Posts Tagged: CUP Projects



Medellin/Caracas, Part 2

Last week I travelled to Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela to tour five of the most important CPT systems in the world. This is Part 2 where I describe the turn-around cable transit caused in the impoverished and dangerous Medellin barrio of Santo Domingo. Image by Steven Dale


A street merchant in Santo Domingo. Image by Steven Dale

Santo Domingo is an isolated barrio in the Colombian city of Medellin. Today it is a place of peace, calm and social progress. Twenty years ago, it was a type of living hell that the developed world can only imagine.

Crime was rampant, poverty high. Homes and businesses along Andalucia Street, the barrio’s main thoroughfare sat vacant. Landlords tried in vain to entice tenants with promises of zero rent, just so long as they paid the taxes and maintenance. They had few takers.

Few in the barrio had private transportation and the only form of public transit were the private bus cartels that infrequently plied the routes. A resident of Santo Domingo could expect to spend 2 – 2 1/2 hours commuting to work in the core each way.

Pablo Escobar, the most violent and successful drug lord the world’s ever seen, would’ve drawn many of his “troops” from this area. Protection money was a constant reality for area merchants and contractors were under the thumb of organized crime. In the ten years after Escobar’s death in 1993, things barely improved. Power abhors a vacuum, after all, and the resulting turf war between gangs trying to establish themselves as the new Escobar only made things worse. Residents wouldn’t leave their homes after dark as the threat of incident wasn’t just possible, it was likely.

Image by Steven Dale.

Police, even, wouldn’t dare to enter Santo Domingo.

Then something curious happened . . .

In the early 2000’s, Metro Medellin (the city’s transit authority) began talking about connecting Santo Domingo to the Metro system via gondola. The idea was laughed off as nothing more than a pipe dream.

Area residents had heard the promises before. Politicians would make their promises to grab the most number of votes and then forget the promises they’d originally made.

Those in government just thought the idea of a ski lift as transit was absurd.

Nevertheless, after four years of community development around the idea (and one potential supplier dropping out due to security concerns), the Colombian and Medellin governments ponied up USD$26 million (a huge sum for those governments) and allowed Metro Medellin to build the world’s first Metrocable.

To say the least, the results were surprising.

Even before the system opened, systemic change was witnessed. Contractors who had grown accustomed to their building supplies being stolen at night experienced no such thing. When such an incident did happen, the locals were more than happy to rat out the perpetrators. For once in their lives, the residents of Santo Domingo saw their government doing something for them rather than to them and Santo Domingo wanted to return the favour.

Within two years, the Metrocable opened and would herald a new era for the residents of Santo Domingo and Medellin in general.

Today, Santo Domingo is a place of relative peace. Andalucia Street is flooded with children, retirees, street merchants and commerce. The Metrocable did what no military, police force or politician could do; it brought the community back to life.

A young couple descends a terraced hill of stairs in Santo Domingo. Image by Steven Dale.

Santo Domingo from above. Image by Steven Dale.

Santo Domingo from below. Image by Steven Dale.

Image by Steven Dale.

A Bancovia branch, 1 of 3 new banks that have opened in Santo Domingo since the Metrocable opened. Image by Steven Dale.

The Metrocable reduced traffic so much that city planners reclaimed 1 lane of traffic and turned it into a pedestrianized lane of traffic. Image by Steven Dale.

Gondolas depart and approach the Acevedo Metro transfer station and the base of Andalucia Street. Image by Steven Dale.

Image by Steven Dale.

For security reasons, police and military are a common sight in the area. Image by Steven Dale.

Santo Domingo. Image by Steven Dale.

Return to Part 1.

Move on to Part 3.

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Is CPT PRT-Able?

David asks:

PRT is getting some buzz lately what with Heathrow’s system going live soon and Masdar in the works. Do you know of any systems or engineering solutions that allow overhead gondolas to work the same way? IE: Swap to a different cable at a junction? Is CPT PRT-able?

Swapping to a different cable at a junction is possible as the industry has already developed and implemented automatic sortation devices for their systems. That technology could be adapted to a configuration like you’re talking about.

The important thing to remember is that while cable technology is old, it’s application to urban transit is quite new. The industry is just now learning about public transit and what their technology can do.

A great example is Medellin, Colombia. When their first CPT system opened in 2006, it could carry 3,000 pphpd. At the time, that was the maximum capacity any modern cable system had carried.

