The Irony of Cable Car Pranks on April Fools

For those who haven’t noticed yet, it’s April Fools today.

Of course, this means that a few media outlets have gone to great lengths to have a little fun and punk their audiences.

Hey look, it's a proposal that might potentially improve transportation. Ha ha. Jokes on you. Image from Isle of Wight Radio.

Look! It’s a proposal that might potentially improve transportation. Ha ha. Image from Isle of Wight Radio.

For gondolas, we’ve found two great stories so far: 1) A “green-lit” water-crossing cable car for the Isle of Wight, UK; and 2) A city-wide gondola network in Victoria, Canada.

The massive cable car proposal in Victoria is obviously ridiculous in that environment. But could maybe one or two strategically placed lines in the BC capital help improve transport and tourism? Of course. I see several interesting opportunities already.

As for the Isle of Wight prank, I honestly know nothing about the island. But from 30 seconds of Googling, it seems the island’s ferry system made 4.3 million trips across The Solent (strait) in 2012/2013.

Ferry routes. Image from Wighlink.co.uk.

Ferry routes. Image from Wighlink.co.uk.

There appears to be 3 ferry routes which range from ~6km (Lymington to Yarmouth, 40 minutes) to ~8km (Porsmouth to Ryde, 22 minutes) to ~11km (Portsmouth to Fishbourne, 45 minutes). The shortest distance between the island and the mainland is about ~4-5km.

For simplicity sake, we did a quick comparison between the Lymington to Yarmoth ferry route and a theoretical 3S system.

  • Frequency: Ferry @ 1 hour wait / 3S Gondola @ 35-person cabins every ~30 seconds
  • Travel Time: Ferry @ 40 minutes / 3S Gondola @ 12.5 minutes (assuming 6km, 8 m/s)
  • Capacity: Ferry @ 360 pphpd / 3S Gondola @ 4,000-5,000 pphpd

Judging solely on these three basic parameters above, a cable car can be designed to operate at a much superior level of service than the ferry. Furthermore in terms of environmental factors, average wind speeds of 27km/h may have little effect on a cable car’s performance.

Vietnam's Vinpearl Cable Car transports passengers

Vietnam’s 3.3km Vinpearl Cable Car is built with 9 towers (7 offshore towers in a seismically prone South China Sea) and transports passengers at heights of 115m. The cable car was actually built to replace the inefficient ferry system. Image by Flickr user gavindeas.

While it’s not possible to tell if a cable car can be economically viable at this time (depends on fare structure and volume), I suspect that adding another cross-strait transportation option may help drive down ferry ticket prices.

And this coincidentally might be important to locals and visitors since the strait is considered by many online commentators as one of the world’s most expensive stretches of water (single adult ticket costs US$14.25/£10).

I suppose the irony about this “joke” is there’s a good potential that there is significant technical and economical validity behind the idea. Despite the prank, this idea might actually deserve more analysis and attention.

Laughs and giggles aside, perhaps what is the most unsettling is this: while many of us in so called “developed” nations continue to mock and ridicule ropeways, many of those in “developing” nations have fully embraced the technology (see urban gondola map) and have decided to assess it based on its merits (rather than one’s preconceived notions).

For those who think a cross-Solent cable car is impossible, they might wish to take some inspiration from Vietnam’s 7.9km Hòn Thơm – Phú Quốc Ropeway. Best part is, the system has broken ground and scheduled to open in early 2017.

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.



Rider’s Digest: Leitner Ropeways’ Tricable Gondola Lifts

The following summarizes 16-page glossy brochure on LEITNER’s 3S system. Also known as ‘tricable gondolas’, they have single haul rope and two carrying ropes.

Rittner Seilbahn in Renon, Italy.

Rittner Seilbahn in Renon, Italy.

Tricable gondolas features detachable grips and offers the highest transport capacity of all aerial technologies. They guarantee increased wind resistance and can also cross major spans of over 2,500 meters between towers. Cabins can be slowed in the stations — or even be stopped completely — for additional comfort when riders enter and exit the cabin.

