Ngong Ping 360



The Basics

Sometimes people want to answer complex questions when most people looking for answers just want the basics.

When I first began this work, there was one really basic question about Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT) that dogged me and no one could answer it.  It was a question that also dogged the think tank that first sponsored my research:

Can gondolas turn corners, and if so, how?

The answer might be patently obvious to some people, but not to someone who’d never seen one do it before.

The reason the question was so important is simple:  For an aerial cable system to be useful on any sort of scale in an urban environment, the vehicles must be capable of turning corners.  That’s a limiting factor for any transit technology.

Unfortunately, there were no strong sources available to answer that question.  One could extrapolate, but there was no clear statement on the matter.

I cannot even begin to tell you how long it took to definitively answer that question (incidentally, the answer is ‘yes’).  Days turned into weeks with no conclusive answer.  There was talk of “angle stations” and “intermediate terminals” but no where did someone take the time to just say this:




You can barely make it out in the above picture above, but this photo of the Ngong Ping 360 shows gondolas making a right hand turn on the island before running parallel to the freeway bridges.

Research is time-consuming.  Private and public sector planners require straight-forward answers to simple questions so that they can focus their energies on other things.  We’re not engineers.

For people to want a technology, they have to understand how it works to the extent that it affects them.  People are selfish with their attention.  They don’t care how a car works, they just care if it has a cup-holder.  They don’t care how a computer works, they just care if it “has email.”

Here’s a good rule to live by:  Assume people know absolutely nothing about your technology, then reduce that level of expectation by half.  That’s a good place to start . . . the basics.

Creative Commons image by James Wheare.

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