Posts Tagged: Elevators



The Durie Hill Elevator

The following is a guest post by Wellington Cycleways’ Matt Thredgold.

The Durie Hill Elevator. Image by Matt Thredgold.

Steven asks us what we can learn from elevators. He notes that they are the world’s most used form of public transit. It is perhaps stretching the definition of public transit a bit to include elevators, but in some places in the world elevators are doing exactly that. And as a form of cable propelled transit, I think it is worth noting some of the places where elevators are being used for public transit.

Think about the Polanco elevator. As I’ve noted before on a post about the ascensors of Valparaiso, the Polanco elevator combines an elevator, a bridge and a tunnel to get people up a hill in that corner of Valpo.

Despite being so ubiquitous in buildings, public elevators used as a form of intermediary mass transit are not found in that many places around the world. They’re used perhaps to access underground stations, or to get to elevated railway station platforms, but they’d be rarely thought of as transit in their own right.

However they are in Stockholm, Lisbon, Oregon City, Salvador and Whanganui, New Zealand.

Yes, Whangnui, a small city on the Whanganui River on the North Island of New Zealand, an hour west of Palmerston North (known to Gondola Project readers for the Palmylink Proposal), and three hours north of Wellington (known to Gondola Project readers for its famous cable car).

From the city centre it is a short walk across the bridge to a pedestrian tunnel, built in 1916, which leads 205 metres inside Durie Hill. The tunnel and elevator were built by a real estate developer in order to sell the land of the original subdivision atop Durie Hill.

Here’s some pictures:

The two elevator towers can be seen on top of the hill. Interestingly the two towers were not used in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, unlike every other notable bit of New Zealand.

The entrance to the elevator's tunnel is decorated with interesting Maori carvings. The gates shut when the elevator is not in service. For those times there is a flight of 191 stairs that lead up the hill (bring a Slinky).

The 205 meter long tunnel. Strictly speaking it is an "adit", not a tunnel, as there is only one entrance. But call it an adit and people won't know what you are talking about. At the end is a call button. Push it and wait for the elevator doors to open. A friendly operator lets you in and charges you $2.00 to go up. (Kids are a $1.00). They'll take bikes as well if they're not too busy. The interior is wood panelled and is in quite good condition for being over 90 years old.

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.



What Can We Learn From Elevators?

Image by flickr user wilding.andrew.

The elevator is the world’s most used form of transit. Full stop.

Arguably, it defines contemporary urban culture even more than the private automobile. It is so common, so normal, we never even think about it. It is ubiquitous to the point of invisibility.

According to a wonderful article about elevators in the New Yorker, there are eleven billion elevator trips taken in New York City every year; 30 million every day.

Meanwhile, Otis (the world’s largest manufacturer of “vertical transportation” devices) claims their elevators move the equivalent of the world’s population every nine days.

Basically, without the elevator cities as we currently know them would disappear and be replaced with something entirely different than what we currently experience. Low-rise, European cities of no more than 6 stories would become the norm. And because density couldn’t be packed into one or two spots surrounded by a sea of bungalows, places like Tampa would be replaced with places like Vienna overnight.

Hong Kong would cease to exist entirely.

And yet they’re as safe as can be. Elevator accidents are incredibly rare. Cabins free-falling towards the ground (as one might see in the movies) for all intents and purposes just don’t happen.

Says the New Yorker: “An average of twenty-six people die in (or on) elevators in the United States every year, but most of these are people being paid to work on them. That may still seem like a lot, until you consider that that many die in automobiles every five hours (emphasis mine).”

So next time someone says to you that gondolas and cable transit aren’t safe, just remind them that elevators and gondolas are virtually the same technology – that is, a box attached to a very, very strong rope.

And like elevators, gondolas are about as safe a transit technology as there is.

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.