Capacity: up to 6,000 people/h

Speed: up to 8.5 m/s

Cabin capacity: up to 35 people


Cabins are Co-Designed by Pininfarina, Ferrari and Maserati designers


  • Wide entryway speeds boarding and deboarding.
  • Seats 28 comfortably with standing room for 7 more.
  • Sophisticated lighting concept developed in collaboration with Bartenbach Lighting Design is tailored to your corporate colour scheme.
  • Collaboration with qpunkt, automotive air conditioning experts, produced a new climate control concept with continuously variable air volume and improved air-flow velocity.
  • Supercaps energy concept employs a roller generator and solar panels to power a multimedia system with high-resolution LCD screens, WiFi and sound system.
3S Symphony Cabins.

3S Symphony Cabins.

The Leitner 3S Cabin


  • Manufacturing technologies and precision components are like those used in aircraft construction.
  • Milled from solid pieces, most parts require no safety welds. Meaning? Greater stability but lower weight.
  • Additional two-way rollers in the station and garaging areas can travel on the smallest curve radii.
  • Safety: each carriage’s unique vehicle detector indicates possible roller defects. So operators know exactly where to inspect track rollers. Then, the affected vehicle can be safely transported to the end station.
  • Removable grip reduces maintenance requirements.
  • Comfort: Each carriage’s lateral damping system ensures greater wind resistance and eliminates swaying.
  • Eco-friendly roller generator contributes to the power supply in the cabin.
  • Colours of all parts can be customized to your corporate standards, except for rollers and grips.


The Advantages of the Leitner 3S System

Simple Rope Deflection

Lifts are equipped with a single haul rope deflection mechanism. LEITNER 3S systems only require four sheaves. Up to two drive sheaves and one return sheave are installed in the drive station. There is one return sheave in the return station.

+ Longer service life

+ Lower maintenance costs


Optimum Redundancy for Maximum Safety

If required, an independent drive can be installed for both drive sheaves and the emergency/evacuation drive. Of course, the LEITNER DirectDrive can be used.

+ Maximum safety

+ Greater availability


Patented Haul Rope Roller with Spring System

The lift-off load on the haul rope is minimized by the spring roller system on the support towers. The lower lift-off height results in fewer vibrations on the haul rope and considerably lower loading of the carrying ropes by the carriage rollers.

+ Increased service life of the carrying ropes

+ Quieter ride


Optimized Accessibility

All mechanisms are directly accessible and thus easy to check and adjust. The outer station turnaround is accessible while walking upright for ergonomic and safer working.

+ Simplified maintenance

+ Safety for maintenance staff


The Flexible Switch Points System

The switch points are designed for optimum flexibility. The rapid switching cycles allow the vehicles to be pushed in and out during operation. The garaging procedure can be executed at running speed. The compartment-style system enables manual control of the switch points.

+ Flexibility

+ Time savings

+ Availability


Compact Station Design

The low installation height reduces cubage and costs. The new 3S carriage permits minimal curve radii in the station and the very narrowest curves in both directions in the garaging area.

+ Cost savings

+ Flexibility

3S Prodains Gondola

3S Prodains Gondola

Examples of LEITNER Tricable Gondolas In Situ 

The brochure closes with summaries of working and coming Leitner tricable systems. (The beautiful mountain vistas may be distracting for urban planners considering transit issues but the statistics are useful.)


Ritten/Bozen, Italy

Inclined length: 4,544 m

Vertical rise: 949 m

Transport capacity: 726 people/h

Power: 900 kw

Total vehicles: 10

Total towers: 7


Les Prodains, France

Inclined length: 1,751 m

Vertical rise: 576 m

Transport capacity: 2,400 people/h

Power: 2x 530 kw

Total vehicles: 4

Total towers: 2


Stubaier Gletscher, Austria

Inclined length: 4,092 m

Vertical rise: 1,137 m

Transport capacity: 3,000 people/h

Power: 2x 530 kw

Total number of vehicles: 48

Opening: 2016


Zermatt, Switzerland

Inclined length: 3,760 m

Vertical rise: 900 m

Transport capacity: 2,000 people/h

Total number of vehicles: 25

Opening: 2018


Download the complete brochure here.