The day it opened, however, it was over capacity by almost double. The cable industry had never dealt with numbers like that. A direct result of that experience, has been the industry’s development of new technologies that allow 6,000 (aerial) and 10,000 (terrestrial).

For CPT to catch on, it’s important for people to ask questions like this so that the industry can develop solutions to problems it doesn’t know it has.

CPT is in an adolescent phase. It’s basically a teenager. It has all this potential and numerous accomplishments, but needs help being pushed in the right direction for it to fully realize its potential. You can be certain if the market begins to demand line-switching or very high capacity systems or very long line lengths, the industry will develop that.

Also: Some might disagree with me, but the Heathrow system is not PRT. It is simply small automated vehicles in a linear arrangement with off-line stops. One of the major components of PRT (in theory) is the complex network component. The Heathrow system simply does not have that component.

In fact, no system that calls itself PRT has ever had that component. I’m not saying it won’t happen, and there are rumors that it may be added in later at Heathrow, but as of right now, it’s nothing more than a people mover. As for Masdar, I honestly don’t know enough about that installation.

So . . . long answer to a short question: Theoretically CPT is PRT-able. At the same time, PRT is theoretically PRT-able, yet ironically, PRT has never demonstrated itself to be PRT-able.

Are you as confused as I am now?

Speaking of Medellin, tune in tomorrow for the start of The Gondola Project’s first photo essay on the MetroCable systems in Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela. Tell your friends!

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.




Image by Steven Dale

Tune in Wednesday for the start of The Gondola Project’s first photo essay: Medellin/Caracas.

I’ve just returned from Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela where I toured five of the most important systems in all of cable transit. Two of them just opened mere weeks ago. There’s so much to say, this series could go on for a while. To be honest, I don’t know how long, but I suspect at least a couple of weeks.

Cable transit’s here . . . in a big way. See you Wednesday!

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.



Virtual Kidnappings

I just learned of something called ‘virtual kidnappings.’ The way it works is simple: The morally suspect troll around the internet looking for evidence that a certain person (any person) is visiting a certain place at a certain time. Facebook is great for this.

During that certain time, the kidnappers then contact the certain family of the certain individual in question and state (falsely) that they have kidnapped the traveller during their vacation in a certain place and will injure them in a certain way if a certain ransom is not paid.

It’s a sad state of affairs but is – I suppose – the price we pay for something like the web. As such, I’m going to cease informing the readers of The Gondola Project where I am traveling to ahead of time.

I don’t actually suspect I’d be a victim of virtual kidnapping (if one can really be a ‘victim’ of such a bizarre phenomenon), but my travel gives my poor mother enough grief as it is. When she heard about virtual kidnappings, that was the last straw. She made me promise not to reveal online where I was traveling to ahead of time. She made me promise and it’s the least I can do.

Always listen to Mom. Well, maybe not always . . . but regularly.

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.



So You’ve Decided To Explore Cable Propelled Transit…

So you’ve been thinking about cable and your city for a while now. You think it’s a good idea and you’re thinking of telling your boss, electorate, whomever.

Here’s a few helpful hints before you do:

  1. Develop a sense of humor about yourself. If you don’t, everyone else will.
  2. Grow a thick skin. Deeply related to the previous hint. People will have all manner of things to say about you. The nice things they’ll say to your face.
  3. Know your numbers. If you’re lucky, the people you’re up against won’t know theirs. If you’re even luckier, they will.
  4. Never underestimate the power of fear and ignorance. That’s what you’ll be up against. Constantly.
  5. Show people this website.
  6. Ask for help. The network of cable advocates is growing quickly and we’re all in the same boat. Plug in to that network and lean on it.
  7. Be honest.
  8. Be up front with the stupidity of the idea. Then show why it’s not stupid.
  9. Be patient. At first it will take months to convince just one person. But within months, you’ll learn how to do it in weeks. Within weeks, you’ll learn how to do it in days. Within days, hours. Within hours, minutes.
  10. Have fun. Cable’s fun. You like fun, don’t you?
  11. Use pictures.
  12. Forget about what you’d use cable for. Inspire people to imagine how they’d use cable if they were making the decisions.
  13. Know cable’s limits. Don’t suggest cable can compete with a subway.
  14. Challenge cable’s limits. Figure out how cable could compete with a subway.
  15. Talk to everyone.

