer to it as the line effectively takes riders from nowhere in particular to nowhere in specific.

Would you ride that system? Neither would I.

Of course I’m not talking about a fictional light rail system, I’m talking about the real Sydney monorail that was recently purchased by the New South Wales government and slated for demolition whenever “feasible.”

Some have come out showing this to be a definitive example of why monorail technology is somehow an inferior transit mode. A recent article at This Big City, is remarkably inane in its lack of analysis stating “the transit technology just hasn’t been a practical success. Today we have two case studies of cities where building infrastructure up doesn’t always mean moving people forward.” So not only are monorails not a practical success, but elevated transit in general is problematic.

Now I’m no fan of monorail technology as I’ve mentioned before. But my problem has little to do with the actual technology itself and more to do with maddening tourist-oriented installations (such as the Sydney monorail) that bear so little resemblance to actual public transit. Successful monorail systems such as the Wuppertal Schwebebahn, for example, I happen to be rather fond of.

But to return to my original question: Would any average commuter actually ride the above-described light rail line? Would they if it were a subway? A bus line? A gondola? Would they ride it no matter what the technology implemented was?

Of course not. No reasonable person would.

When we argue against a technology because of its inherent (dis)abilities, we have to make sure that our arguments are intrinsic rather than extrinsic to the technology in question. For example:

  • The fact that light rail vehicles must travel on a set of rails is intrinsic to the technology. Where those rails are located, whether in the sky, the ground or in a tunnel is extrinsic to light rail.
  • A monorail intrinsically runs either on top of a single concrete “rail” or is suspended from above by a single steel rail. Extrinsic to the technology is the fare charged for the line and the line configuration.
  • Intrinsic to gondola technology is the fact that intermediary/angle stations are currently required in order for cornering and turns to be realized. Beyond a minimum set of parameters; the size, design, shape and attendant functions of a gondola station are extrinsic to the technology.

See the difference?

Those items that are extrinsic to a technology are limited not by the technology, but by the choices made by the system designers and operators. Yes, extrinsic choices are sometimes limited by the intrinsic characteristics of a technology (for example, current gondola technology does not allow for more than about 8,000 pphpd), but those situations are more the exception than the rule. Where we get into trouble is when people argue against a technology intrinsically when the problems of the system are clearly extrinsic. (Note that I’ve made a very purposeful differentiation between “technology” and “system”.)

Consider perhaps the best example of this problem – Vancouver’s SkyTrain and Detroit’s Downtown People Mover. The two are polar opposites on the end of the success/failure spectrum yet both use the ICTS Mark II Advanced Rapid Transit technology. One system (guess which) is a perpetual money loser, suffers from terrible ridership, provides no free transfers from the existing public transit system, is a 4.7 km long loop through downtown and targets tourists rather than local commuters.

The other has been a roaring success, has witnessed massive expansion throughout the entire city, functions as mass public transit with free transfers between modes and targets local commuters rather than tourists.

Yet they both use the exact same technology. 

Unfortunately the extrinsic/intrinsic distinction is rarely made by techno-zealots and why celebrations about the death of the Sydney Monorail are disingenuous at best. At worst, techno-zealots use extrinsic arguments against other technologies as evidence of those opposing technologies’ failings. It doesn’t matter that it’s incorrect because that doesn’t change the fact that it happens – a lot. Sadly debate, argument and logical reasoning don’t tend to be a part of our high schools’ curricula so instead of reasoned commentary we get a kind of gangland, partisanship bluster that does nothing to advance conversation.

See! Monorails suck! They’re closing down the Sydney Monorail! Light Rail represent, yo!

Monorails aren’t useless any more than Vancouver’s Skytrains aren’t. The difference is that Vancouver’s Skytrains are treated as public transit whereas the overwhelming majority of monorails have been treated as poorly-thoughout-out tourist traps. It would be like arguing with someone that a football is a terrible kind of ball based solely on the fact that the vast majority of footballs in the world were being used as baseballs.

Nevertheless, that’s where the monorail stands. You can’t turn back history. You can’t eliminate all the missteps along the way. You can’t erase that episode of The Simpsons. Nowadays the monorail is like a disgraced politician. It doesn’t matter if he was good at his job or got thrown under the bus by a scheming associate or whatever. In the court of public opinion, he’s a scoundrel and a deviant and neither has much of a shot in an election. (Though the scoundrels tend to fare better than the deviants in that regard.)

That’s the reason I flee from monorails. They’re a technology with too toxic a reputation and much too much baggage to overcome. That might change sometime in the future, but not in the near future. Right now, monorails are Robert Downey Jr. in 2001 with no guarantee of an Iron Man in the waiting.