Materials on this page are paid for. 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 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.



The New Taris 3S Cabin From CWA

3S Cable Car

The New Taris 3S/TDG Cabin by CWA. Image by Steven Dale.

It’s been a busy month for me what with Interalpin, Alpipro and the launch of our new Guide to Gondolas, hence the spareness of posts for the last couple of weeks.

Now that I’m back into the swing of things though, I’m going to spend the next few posts discussing some of the highlights of both Interalpin and Alpipro to give readers an idea of what’s on the near horizon for the cable transit industry. 

Glass is a material taken for granted in life. It’s everywhere and we only really notice it when it’s missing or broken—hence my excitement upon seeing the new Taris 3S cabins by Swiss manufacturer CWA.

Glass is a relative rarity in cable transit. You see it sometimes in Funiculars, Cable Liners and Aerial Trams, but I cannot recall a single instance of a Detachable Gondola that was equipped with glass panels and windows. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist—but if they do, we’ve never heard of them.

(Now before I get ahead of myself, allow me to clarify something: More often than not, the “glass” I’m referring to above isn’t glass at all. Instead, the glass that’s used in a cable transit system is often a shatter-proof polycarbonate material that approximates—to a remarkably high degree—the look and feel of real glass. So when I refer to glass walls and windows in a cable transit system, know that I’m talking about fake glass that looks real, not real glass. Got it? Good.)

The windows and doors in most detachable gondolas—and that includes current iterations of the 3S—have always tended to look, feel and sound like cheap plastic. In turn, that cheap plastic aesthetic has practically imbued gondolas with a cheap plastic quality. Other transit technologies such as buses and light rail vehicles tend to use real actual glass panels. This gives “real” transit systems a degree of heft that gondolas have always lacked.

This may seem like a small point but it’s not.

To a large extent, cable cars are in a war of perception. People simply don’t perceive them to be public transit—hence, they’re not public transit. That’s what was learned a couple decades ago by transport scholars Neumann & Bondada. They learned that the transit planning world fundamentally  misunderstood almost everything about cable car technology. They perceived it, quite simply, to not be public transit.

Perception is a funny thing because it’s a self-fullfilling prophecy—the simple perception that a ski lift cannot be used as public transit reinforces the idea that it is not public transit. That’s a nasty vicious circle to that cable manufacturers have had difficulty breaking out of.

That’s the importance of the Taris’ (fake) glass windows—they change perception. Real transit has real glass. Now, so too do gondolas. Cable transit now has a technology with the heft of a “real” transit vehicle and feels completely unlike the ski lift models that have preceded it—and when I say that, note that I’m including the Koblenz Rheinseilbahn in that class of ‘ski lift models.’ Despite that system’s innovative urban concept cabins, it doesn’t approach the Taris’ degree of heft, finesse or general overall urbanity.

Another feature of public transit that’s as standard as they come but has been lacking in detachable gondola systems has been air conditioning. It’s a feature that’s been around for a while now, but has still been the exception rather than the norm. Yet look at the CWA website and you’ll see that the Taris is being offered with an (optional) commercially available 24V air conditioning unit in the same way that their Omega series of cabins are. That’s a change from their past line of 3S cabins which currently aren’t (and I don’t believe ever were) offered with AC.

The final thing to note about the Taris is the cabin capacity. CWA states that the maximum capacity model of the Taris to be 45—a significant premium above the 35-40 that’s typically reported about 3S systems. That’s a 12.5%-28.5% increase in capacity for those that care about those sort of things.

Where the space for those extra 5-10 people are coming from, however, isn’t entirely clear because dimensions aren’t given for either the Taris nor older model 3S cabins. So there’s a few possibilities:

  • The Taris is legitimately larger than standard 3S cabin models;
  • the upper capacity limit of the Taris is presumed to be without any standing room;
  • the capacity numbers have been adjusted to reflect a typical urban commuter—which typically occupy less space and are less heavy than ski lift patrons (due to gear) or;
  • this is just a marketing gimmick.