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For most of your career you didn’t need to know anything about cable. Not anything. Nothing. What transit planner, engineer, policy-maker or advocate bothers with ski-lifts? That’s not transit, that’s a toy for tourists.

You could ignore it. You didn’t need to learn about it and your boss never asked about it. No politician mentioned it and no media personality called you up about it asking for your opinion. Simple reality is you probably never even considered it as a transit technology in the first place.

Look at Hamilton.

It was a good arrangement. It was easy. Slap down some rails, buy some streetcars, call it Light Rail. Write the cheque. Trouble is, that arrangement has changed. Fundamentally.

Now you do need to know about cable. Trouble. Now people are asking you about it. Also trouble. Now governments are seriously asking “what about cable?” Trouble thrice over. Media calls you up and you either say you know nothing about cable or what you do say is demonstrably wrong. Double trouble.

You wouldn’t be reading this post if that wasn’t true. Cable Propelled Transit’s not the kind of thing you stumble upon; you hunt for it.

The thing is this: Cable’s here and so are you. Which do you think is going to be around longer? And what are you going to do about it? You can fight it, get angry about it, rail against it – which is a guaranteed losing strategy – or you can embrace it, learn about it and – most importantly – help improve it.

It’s always better to ride with the leading edge of change than chase after it.

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.



Mandalay Bay Cable Car, Part 3


The Mandalay Bay Mechanical Room. Image by Steven Dale

I recently travelled to Las Vegas, Nevada to explore that city’s two public cable systems. This is Part 3 of a 3 Part report on the Mandalay Bay Cable Car.

The importance of station design in cable cannot be overstated. Even more than other transit technologies, cable stations have to be designed to accommodate large piece of infrastructure and maintenance facilities that other technologies can locate elsewhere.

This problem is typically exacerbated by over-zealous planners and engineers unfamiliar with cable. In the case of short-distance people mover systems, it is standard practice to design stations prior to technology selection. Mistakenly, designers appear to believe that cable and self-propelled vehicles are one and the same. They are not, and to design and build a station prior to technology selection is a tremendous mistake that costs time and money in the future.

Mercifully, this did not happen with the Mandalay Bay. Station and maintenance design was left till after technology choice. Once cable had been selected, engineers familiar with the technology designed stations in tandem with architects to maximize visual effect while providing for every practicality associated with cable.

As such, the Mandalay Bay system has one of the most complete and user-friendly maintenance bays in the bottom-supported cable transit world. A full workshop and spare parts shop is located below the system, allowing technicians to conduct preventative maintenance at all hours of the day.

A recent tour of a similar system in Toronto, Canada (to be discussed in a future series) suffered from the opposite. Stations and maintenance bays were designed beforehand. As such, the facilities are both oversized in some places and undersized in others. It is a station design that is completely inappropriate for cable technology and Toronto’s weather. This adds significant costs and significant frustration to daily maintenance.

I cannot overemphasize this point enough: If you are even considering cable as a transit choice, do not (I REPEAT: DO NOT!!!) design and build the stations before you’ve officially chosen cable. You will save your self heaps of time, tons of trouble, and hours of bitching from justifiably-irritated-and-inconvenienced maintenance workers.

Cable’s special. Not snowflake special, but special nevertheless. Treat it that way.

Mandalay Bay Station. Image by Steven Dale.

The true beauty of the Mandalay Bay cable car is that the system’s practical requirements are met perfectly, yet with a high degree of flair and style. The stations are part of the overall experience, they aren’t merely practical. Even by Vegas standards, the stations are attractive.

The same can be said for the vehicles themselves. MGM actually holds a patent on the design for the vehicles and they are unique to MGM resorts. The noses are far more pointed than traditional Doppelmayr cable cars and this gives them an aggressive, purposeful appearance.

Admittedly, the vehicles have suffered from vandalism and wear over the years. It’s the kind of vandalism, too, that can’t just be fixed with scrubbing (scratchiti and the like). Parts would have to be replaced and in this economic climate, MGM has chosen state of good repair maintenance over replacing vandalized or worn parts. Small spots of rust are visible on the guideway.

Nevertheless, the Mandalay Bay cable car is a true joy. As stated in a previous article, this is an incredibly reliable system. That it was built for a fraction of the price of a comparable self-propelled system is all the better.

Next time you’re in Vegas, ride this thing. Ride it hard. It can take it.


Click here to read Part 1.

Click here to read Part 2.

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.