Posts Tagged: Proposals



A Pittsburgh Gondola

Brian T. suggests that Pittsburgh’s challenging topography (not to mention finances) and its historical association with cable transit solutions might make it an early adopter of urban gondolas. Check out the route he devised on google maps (make sure to view it in Earth mode, to fully appreciate Pittsburgh’s topography).

Image by Brian T.

With the growth of various universities, hospitals, and related companies, the Oakland section of Pittsburgh has become the third-most important business district in Pennsylvania, after central Philadelphia and Downtown Pittsburgh.  Transit officials have studied extending Pittsburgh’s modest light rail/subway system (the “T”) from Downtown to Oakland via the underdeveloped Hill District, but the tunneling costs have proven prohibitive for cash-strapped Pittsburgh.  The northern portion of the proposed gondola route would provide this service.

South Hills Junction is the collection point for various T branches and the South Busway (a bus-only highway), and is connected by a tunnel and a bridge to Downtown.  Potential transit commuters to Oakland from the southern suburbs must pass through South Hills Junction to Downtown, then walk to a bus stop for an often-crowded transfer to Oakland.  The southern portion of the proposed gondola route would provide a bypass of Downtown from South Hills Junction directly to Oakland, via two secondary employment centers (the South Side Works and Pittsburgh Technology Center).  This route is inconceivable with light rail, since it would require two tunnels and a bridge.

Both branches of the proposed route would also greatly improve connectivity for Oakland’s student-heavy and car-light population, and provide a fun way for visitors to loop through many major tourist destinations.

Generally, Pittsburgh’s topography has often forced it to the cutting edge of transportation technology: it was an early adopter of cable-propelled streetcars and inclines (two are still in operation), and its Busway system, which serves many more riders than the T, has been described as the grandfather of bus rapid transit in the United States.

It would not surprise me if Pittsburgh’s pressing unmet rapid transit needs, capital constraints, and ever-challenging topography once again combined to make it an early adopter of urban gondolas.

Thanks to Brian for this!

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Teleféric Valencia

Mid last year a company called Teleferic Valencia announced plans to build the world’s longest Urban Gondola system at around 13 km with 7 total stations.

The announcement caused little buzz outside this seaside Spanish city and I just heard about this system the other day thanks to a kind reader’s email. According to Valencia Property Hound (VPH), the system is expected to cost €100, mostly coming from the private sector. Check out the company’s video:

I have no idea how serious this is. The above video seems to have decent production values, but few tangible facts (even given my limited Spanish) It seems semi-legit, but also smacks of a Toy for Tourists type installation. Such urban installations rarely get off the ground and when they do, they don’t last for long.

Aside from the ubiquitous sight-seeing tour bus, most tourists seem to prefer traveling a city much the same way the locals do. It enhances their appreciation for how the locals live. Which is – arguably – the whole point of visiting far off places and cities in the first place. Specialty urban transit systems targeted at tourists just don’t tend to work.

But who knows . . . Maybe it will work for the tourists. The system is linking an F1 race track, a cruise ship port, museums, etc. But this system certainly isn’t, however, geared for locals who would be unlikely to spend €14 for a round trip (at least beyond their initial voyage to see what everything’s all about).

But if you look closely, you realize that the numbers here just don’t add up. The VPH website says the cabins will carry between 15 and 30 people. Who is VPH quoting? If it’s officials with Teleferic Valencia, then someone was clearly given the wrong information and someone in PR is probably getting pink-slipped. That, or Teleferic Valencia has little understanding of ropeway technology at all. Let me explain:

The video clearly depicts 8-10 person MDG cabins such as are found in Medellin or Caracas. If the cabins were to carry 30 people, then a 3S system would be in order. But if a 3S system were to implemented, there is no way Teleferic Valencia could build a 13 km, 7 station line. Not for the €100 price tag VPH provides. No way. Ever. The trip speeds quoted also seem strangely suspect.

None of this proposal seems to fit together. So what’s the deal? Is this a legitimate proposal? Is it just a way to spur real estate development in the Valencia Portlands? What is this system? Anyone have any thoughts or additional insights to lend to this conversation? Is this just another monorail?

Special thanks to Katharina who sent in the above links!

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.