Furthermore, it’s not at all clear if this increase in cabin capacity will have any actual impact on overall system capacity. It’s all fine and well to increase cabin capacity, but if that only results in fewer vehicles on the line (instead of an increase in pphpd), then all that’s been realized is an increase in cabin crowding and wait times between vehicles—a overall net decrease in cabin capacity.

No matter what the capacity implications, it’s clear that the Taris is targeted to the urban transport market.

According to my conversations with CWA during Interalpin, the company intends it to become the new standard in 3S systems, especially for the urban market. As of yet, we don’t know what the price premium associated with the Taris is, but it’s reasonable to assume it will be significant. It is, after all, a brand new vehicle tailored to a market that can absorb a cost premium well beyond that which a ski resort can.

Notwithstanding the lack of clarity on issues of capacity, it’s clear that this is a big leap forward for the industry.


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.



The Confusion Behind 3S, MDG and BDG

In yesterday’s post, I alluded to the bizarre nature of term “3S.” Let me explain – and I warn you, this will make your head hurt:

The cable industry differentiates technologies like Monocable Detachable Gondolas (MDG) and Bi-Cable Detachable Gondolas (BDG) based upon the ropes/cables used. Great, you say. That makes sense. Monocables use one cable and Bicables use two. I get that. Problem is, the terms Monocable and Bicables are not used in that way.

For example, this is a Monocable Detachable Gondola:

Image by ** Parapluie **

And this is a Bicable Detachable Gondola:

Image by night86mare.

Still, this seems straightforward enough. In the pictures, Monocables use one cable and Bicables use two. No big deal. Here’s where things get odd though. In the cable industry, Monocable is used to describe a vehicle whereby one cable is used for both support and propulsion. This is why Funitels are often referred to as Double Loop Monocables. Despite appearing to use two different cables, a Funitel only uses one rope and uses it for both support and propulsion.

Despite appearances, Funitels are still classed as Monocable systems. Image by 123_456.

Bicables, on the other hand, are classed according to the principal that systems must have one rope (or set of ropes) for support and a second rope for propulsion. That means the 3S, which is named for having three ropes (two support ropes, one propulsion rope) is actually classed as a BDG system. This is why on websites like Lift-World you won’t actually find 3S systems in their database. You actually have to dig through the BDG database to find them.

Despite clearly using three ropes (and being named for those three ropes) the 3S is still classed as a Bicable system. Image by Derek K. Miller.

In other words, the terms Monocable and Bicable are both a reference to a specific technology and a reference to a group of technologies. Problem is, the references are highly misleading; do not conform to the common logic of counting the number of cables we see; and cause obvious confusion.

As I’ve mentioned before (here and here), cable nomenclature is complex and difficult when first encountering the technology. But the way in which sub-technologies and systems are grouped and classified are positively arcane and borderline ridiculous. This is a problem for the industry because it needlessly complicates already expensive and time-consuming planning research. If I want a Bus or Streetcar or Light Rail or Subway, I don’t have to worry about families, sub-groups and the like. I just ask for a Bus or a Streetcar or a Subway. It’s simple.

Worse still is the common occurrence of researchers and writers using the qualities (or lack thereof) of one cable technology to mistakenly discredit cable as a whole without actually understanding that there are huge differences between cable techs and the bizarre manner in which their organized.

Told you it’d make your head hurt.

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.



Aerial Technologies, Lesson 7: 3S

Image by jonwick04.

One of the rarest and most exciting (at least from an urban perspective) of all aerial cable systems is the 3S.

Read 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.



The Peak 2 Peak (Part 3)


Image by Steven Dale

Last month I toured Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak cable gondola system. This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on the system. Click on the following links to view Part 1 and Part 2.

Most aerial cable systems offer a smooth ride. What little friction there is, is rarely felt by the rider. Except, of course, when it comes to passing over towers. When passing over the sheave assemblies attached to these towers, riders tend to feel a noticeable bumpiness and accompanying noise. To some, it can be slightly unnerving. The older and more basic the system, the more pronounced this is.

