Posts Tagged: Baiyun cable car



Baiyun Cable Car (Guangzhou, China): Urban Infrastructure and Land Uses

Baiyun Mountain Cable Car. View from Top Station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Baiyun Cable Car. View of Guangzhou in the back from top station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Cable car technology never ceases to amaze me. This may sound a little exaggerated, but almost every time I visit a CPT system, I discover and learn about something incredible.

Case in point — the Baiyun Cable Car (白云索道) — a 1.6km MDG system located in the bustling southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou, China. This recreational line is connected to Baiyun Mountain (or White Cloud Mountain), a large park and popular sightseeing destination situated 15km north of the CBD.

  • Length: 1.6km
  • Travel time: 5-10 minutes
  • Ticket: 25 yuan (up); 15 yuan (down)
  • Technology: MDG
  • Speed: 5m/s
  • Pphpd: 1400
Baiyun Cable Car. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Baiyun Cable Car. Image by Nicholas Chu.

The initial system first broke ground in 1984 and opened to the public in 1986. According to their website, the cable car is China’s first domestically designed detachable sightseeing ropeway.

Likely due to lower income levels at that time and lack of amenities at the top, uptake of the system took many years.

Over time, however, the park and the cable car’s popularity grew immensely, so much so that it had to hire Doppelmayr to completely upgrade the system in 2004.

Today, the park is one of the top tourist destinations in Guangzhou and is visited by over 20 million people annually. As for the cable car, it is estimated to carry around a million passengers each year.

Yuntai Gardens. Image by Nicholas Chu.

The cable car is a part of a larger collection of attractions, including Yuntai Gardens (pictured), Nengren Temple, Sculpture Park and much more. Image by Nicholas Chu.

While the system was relatively quiet when I visited on a winter weekday, the system’s line queue design combined with online photos suggest that the system is incredibly popular with park patrons during peak seasons.

Whereas hiking the mountain remains too strenuous for many visitors (~1 hour journey), the cable car offers a comfortable, quick and inexpensive way to access peak views, trails and amenities.

Views of the city below. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Views of the city below. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Line queues at top station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Line queue design at top station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Aside from being a popular recreational cable car, the Baiyun system is an interesting example of how urban infrastructure and land use interacts with a pre-existing cable car.

In the past, we’ve seen many new cable lift systems being built over highway/roadway infrastructure (i.e. Portland Aerial Tram and Roosevelt Island Tram) but the Baiyun Cable Car is perhaps one of the few, if not only, urban gondola in the world to have an expressway built over the alignment.

Baiyun Cable Car.

Expressway on top of the cable car. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Baiyun Cable Car.

System travelling underneath highway. Image by Nicholas Chu.

As it was explained to me, the cable car was constructed prior to the elevated S81 Highway. But instead of deconstructing the gondola system when the freeway was being built, engineers just decided to build over it.

Kids exercising and clothes drying at elementary school that's underneath cable car. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Kids exercising and clothes drying at elementary school located underneath cable car. Image by Nicholas Chu.

While this may not be an appropriate solution for all CPT lines, it is worth mentioning that the Baiyun system has never experienced any accidents and disruptions from the overhead highway.

Like all cable cars, safety is number one and the system is designed and operated to meet all international ropeway codes and safety regulations.

Moreover, while the infrastructure above the cable car is interesting, what is beneath the system is equally fascinating.

When I rode the system, I noticed that it traveled over an elementary school and what appears to be dormitories. Whereas places in Medellin have homeowners decorating their roofs to welcome passengers, this isn’t always the case where privacy issues are more sensitive.

As an urban planner, I always find it interesting to see how users from different cities and cultures react to aerial cable cars.

In this instance, the cable car manager explained that there were no major concerns. In fact, all the different components surrounding the cable car somehow complement each other and worked harmoniously as intended.

While the Baiyun Cable Car isn’t the biggest nor coolest CPT line in the world, it is a great example of how urban infrastructure and land uses can be designed and adapted into the urban fabric to accompany a pre-existing cable car. 

If you happen to be in Guangzhou, the cable lift and park is definitely worth a visit. But be sure to allocate enough time as the site is big enough to take up your whole day!

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.