Posts Tagged: urbangondola



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.

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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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Burnaby Mountain vs. No Gondola

(Voluntary Disclosure: This past summer I was retained by Translink – at their behest – to meet with stakeholders in Vancouver associated with the Burnaby Mountain Gondola proposal; tour the proposed route of the gondola; and give a presentation to select staff of Translink and CH2M Hill on best practices in Cable Propelled Transit systems. The opinions expressed below are my own professional opinion and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Translink, CH2M Hill nor either of their staffs.)

No Gondola actively opposes the Burnaby Mountain Gondola.

During a Weekly Roundup post last week we linked to the No Gondola site and stated that the site had “cherry-picked” certain stats from Translink’s Phase II Public Consultation Report regarding the Burnaby Mountain Gondola.

As No Gondola is fiercely against the Burnaby Mountain Gondola, the term “cherry-picking” was not well-received and resulted in one of the more ugly debates to appear on The Gondola Project. This wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar incident as something similar occurred during another Weekly Roundup from earlier in the summer.

So let’s avoid the term “cherry-picking” and highlight the selective reading of Translink’s report that No Gondola is engaging in:

No Gondola (as well as commenters on this site) have consistently stated that “75% strongly disagree with proposed gondola.”

Fine. But who are those 75%?

As Translink’s report states explicitly, those are 75% of the 561 “self-selected” individuals who participated in Translink’s public consultation process. The “self-selected” adjective is copiously absent from No Gondola’s commentary.

In other words, this sample is hardly representative of the population as a whole.

If you went into an Apple store and asked everyone in there if they liked PCs, I suspect you’d find around 75% of respondents would say PCs are garbage. Maybe more.

Bias and self-selection within any kind of study pretty much invalidates the results of said survey. We saw this previously in the Neumann & Bondada studies (here and here) where planners with no knowledge of Cable Propelled Transit solutions ranked them lower in efficacy than those planners with Cable Propelled Transit understanding.

Nevertheless, No Gondola has chosen to use this questionable statistic as evidence that “the citizens of B.C. do not support spending $120+ million on a gondola on Burnaby Mountain.”

Suddenly it’s not just Burnaby Mountain/Forest Grove residents that object to the project. It’s not even just the residents of Vancouver. It’s the entire population of British Columbia.

How can they make that statement? Easy: They can’t.

This kind of weak reasoning and purposeful manipulation of statistics is unconscionable and has no place in community advocacy. By engaging in these kinds of techniques and tactics, the No Gondola group have unequivocally stated their willingness to lie and manipulate facts to get people on their side.

As justification for their willful manipulation of facts, commenter Eric states that “Translink is far from a paragon of honesty and virtue when it comes to communication with the community.”

Whether accurate or not, I think it important to remember what our mothers always told us: Two wrongs don’t make a right. It may be a a cliché; it may be trite; and it may be naive – but it’s also a good rule to live by.

If you can’t get people on your side with the truth, then maybe (repeat: maybe) your side doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on to begin with.

If we (CUP Projects) engaged in that kind of commentary, we’d be out of business next week.

Honesty is important – especially when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of people. As we’ve stated on this site previously, we feel that public engagement is a commitment to compromise, not an act of war.

In the end, we’re no fans of the public consultation process Translink has engaged in with this project and question what we feel is an inflated cost for the system. Do these two things invalidate the gondola? Maybe. But that’s not for us to say.

We can comment from afar but that’s about as far as it goes.

On paper, the concept is sound and makes a lot of sense – and in the end, the route alignment proposed is the most logical of the options available. Unfortunately that route alignment is what makes this system so controversial.

We certainly sympathize with Forest Grove residents and even agree with many of their complaints (see our perspective on NOMBYism here) – but I object strongly with the means they’re using to get their way.

It’s manipulative and dishonest, and highly unlikely to win them the support they expect.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Image by Team Tanenbaum.

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. And while – like many families – I celebrated the occasion yesterday, I just wanted to take a few minutes and reflect upon what is perhaps my favourite holiday of them all.

The beauty of Thanksgiving is this: No gifts, no fuss, no worship. Just a big meal with friends and family. The biggest worry is making sure you’ve got enough gravy – because there’s never enough.

And strangely, in my hometown of Toronto, the weather’s always perfect on Thanksgiving weekend. No different this year.

For me Thanksgiving is about recognizing that we’re all in this boat together. We sink together, we swim together. That’s what society and civilization is all about. Cities, too.

So while we may like to argue, debate and sometimes even antagonize one another when we quarrel over the merits of this piece of policy or that type of transit technology, at the end of the day we all just want the same thing:

A safe, efficient and beautiful place to exist where we’re allowed the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.

For that, I’m thankful.

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Weekly Roundup: Techno-Fetishism, A Trapped Woman & More Burnaby Mountain

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

  • Jarrett Walker of Human Transit indulges in a little bit of “technology fetishism” by profiling the Wellington Cable Car.
  • Provincial Member of Parliament Kennedy Stewart indicates that he will launch his own public consultation process in regards to the controversial Burnaby Mountain Gondola.
  • The Chair of Tourism Squamish issues a public endorsement of the Squamish Sea to Sky Gondola.
  • Briton Nigel Carter is petitioning Brighton and Hove City Council to assess plans for a city-wide cable car. Information is scant, but phrases like “city-wide” don’t exactly inspire confidence in the scheme. If you’re British and think this is worth looking at, sign the e-petition here.
  • At a People Movers seminar in Britain, individuals associated with the London Thames Cable Car describe the benefits of cable cars and gondolas. Given the cost-overruns of the London Thames Cable Car, one can only hope they didn’t list cost-efficiency as one of said benefits.
  • Speaking of the London Thames Cable Car: It now has a sponsor – Emirates Airline. According to London Reconnections, Emirates will purchase the naming rights of the system for a whopping £36m. The system will be called The Emirates Air Line. Take a look:


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