The Peak 2 Peak’s 3S technology does away with these nuisances. When passing over the towers, there is virtually no change in noise level nor smoothness of ride. The engineers should be commended for this feat. Not only does it make the ride more pleasant, it makes the technology more palatable to the psychological fears of riders not accustomed to cable technologies.

The towers are, however, quite large compared to less advanced systems. This is partly due to the technology in question but also partly due to the distance between towers. At it’s most extreme, 3 km of ropes, vehicles and skiers are supported by only two intermediary towers. It’s an engineering marvel, but means the towers are giants. The four intermediary towers range between 35 to 65 metres in height!

(Such tower heights would be too large for an urban environment unless extreme design changes are made. Granted, I can think of only a few urban situations where a 3 km towerless span would be required.)

As I said earlier, everything about the Peak 2 Peak feels oversized and enormous. Use whatever superlative you like, it probably applies to the Peak 2 Peak.

Except when it comes to the engine.

I’ve seen my fair share of cable transit engine rooms and they’re almost always underwhelming. One sees these massive systems and one expects a corresponding engine room. That expectation almost never meets reality. The Peak 2 Peak is no different.


Peak 2 Peak Main Engine Room. Image by Steven Dale

The Peak 2 Peak’s main engine and drive is located beneath the station in a bland, white subterranean room. The sound of the engine is deafening, but the engine itself is nothing much to behold. Despite it’s fire engine red coat of paint, the machine is unassuming. It’s small enough to fit inside a streetcar with room to spare for a half dozen riders and their backpacks.

That this piece of equipment moves 18 km’s of steel cable, 28 vehicles, 4,100 passengers and a steel bullwheel is remarkable. In fact, it’s almost unbelievable. What’s even more unbelievable is the diesel backup engine. The back-up is less than half the size of the main drive but can switch on within seconds of a main engine failure.

Redundancy is the name of the game here.

Of course the engine doesn’t do all the work. Gravity does much of it. The “belly” (I love that term) or sag of the rope is significant, on the order of three or four hundred metres. As maintenance engineer Sean Duff explained to me, the belly of the rope allows the system to capture potential energy (gravity) and use it to its advantage. Vehicles descending the belly pull vehicles up the belly. The engine only has to provide enough energy to compensate for the difference.

According to Sean, it’s an incredibly efficient system.

Because the Peak 2 Peak is a horizontal system, Sean explained, the system actually uses less energy than do the other gondolas on Whistler Mountain. Whereas the other systems must typically drag hundreds of people up the hill (with very few people using the system to descend the hill), the Peak 2 Peak has a relatively constant load on both directions. This causes a counterbalancing effect which reduces energy consumption.

When, however, a system with more “vertical rise” has more people descending the lift than ascending, it’s not uncommon for engineers to witness energy consumption drop below zero. That is, the system is basically generating energy because the weight of the descending line is heavier than the weight of the ascending line.


Image by Steven Dale

It’s refreshing how accessible the system’s engineers and maintenance staff are. Part of that accessibility is due to their presence. Unlike other transit technologies, cable systems tend to have engineers and maintenance staff onsite at all times of operation. As more-and-more cable systems demand near round-the-clock service (especially in airports), long shut downs for maintenance are just not a possibility.

This has caused the cable industry to adopt a policy of preventative maintenance. Throughout the course of their workdays, cable engineers are not fixing problems after the fact, they’re preventing them from happening in the first place.

As I said in Part 1 of this series, I doubt the Peak 2 Peak was really meant for skiers. Skiers want to go from the top of a mountain to the bottom, not from the top of one mountain directly to the top of another.  But that’s not really the point of the Peak 2 Peak.

Instead, the Peak 2 Peak is a statement of cable’s advances. Is it necessary? No. Is it overkill? Completely. But at a total cost of only $57 million, this overkill is still more cost-effective and deeply efficient compared to our traditional transit solutions.

It may be at a ski resort, but it’s transit through and through.

Return to Part 2.

Return to Part 1.

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.