Grindelwald First



Tiny Observations & Cable Propelled Transit

The Grindelwald First MDG system.

We can use ski lifts as transit!?!

That’s a Eureka Moment and one that’s been happening to the urban transit community for the last 10 years. It’s big, it’s profound and it’s exciting. It’s also unwieldily and awkward because too much has been left uncovered and left unsaid. There are too many questions, too many details. What about safety? Corners, can we turn corners? Can we have intermediary stations? Etc. Etc. Etc. All these things and more are still not a part of urban transit’s collective, general knowledge base.

Which brings me to a MDG system in the Swiss ski resort of Grindelwald First. The above picture is a piece of infrastructure incorporated into that system. Take a look at it and figure out what it is. If you’re familiar with CPT, you’ll have a few ideas. If not, you’ll have none. What is it? Is it a turning station? Is it an intermediary station? What is it!?!

If you guessed it’s a turning station, you’re halfway right. The other half of the answer is that it’s a high speed, slim-profile turning station. Turning stations are not typically slim, nor are they typically high-speed. This one is both and it was built in 1991.

I didn’t know such a thing as a high-speed, slim-profile turning station even existed until myself and some friends took a hike at Grindelwald last fall. I saw it and asked what’s that!?! This was not a discovery I earned, it was a discovery I fell backwards into purely by chance. It’s nothing more than a Tiny Observation, but one that has dramatic implications for the technology in urban environments. That it was discovered in a rural ski resort only complicates matters.

What if I’d not taken a hike to Grindelwald last fall? What if I hadn’t been lucky? Would we have known about this innovation? Hopefully, but who knows. I’ve read a report that says there are over 10,000 cable propelled systems throughout the world. What Tiny Observations are hidden in those 10,000?

For Cable Propelled Transit to find its way into mass acceptance as urban public transit, we need more Tiny Observations and we need more than just blind luck to find them. The Eureka Moment is all fine and good, but it’s the Tiny Observations that give shape and meaning to the discovery. They enable us to move from asking if we can use ski lifts as transit, to actually building ski lifts as transit.

Discovering we can use ski lifts as transit is only the beginning.

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