Is that fair? No, not in the least. But life isn’t fair and neither is marketing. Anyone who told you otherwise, lied to you.

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.



Love in the sky: Riding a gondola into a life of connubial bliss


Forgive our shortness of breath. We always get a little hypoxic at weddings.

Critics of cable car technology as public transport often deride it, so to speak, as ‘romantic’ and ‘pie in the sky’ — to which we retort:  what’s wrong with romance,  and can we make that wedding cake in the sky instead?

The brother of a friend was recently married 1,900 metres above sea level in the French Alps. Yes, that’s him in the photo. Transportation to the venue was provided courtesy of the Télécabine du Prarion, an especially romantic gondola which departs from Les Houches, near Chamonix. The entire wedding party rode the gondola up to the Prarion plateau and, from there, hiked to a charming nearby hotel.

Speaking of charming and hiking, invitations to the bridesmaids included a hearty carrier bag for their good shoes because, at altitude, the going can get a bit rough.

In this case, we agree that there is something rather romantic about cable cars as public transportation, but we aren’t the only ones. Nor are we though the only ones to find romance in public transportation at all. Consider the impossibly beautiful works of art that are subway stations in Russia and Sweden. Or google San Francisco cable car images if you happen to have an hour to kill.

Next stop: bliss!

Next stop: a lifetime of connubial bliss! (Photo from ski-leshouches.com)

Indeed, we can think of no greater compliment to gondolas than to call them romantic cake in the sky. After all, have you ever known anyone to get a public bus to drive them and their guests to their wedding?*

Get me to the bullwheel on time.

Get me to the bullwheel on time.

(*That was meant to be a rhetorical question. However, if you answered ‘yes’ are they still together?)

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.



More reasons to ‘Like’ us.


Click links below to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

We’re all aware of the incredible potential of social media. And that’s why the Gondola Project is proud to announce we have redirected extra time and resources towards Facebook and Twitter.

If you need to reach us, reach out. We’ll be popping in every weekday for brief postings and discussions.

What matters to judicious users of these social sites, of course, is the relevance of information (used wrongly, they can become a massive time drain). Just as important is the quality of the network itself.

That said, please friend and like us on Facebook, and/or follow us on Twitter. Then share information, submit ideas, correct us, argue with us and suggest others we should be following and sharing with. We promise to reciprocate.



Facebook: CUPgondolaproject




Twitter: @CUPgondola

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.



Doppelmayr’s Long Tradition of Training Apprentices


On-the-job learning between classes at school


On September 1, 2015, Doppelmayr announced that 22 new apprentices had begun an intensive training program at the company. We at the Gondola Project are but a few and currently have zero apprentices or interns, so it seemed a large number to us.

“22 apprentices may seem high for others but is not so impressive or unusual for us,” says Ekkehard Assmann, Doppelmayr’s Head of Marketing and Public Relations. “In fact, we have about 100 apprentices just here in our factory in Wolfurt, Austria at the moment. There are around another 40 working for us in Switzerland.”

Apprentices are very important to the future of the company and a big part of how they define themselves.

It turns out company founder Konrad Doppelmayr, the great-grandfather of the current company president, was himself an apprentice to a village blacksmith. This blacksmith had no successor for his business and, when it was time, was happy enough to pass it on to Konrad. “From there, we went on to become the world’s biggest ropeway manufacturer.” Apprenticing has been part of the company structure ever since.

“The Austrian System Fits Perfectly With Our Structure.”

Nearly all 22 of the young men and women are from around the region. Just 15 or 16 years old, they’re still living with their parents. Most of them spend 1 day at school and 4 at work per week, “though it depends on the profession they’re learning” says Assmann. “You have some apprenticeships where they work for a couple of months, then they go to school for one or 2 months, then come back to work.”


Of 22 apprentices, 22 are expected to stay.

The apprenticeships vary throughout all aspects of the business, including metal and steel-construction technologists to machine constructionists, electric and information technologists and technical illustrators; “even IT and office workers.” An apprentice’s schooling is both general education and specifically applicable to the program the student is doing.

Austria’s national system of apprenticeship — splitting school with work — is recognized and respected around the world. “To get really qualified workers, Austria’s system is just great for how we operate. Couldn’t be better.”

Which led to questions about those operations. How many apprentices have gone through the program in the past and stayed with it afterwards? “Pretty much all of them,” Assmann insists. All? “Some left for a couple of years, because they went on to more education, but they came back.”

