Design Considerations



Fairy Tale Gondola in Grächen, Switzerland

If you have kids, taking them skiing is probably some of the most fun you can have together as a family. But what happens when just hitting the slopes is no longer enough?

Well, the Märchen-Gondelbahn system in Grächen (Switzerland) decided to one-up their offerings by introducing specially designed “Fairy Tale Gondolas”.

Fairy Tale Gondola. Image from

Since the 2011/2012 season, children onboard cabins can now listen to timeless favourites such as Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty.

This one-of-kind feature was part of a larger multi-million dollar investment to attract more families to the resort. The classic fairy tales are voiced by Swiss actress Silvia Jost and last for the entire 7 minute journey.

A big thanks goes to Barry for sending us the link!

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Urban Gondolas: Innovative Station Designs, Part 2

This is a guest post by Billy Beasley.

It is the second article of a two-part series examining innovative station designs found in recreational cable cars that could be useful for urban implementation. Click here for the first article. 

Heavenly Mountain Gondola (Nevada)

In some situations, cabin parking may not be an issue — rather, it’s how to build a station in a terrain-constrained location.

One unique solution may be to literally “cut it in half”.

Heavenly Mountain Gondola mid-station. Image by Flickr user inkknife_2000.

This technique is used on many gondola systems but I’ll examine the gondola at Heavenly Mountain in South Lake Tahoe which takes guests from the resort village/hotels to the mountain.

The mountain wanted a mid-station on top of the ridge which has beautiful views of Lake Tahoe but instead of constructing a full station, they only built the mid-station for the side of the lift that was going up.

The uphill side of the line stops at the viewing deck but the downhill side travels down without stopping, saving time on the downhill ride time, space and money because only one side of the terminal and terminal equipment is being built. This was especially practical for Heavenly since there was no natural flat spot on the ridge so the deck had to be built sticking out from the side of the ridge. This would have meant that if the other side was built, the deck would have to be longer and stairs would have to be built to get to the other side where the best views are as well as shops and restaurants.

This could be useful in a tight urban space where there isn’t enough room for a full mid-station but access is required in one particular direction. 

Some aerial tramways terminals have shifting unloading platforms so only one tram unloading dock needs to be built instead of two. This technique conserves space and would be helpful for an urban gondola in a tight situation.


Skyeship Express Gondola (Killington, Vermont)

Killington, Vermont’s Skyeship Express Gondola is a two-stage gondola that can be run two different ways: as one continuous gondola or as two separate systems. At the mid-station, the cabins will either turn back around and go back down the line and the lift functions as two totally different system or the cabins continue on to the second stage and the lift functions as one big system.

Check out for pictures of the mid-station and system design.

This could be useful for an urban gondola that wants to alter its route for traffic and flow patterns. For example, running the lift as two different sections in the morning and rush hour for peak times and running it as one big system during non-peak times. 


Breckenridge Quicksilver Super6 – Double Loading (Colorado)

Double loading can also be used, which alternates cabins between two different loading areas to improve station efficiency. Breckenridge’s Quicksilver Super6 was the first American lift to utilize double loading. As the chairs come into the terminal, one turns and heads back up the mountain like a regular detachable lift while the next chair travels onto another lift loading area and this continues on in an alternating pattern. The chairs from the lower loading section of the station then rejoin the line of the upper loading section and the chairs travel up on one line then unloads like a regular chairlift.

Check out Colorado Ski History for great overview and pictures of this system.

The upper loading section is used for guests coming from the mountain and the lower is used for guests from the town and nearby hotels. The two loading zones have separate loading cues and separate loading locations so there is no intermingling or confusion between lines. This could be used on an urban system where passengers are coming from two different areas or in situations where having two loading areas are necessary to ease congestion.

But if all else fails and nothing else works, you could just put that terminal in the side of a mountain, like what was done on the Huashan Xifeng Cable Car in China!

Thanks to and for the information and thanks for reading. Feel free to comment what you think and have a nice day.


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Urban Gondolas: Innovative Station Designs, Part 1

This is a guest post by Billy Beasley. 

For many years, some critics of urban gondolas have argued that they won’t work in dense city centers due to the lack of space to build terminals. These stations, especially for larger lift types like the 3S or Aerial Tram require larger buildings to house the important machinery that power them.

Even more space is required on systems where the operator wants to take the cabins off the line nightly and keep them in a storage building to prevent wear and tear. Thus, one question becomes how to minimize and conserve space for urban gondolas in situations where land is in short supply. For this first article of a 2-part series, we will examine two unique and innovative case examples.

