Squaw Valley Funitel



Squaw Valley Funitel Stats

Kelly writes,

I am also interested in cable propelled transit and am a big fan of The Gondola Project. Anyway, I just worked out some numbers on the Funitel at the resort where I work (Squaw Valley) and I thought I would share them with you.

Squaw Valley Stats

  • 28 legal limit (This would be a crazy crush load)
  • 18 normal mixed load – 9 seated and 9 standing (this is pretty typical, if there is a small line this is about how many people naturally pack into a car)
  • 9 seated comfortably (kids sometimes squeeze 15 but adults who don’t know each other usually won’t sit more than 9)
  • 1,296 pphpd seated comfortably
  • 2,592 pphpd mixed seated and standing
  • 4,032 pphpd official capacity (crush load/legal limit)
  • Cable speed: 6 m/s (or 13.4 mph)
  • Headway: 25 seconds / 150 meters (in practice they space the cabs out a little more than this.)

I did this because I wanted to compare Seattle’s new light rail to Squaw’s funitel. As it’s configured now, this is how are our light rail compares:

Seattle LRT Stats

  • 1,184 pphpd seated
  • 3,200 pphpd crush load
  • Headway: 7.5 min
  • Cost per mile: $179 million

Wish we would have built a CPT system!

Now, unfortunately Kelly didn’t provide us with how much the Squaw Valley system cost to build, without which makes comparison difficult (if anyone out there has that number, please post it in the comments below). But at 1.67 miles in length, I can assure everyone that the Funitel didn’t come anywhere near the cost of the Seattle LRT. The Squaw Valley system, likely, was built for somewhere around $25 million per mile, not much more (again, if anyone out there has the actual number, please post it with link in the comments below).

Furthermore, it’s not an entirely fair comparison. Seattle’s LRT has significant portions of the line underground and the line is far longer (17.3 miles) than what a CPT system typically sees. Additionally, Seattle’s prone to earthquakes and seismic activity. Any cable system built in Seattle would face increased costs in order to earthquake-proof the system. At the same time, some of those costs would be defrayed by cable’s ability to deal with Seattle’s topographical challenges in ways that LRT never could.

With those caveats aside, however, two things jump out: The dramatic difference in headway and the capacity premium of the Funitel. The LRT system has wait times 15 times longer and a (current) maximum capacity that is 20% lower than the Squaw Valley Funitel.

One would expect that if Seattle were to pay such a high cost for their LRT (as per my knowledge, it’s the most expensive LRT ever built), headways should be far shorter and capacity far higher. Especially when compared to a ski lift.

Comparisons such as Kelly’s are useful for de-bugging. It’s the kind of comparison that jolts you into questioning what you think you already know. As more and more research is gathered on the Squaw Valley, such comparisons could also be useful in more rigorous ways.

So here’s a question: What if The Gondola Project set up a central database of interesting, appropriate systems for people to use as comparisons? As systems are identified, they could be “put out there” and readers could contribute research and statistics as they find them. Would that be useful to TGP readers? Would TGP readers be willing to help build that database? How would it work?

Think about it and send us your comments.

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