How Does Any Company Keep Workers For Their Whole Careers Any More?

“It has very much to do what sort of company we are and what an interesting product we have.” Moreover, it’s no secret that students who do those apprenticeships have a very good chance for advancement in the company. “In the past, many of them have gone on to middle- and top-management.” He goes on to list some: Director of Quality Control, Head of Exports, the manager of their biggest factory in Wolfurt and many others.

Of course he notes that Doppelmayr is also very selective about the apprentices it takes on. “We give them many tests: math tests; technical and German tests. To make sure they’re the right fit for us and us for them.”

Thinking back to the national apprenticeship system, it’s plain to see that Doppelmayr has the time to be so selective and strict. In the fall every year, any Austrian students considering apprenticing will visit sites like Doppelmayr for one or two days, investigating the opportunity and company. Most years that’s around 700, Assmann estimates. Around half of them will apply for apprenticeship, which is around 350 to 400 who apply and begin the interviewing process. “And Doppelmayr takes around 20. So you can see why we don’t think it’s all that many.”

Learn more about their program here. Not surprisingly, the apprentices designed the page themselves.

Materials on this page are paid for. The Gondola Project (including its parent companies and its team of writers and contributors) does not explicitly or implicitly endorse third parties in exchange for advertising. Advertising does not influence editorial content, products, or services offered on The Gondola Project.


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.



Something happening here? (Musical Musings on a Monday Morning)


As Bob Dylan once sang, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”. Photo by a bored and frustrated Steven Bochenek.

Recently I was at dinner with some good friends and, being a transit geek, began talking about urban gondolas as one way to ease urban traffic. My pal, who once believed gondolas would “never catch on in North America”, admitted how surprised he was to notice the Roosevelt Island Tramway on a recent visit to New York City. He was doubly surprised to learn it’s been there for almost 40 years.

New York has known congealed traffic for decades longer than most cities. It turns out, too, that New York never sleeps. So it should come as no huge surprise that their leaders would use some of that energy to try different solutions to bypass jams.


There’s hilarious footage at the beginning of John Lennon’s Live Peace movie from 1969. Just after the opening credits, the smart Beatle is being driven into town from the airport and the 401 highway, recognizable by us 2015 Torontonians, is utterly bereft of other vehicles, prompting the question: where were all the cars? Later during the concert part of the movie, Yoko caterwauls down the decades to us a discomforting answer to that question — don’t worry — and yes, you’ve been warned, it’s terrifying! Perhaps, our need to get from A to B is more comfortingly summarized by Lennon contemporaries, The Byrds, singing Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere.


Others stuck in traffic on this continent are starting to make that leap. A plethora of studies into gondolas as urban transport are underway, which chief Gondola Projector Steven Dale recently observed here.  The Gondola Project is in talks with potential partners across the continent, looking at the idea and so are others. Considering the costs in lost productivity, the choking fumes and wear and tear on vehicles that work better at a steady pace rather than continual start and stop, plus the wear and tear on frustrated drivers’ physical and mental health (road rage is exhausting) . . .  it simply makes sense to at least investigate alternatives.


Highway 400, just north of Toronto, almost 3 years ago. Photo by soon-to-be-gondola-convert Steven Bochenek.

Just this past weekend, yet another urban transit gondola proposal was put before Branson, Missouri Aldermen. The more studies, the better, as Steven said, because soon enough one or two will be approved. Then we’ll have momentum.

And, before you know it, we’ll be saying “It’s been here for 40 years”.

So, is it just us, or do you sense it too on this musical Monday morning? As John Lennon’s other contemporary Stephen Stills once sang, it seems like “There’s something happening 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.



Recent Ropeway Roundup


Metrocable photo courtesy of Rubi Florez

Metrocable photo courtesy of Rubi Florez

Bogota Metro and Metrocable Up in the Air

“Seeking clarity on the new administration’s plans,” Colombia’s National Development Fund has paused the tendering process until February, 2016, effectively pausing infrastructure plans. More.

“Boom!” Editorial Questions Cable Car Construction in Korea

Right now, there are over 30 gondola projects being planned or promoted in Korea. The country is experiencing what one editorial calls a boom and questions, “whether there will be enough demand” to make the projects profitable, plus whether environmental concerns are being adequately addressed. More.

Murmurs in Mumbai Mirror of Gondola Linking Local Tourist Sites

Mumbai, India’s historic Sewri Fort and beautiful Elephanta Caves are separated by 6.5kms of water. The local port trust is “toying with the idea” linking the sites by a ropeway (a tourist draw in itself). More.





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.