Posts Tagged: Gondola Transit



Asking About Urban Gondola Transit

Recently we’ve been receiving a lot of email requests for details about gondola and cable car transit technology. Often, the requests have been coming from university students asking for help with assigned projects. The pace of requests have only increased since my recent talk with the Alberta Professional Planners Institute and a proposal for a Seattle Gondola System went live on Citytank last week.

We’re thrilled that universities and students are beginning to pick up on the idea, and we’re happy to help where we can. Unfortunately, we often receive requests that we’re unable to meet. Furthermore, such requests oftentimes sound less like students and more like foreign companies exploiting our openness in an effort to attain competitive, proprietary information.

So in an effort to ease this process in the future, let’s set a few ground rules:

ONE – University Email. If you’re a university student looking for help with a school project, please email us via your school’s email address. Sending email from your yahoo or hotmail account but saying your working on a university project only raises suspicions. Similarly, please include a few details about your university and the nature of your project. That will help us help you. Know that we will never share, distribute or publicize those details.

TWO – Blueprints and schematics. We will never provide blueprints or schematics of existing or planned cable transit systems. We will also not solicit them on your behalf from the cable industry. Such documents are intellectual property, valuable and owned by their respective designers. Please do not ask for such documents.

THREE – Repeat. We’re going to say this one again, just to make sure everyone’s listening: We will never provide blueprints or schematics of existing or planned cable transit systems. We will also not solicit them on your behalf from the cable industry. Please don’t ask.

FOUR – Keep it simple. More and more people are approaching us with ideas for excessively long, complex systems with dozens of stations and hundreds of kilometers worth of loops. Please understand that modest systems are the order of the day at least in the near term.

FIVE – Provide details. Often we’re asked by people to help them with technology choice and general advice about designing a gondola transit line. We’re more than happy to help. But to do so we need details. Without knowing the topography, desired capacities, urban environment, etc. it’s impossible. Even more than other transit technologies, gondolas are incredibly site specific. Just asking us to help you design a gondola line is like asking a chef to just help you make dinner. We need to know the ingredients you’re working with.

SIX – Read our site. Please take the time to read over the information on this site before sending us questions. We’ve put it together for just that reason. Is it perfect? Not on your life. But we truly believe it to be the most comprehensive resource on the web to learn about urban gondolas and cable propelled transit. We also think it’s at least somewhat entertaining and provocative.

SEVEN – Cost is relative. Understand that there is no standard costing mechanism for cable transit. Every system is unique and highly dependent upon the details of the system. There is no good “rule of thumb” for costing a cable transit system.

EIGHT – Trust. It’s easy to be mistrustful, hard to be trusting. We get that. If you have an idea for a system, don’t worry, we’re not going to rush off and steal it from you. More than likely, we’re going to ask you to talk to us about it and write about it on the site. One of the goals of The Gondola Project is to help empower people to dream about and create transit in their own communities. We’re not hear to steal ideas, we’re here to develop them.

NINE – Trust us again. Unless you tell us otherwise, and unless the project you’re talking about is already available within the public realm, we will never discuss the idea online. We understand the delicateness of the topic and understand that discretion is the better part of valor. We think our track record has proven this to be true.

TEN – Contact Details. We do not provide contact details for cable transit manufacturers based on a single email. All of their contacts are listed on their respective websites.

ELEVEN – Offer to contribute. Online communities such as The Gondola Project live and die by the contributions of its readers. If you’ve got an idea for a gondola system, tell us about it. Offer to write a guest post on the idea. Stumble us. Link to us. Get involved in the comments. Tweet us. The more we get to know you, the better we’re able to help you and the better we’re all able to help spread this idea.

We genuinely want to hear from everyone who is exploring this idea. We just want to make sure everyone is working from the same starting point.

(Note to our regular readers: An earlier version of this post appeared on April 7th, 2011 – apologies for the repetition, but it’s becoming necessary.)

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Weekly Roundup: Irish Cows Banned From Riding Dursey Island Cable Car

A new weight restriction on the Dursey Island Cable Car in Ireland threatens to impede the flow of . . . cattle?