Solden Ski Resort – Gaislachkoglbahn (Austria)

Check out this Doppelmayr installation in Austria at the well-known Solden Ski Resort named Gaislachkoglbahn. This system is designed with two segments: the first section consists of a monocable gondola while the second section has a 3S tricable gondola.

Typically there would four terminals for the lift but in this instance, Solden only built 3 stations (map of transfer station). The top terminal of the 8-passenger gondola is combined with the bottom terminal of the 3S system. With this configuration, it saves money and space as two stations are built as one single building.

The two cable lifts also feature incredibly innovative cabin parking systems. The monocable’s lower segment parks the cabins above the actual lift terminal itself and when the operator is ready to start the cable car, the cabins descend on a series of rails down to the terminal where they join the line.

Bottom station. Image by Flickr user liquidx.

The 3S segment also features an innovative cabin management system located in the bottom terminal of the lift (which remind you, is also the top station of the lower segment). The cabins enter the bottom station but a set of the in-terminal sheaves rotates and transfers the cabin from the line to a series of rails. From here, it transfers the cabin to the correct spot in the parking area. The parking area itself is inside the station, where the lift maze starts for loading the 3S gondola. With this design, the entire system manages to save a significant amount of space as potentially six buildings for the system (four stations, two cabin parking buildings) has been effectively reduced to three.

This would be helpful for an urban gondola system that wants to utilize cabin parking but doesn’t have a tremendous amount of space to put the cabins when they are not on the line.

Keystone Mountain (Colorado) – Outpost Gondola and River Run Gondola

Keystone Mountain in Colorado used cabin parking for their two gondolas in an before they built their new gondola but they did it in an interesting fashion. The bottom floor of the Outpost Gondola (the top was the lift station itself) was a sprawling cabin parking facility for both the Outpost Gondola and the nearby River Run Gondola.

Check out for some great pictures and walkthrough of this design!

Lift maintenance would transfer the cabins from the line of the River Run Gondola to the cabin parking facility where the cabins from the Outpost Gondola were also being stored. From here, maintenance crews could work on the grips, clean the cabins, and store the cabins properly for both lifts in one convenient location. This is especially impressive when you consider that the lifts were built by two different manufacturers – the River Run Gondola by Von Roll and the Outpost Gondola by Doppelmayr (keep in mind, this was before Doppelmayr purchased Von Roll and both companies had separate grip designs at the time).

Therefore, two different rails and two different storage pods needed to be built because the Von Roll cabins couldn’t go on the Doppelmayr rails and vice versa. There were two separate control systems but maintenance could do typical work on the cabins in one big facility.

This design could be helpful on urban gondola systems that are built with two different lift types or on ones that add another section to an existing system of a different model.

In the next article we will examine systems in Nevada, Vermont and Colorado. Stay tuned!

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Two Old (And Awesome) Gondolas In Zurich

As we’ve learned from the BUGA festivals in Germany (here and here), there are few things German-speakers love more than to look at flowers while riding cable cars. Why? Why not? Who am I to judge?

And apparently this trend is not new: In the mid-part of the 20th century, Zürich hosted a horicultural fair and a national exhibition separated by just 20 years — and both were serviced by a different cable transit system.

Even weirder? From what I can ascertain (and I could be wrong), both plied basically the same route.

Sadly, neither system exists today. The first system (built in 1939) was dismantled shortly after the fair and the second system (build in 1959) was dismantled seven years later.

Which is a shame because they’re knockouts to behold.

Blumenparterre Belvoirpark

The 1959 Zurich Gondelbahn.

Image via Seilbahn Nostagie.

Zurich Gondola 1939.












Image via Seilbahn Nostalgie.



Gondelbahn Zurich


Are these the most beautiful gondola stations and towers? That’s not for me to say as beauty is completely subjective. But really look at what’s going on with these two systems. Look closely.

In the 1939 example, station and tower become one and the same. Sure there are some queueing issues to be dealt with, but no more so than with the Singapore Cable Car’s mid-station.

Meanwhile in the 1959 example, architect Werner Stücheli and engineer Max Walt designed two 55 metre towers that are as artistically sculptural as they are functional — the cable cars, after all, travel through the towers.

It’s a shame the cable industry doesn’t keep a better archive of their history and systems. The things we can learn from installations like this – particularly as the industry is moving towards a more urban form – could help inform designs and systems for decades to come.