A few highlights from around the world of Urban Gondolas, Gondola Transit, and Cable Propelled Transit:

  • Cattle farmers on the remote Dursey Island in Ireland are concerned that a weight restriction on the Dursey Island Cable Car will prevent them from moving their livestock to and from the island, effectively destroying a 2,000 year old cattle industry. We mention this only because we previously provided a video clip of this outdated system, but were completely unaware that the system was used for transporting cows. Has anyone else heard of such a practice? If so, please tell us in the comments below.
  • The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum is presenting Design with the Other 90% Cities at the United Nations in New York City. The exhibit chronicles how developing world cities are leveraging design to improve the lives of its citizens. The Medellin Metrocable is among those design solutions. (Voluntary Disclosure: CUP Projects provided photographs to the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt for their coverage of the Medellin Metrocable.)
  • Edmonton, Alberta, Canada takes a major step towards installing a cable-drawn funicular system to connect their downtown to the North Saskatchewan River Valley. The Edmonton Journal seems to be the first to break this story, but gets tripped up calling using the word “gondola” as a synonym for “funicular.” No surprise, really, as problems with nomenclature have always been an issue (see here, here or here for example).
  • The Mountain Village Owners Association contemplates ways to keep Colorado’s iconoclastic Telluride Mountain Gondola running free of charge. For those unaware, the Telluride gondola is one of the only gondola systems in the world to be 100% from of charge to all users and acts as a local transport system connecting several mountain villages and recreation areas.
  • Back to Ireland: Is that picture up above not the most amazing thing you’ve seen in a while? I think the only thing that tops it for us is Tuffi the Elephant.

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Conceptual Designs Wanted

For the upcoming 2 year anniversary of The Gondola Project, we’d like to dedicate a week purely to conceptual gondola plans created by Gondola Project readers.

Concept plans such as those created for Pittsburgh, Seattle or Toronto invariably spur some of the most interesting discussions on the site and generate a lot of local interest. Furthermore, they take the idea of Urban Gondolas out of the realm of the fantastical and theoretical and ground it in reality.

As such, if you’re a student, professional or armchair enthusiast with an interest in Urban Gondolas and an idea or concept plan for a route or system in your city, please send us an email at gondola (at) creativeurbanprojects (dot) com and we’ll make sure to feature you and your work in late November / early December.

Note: If your concept/idea exists on another website (or your own website), we’ll be happy to link to 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.



Why is Boarding and Alighting an Urban Gondola Seen as a Problem?

Like Escalators and Moving Sidewalks, Urban Gondolas also involve boarding and alighting a moving "vehicle." Image by flickr user JD Lasica.

Perhaps the oddest argument against Urban Gondolas is the boarding and alighting process. Oftentimes, people complain that passengers will be unable to board and alight these systems given the unique process involved:

Generally speaking, urban gondolas move through stations at what is known as “crawl” or “creep” speed. While crawl speed can vary by system, a good back-of-the-envelope rule is 0.25 m/s or 0.9 km/hr.

Some might consider that fast. Others might notice it’s significantly slower than the average speed of escalators (0.30 – 0.61 m/s) or moving sidewalks (0.5 m/s) – two technologies where boarding and alighting also occurs while the method of conveyance is in motion.

It’s also worth pointing-out that these technologies are also used constantly by both the disabled and able-bodied alike?

So what gives?

My gut says there are four things at work here:

Firstly, when boarding and alighting an escalator or moving sidewalk, one is moving in the same parallel direction as the method of conveyance. In a gondola situation, one is moving perpedicular to the method of conveyance. Whether this has an impact on one’s ability to board or alight is unclear, but it likely causes a difference in perception.

Secondly, the wheelchair-bound are not often (if ever) be seen riding escalators and moving sidewalks. This may create the impression that any method of conveyance that moves during the act of boarding and alighting is therefore inappropriate for the disabled or elderly.

(Note: Boarding and alighting for the wheelchair-bound is common and simple. Please see moments 1:10 – 1:30 of the Rostock Gondola video for evidence.)

Thirdly, it is not commonly known that most gondola systems are equipped with a manual override mechanism that allows a station attendant to routinely stop the vehicle mid-station to ease boarding and alighting where necessary. Furthermore, systems such as the Bolzano 3S come to a complete stop in stations while the Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff is moved through stations by hand thereby allowing for full-stop boarding and alighting.

Lastly, for reasons only a cognitive psychologist could explain, new ideas are always held to a higher standard than older ones. It’s the same reason people question how well a gondola performs in the snow yet never ask that same question about light rail or streetcars.

People are funny that way.

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Weekly Roundup: 12 Urban Gondolas in Makkah?

Could the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia be the next place Urban Gondolas appear? Image via Arabian Business.