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Cabin Design: A Blast from the Past – UFO Style Cabins

Today as there are basically only two major CPT consortiums left, general observations seems to indicate that cabin designs are rather limited — especially in urban MDG systems. While current passenger carriers are both functional and practical, it appears that most (not all) urban MDGs built by Doppelmayr and Leitner/Poma typically feature the Omega style cabins and Diamond Line cabins respectively.

Omega cabins (left) and Diamond cabins (right). Image by CUP.

Omega cabins (left) in Caracas Metrocable and Diamond cabins in Medellin Metrocable Linea J (right). Image by CUP.

But if you look carefully, there was once a time when cabin designs were quite diverse and varied. One of the most interesting cabins that jumped out at us were the carriers built by Carlevaro-Savio. According to, this company was located in Turin, Italy and was known for their, “futuristic gondola cabins”.

UFO gondola cabin. Click on picture for more. Image from

Pod cabins. Click on picture for more. Image from

The spaceship  and pod cabins above are just some of the many neat examples of what was found several decades back. It is not entirely clear at this time why cabin designs are not as varied as they were in the past but my suspicion — and I’ve yet to have any substantial evidence to back this up — is that it likely boils down to costs. Quite simply, customized cabins are more expensive whereas standardized cabins are much more economical.

However, as more cities — especially ones in industrialized nations — become interested in implementing CPT and are seeking to build world-exclusive systems that stand out from the crowd, my guess is that one day we will begin to see more distinctive and unique cabins once again.


Anyhow, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think cities should pursue more customized carriers or do you think utilitarian cabins are enough? Post your comments below. 

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User-Controlled Smart Glass (Electrochromic Shades) on Boeing 787 and Lessons for Aerial Cable Cars

Throughout our time on the Gondola Project, we’ve seen many transport systems install smart glass windows (i.e. Morizo Gondola in Japan and Bukit Panjang LRT in Singapore). However, these systems did not offer users the ability to control when the glass becomes “frosted” nor the amount of “frostiness”.

Enter Boeing’s newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. These planes now feature what they like to call, “electrochromic shades”.

Electrochromic Shades on Boeing 787. Image by Flickr user Jun Seita.

Passengers can now choose and adjust how transparent they want their windows to be (see video below). While the “electrochromic shades” term sounds a lot like a marketing buzz word, the company is quick to point out that this design was built to improve passenger comfort and fun. And who can doubt them? I’m not sure about you, but if I boarded a plane with this tinting system, I’d certainly let all my friends and family know about it.

This Boeing case study is a great example of how innovative companies and technologies are constantly undergoing minor upgrades to improve passenger experience — something that is often lacking in the field of public transit.

While user-controlled smart glass windows cannot and should not be replicated on all transit vehicles, this feature can certainly be translated into aerial gondola systems.

Giving passengers the option to adjust the level of brightness in a cabin may not convert hordes of auto commuters into transit riders, but perhaps anything that adds a bit of “personalization” and “fun” into the often dreary public space of a transit vehicle is a welcome site.

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World’s Cutest Transit Vehicle: Hello Kitty Tram & Transit Ridership/Marketing

Over the years at the Gondola Project, we’ve probably seen some of the world’s most awesome-looking and unconventional transit vehicle designs. However, when it comes down to the world’ most kawaii (Japanese for cute) mode of transport, the Hello Kitty Trams seen around the world is by far the clear winner (I challenge you to find a more adorable example!).

So while this may seem a little childish at first, a quick google search reveals that Hello Kitty merchandising is no joke. Reports indicate that this global icon generates $1-5 billion dollars annually! And where I’m from, that’s a whole lotta dough — enough to build you Vancouver’s Canada Line two times over or hire Kobe Bryant for the next 180 years.

Hello Kitty Tram HK. Image by Flickr User Joseph Tse.


Anyways, on a more serious note, I think these Hello Kitty trams may make for an interesting case study from a transit planning perspective. If this cartoon cat truly has so much clout and influence, it may not be so asinine to think that an entire Hello Kitty themed transit line could act as some sort of catalyst to spur more transit ridership. Afterall, adding a little fun to public transport never hurt anyone.

And oh yeah, did I forget to mention, the airline industry has already picked up on this idea. And if you still not convince this could work, Hello Kitty jets have a reported average seat occupancy of 90%, compared to just 78% of regular aircrafts.

Hello Kitty Jet. Image by Flickr user Lin.y.c.

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