  • Various media sources have been reporting that Makkah, Saudi Arabia has plans for 12 Urban Gondola systems throughout the city (here, here and here, for example). While that’s certainly exciting news, it’s not exactly true. The study that led to these reports explored only three routes with multiple technology and route configurations. The number of lines studied was actually only 3. (Full Disclosure: CUP acted as a special advisor on this study but has no vested interests in the project. It was conducted by Dr. Amer Shalaby of the University of Toronto Cities Centre. You can learn more about this study here.)
  • London Assembly member John Biggs has asked Mayor Boris Johnson for further details about the London Thames Cable Car deal. We have questions about the deal, too but question the political motivations behind Mr. Biggs’ actions. After all, he’s been vehemently against the Cable Car from the beginning as you can see here and here.
  • Unfortunate news: A stray bullet during a gang fight in Medellin’s Comuna 13 killed a passenger riding Linea J of the Metrocable.
  • Lastly, CUP’s interview on the CBC gained significant attention throughout Canada, spawning multiple online conversations and stories about the topic (here and here, for example). It also led to a massive jump in readership throughout the week. So that’s a good thing.

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 5 Most Common (and Cynical) Arguments People Use Against Urban Gondola Transit


One thing I love about cable is the questions and discussions it creates.

Generally speaking, people are curious creatures and when confronted with the strange, bizarre and not-so-everyday, they want to know more. They ask questions, ponder and – for better or for worse – they come to their own conclusions.

Those people are amazing because, as I’ve discussed before, they’re skeptics not cynics. And skeptics are amazing. The cynics, not so much.

But what does one do about the cynics? Not much, I guess. These are people who’ve already passed judgement on something the moment they hear about it despite knowing virtually nothing about what they’re passing judgement on. Just look at the comments here about the potential for an Urban Gondola in Toronto and you’ll see what I mean.

They’re cynics not skeptics.

But for the sake of curiosity, I thought it might be fun to bring together in one place the 5 most cynical arguments I hear most commonly about urban gondola transit . . . and suggest a few ways of dealing with them. Enjoy!

Read more

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Urban Gondola Transit in Toronto?

Dear Toronto:

You might have heard today on CBC’s Metro Morning an interview with myself, Steven Dale, the Founder of The Gondola Project and Founding Principal at Creative Urban Projects.

Typically, such press causes The Gondola Project to experience a rather large surge in traffic from whatever given geographic region is discussing the idea. As such: Welcome to the conversation.

The Gondola Project is an ongoing participatory planning project to help explain and spread the idea of Urban Gondolas and Cable Propelled Transit throughout the world. It is meant to be accessible, user-friendly and informative.

As most of today’s new readers have probably never contemplated the idea of using what is – let’s be honest – ski lift technology as mass public transit, don’t worry – at first it was totally ridiculous to us as well! We get that the idea is foreign, bizarre and strange.

But after exploring The Gondola Project we hope you’ll see that it’s not so strange and bizarre a notion after all. Feel free to comment, ask questions and generally engage us on the topic – that’s what we’re here for. And if you’re interested, take a look at our concept for an Urban Gondola in Toronto.

And please be rest-assured, The Gondola Project doesn’t suggest cable transit, cable cars or urban gondolas are the solution to our collective public transit woes.

Our cities are increasingly complex entities and the more tools we have to tackle coming challenges, the better. We’re not here to say gondolas are the best tool to the exclusion of all others, but we are here to say gondolas are a viable, valuable tool worth exploring.


– Steven Dale

PS: We’re currently working on site updates, so if there are a couple of things that aren’t working, please give it a day or two.

PPS: A good place to start with The Gondola Project is in our ABOUT section and our LEARN ABOUT CABLE TRANSIT sections (accessible through our the header bar above).

PPPS: To save you the hassle of wading through months of old blog posts, we’ve also hand-selected a group of older posts to get you up-and-running:

In order to broaden the scope of the site more, we will often discuss issues peripherally-related to public transit and urban gondolas. To get a feel for those kinds of discussions, we’ve hand-selected a group of older posts that should give you a reasonable understanding of The Gondola Project’s worldview:

  • Forcing Functions – Humans make mistakes constantly. Forcing Functions help prevent those mistakes. What forcing functions do we need to see in transit to make it better for everyone?
  • A Minute Is Not A Minute – Are our transit models undermined by the fact that people perceive time in very different ways?
  • Inflexible Inventory – Everyone wants to travel at the same time in the same direction. Can that problem be solved?
  • Never Mind The Real World – Do our planning models sufficiently take into consideration that which actually occurs in the world, rather than what we hope will occur?
  • Our Outsourced RailsDo North Americans really deserve all the credit for the massive rail projects they’ve built in the past?
  • The Ten Day Traffic Jam – If the Chinese are more willing to sit in a 10 day traffic jam than ride transit, what does that tell us?
  • Canadian Prosciutto – If you don’t believe something to exist, does that mean it doesn’t?


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