Is the Dresden Suspended Railway the World’s Most Fascinating (or Unusual) Cable Car System? 

Post by Gondola Project


Is it a monorail? AGT? Or an upside down funicular? Image by Hans Rudolf Stoll.

At the expense of sounding overly dramatic, the Dresden Suspended Railway may very well be the world’s most fascinating or perhaps unusual urban transport line. Built in 1901 on the slopes of the River Elbe, the 273m long system takes 4.5 minutes to climb 84m from the lower district of Loschwitz to the top of Oberloschwitz.

At the onset, the system looks a lot like a suspended monorail travelling on rails. However, the vehicles actually don’t contain any onboard motors for propulsion, rather, the vehicles are attached to and propelled by a cable. Operationally, it functions like an aerial tram or a funicular which have two counterbalanced vehicles shuttling back and forth.

In the transit planning world where practitioners and enthusiasts are often fixated with organizing technologies (e.g. buses, LRT, HRT/subways, monorails, CPT and etc.) into specific typologies, the Dresden Suspended Railway is perhaps one of those unique systems that slips conventional categories.

Dresden Suspended Railway travelling up towards Oberloschwitz. At the upper terminal, passengers can make their way up to the building’s roof and take in spectacular views of the City.  A cafe and museum is also available at the top. Image by Herbert Frank.

Unlike most aerial systems which travel in straight lines, the Dresden system travels with a slight curvature near the bottom terminal. Image by Kora27.

So from a definition standpoint, where does the Dresden Suspended Railway fit in?

From online sources, it seems to be placed somewhat correctly/incorrectly in articles related to “Suspended Railways“. But by general standards of what it means to be a “Cable Propelled Transit (CPT)” system, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to classify it as part of the CPT family. Perhaps a more accurate term is “Suspended Cable Train (SCT)”.

However, SCT isn’t likely to catch on anytime soon since Dresden, Memphis and Hiroshima are the only cities in the world with these contraptions.

But perhaps it doesn’t really matter what the Dresden system is. Rather if we analyze it purely from a performance perspective, it appears that the system continues to play an important transport function. Today, the city-operated system still attracts 300,000 riders annually despite it being over a 100 years old and having a higher fare than the rest of the transit network (€4 on cable car vs €2.30 on regular transit).

Chances are, given its uniqueness and heritage status, many of its riders will be of the recreational type. While some transit purists may disregard the system as merely a “toy for tourists“, it might be easy to forget that tourist riders are an integral part of a successful public transport systems.

In fact, many of the world’s most respected transit agencies build and operate recreational transport systems to complement their transport network (e.g. MTR’s Ngong Ping 360, TfL’s Emirates Air Line, and TMB’s Teleferic de Montjuic). Arguably, if a transit system lacked tourists, it’s likely a sign that it isn’t very attractive nor useful.

From a transit technology perspective, perhaps what is most exciting about Dresden is related to the precedence that it can set. While fusing cable-driven systems with suspended rails may not be appropriate for the majority of urban transport applications, chances are, there will be scenarios where this hybrid technology should be subject to further consideration and scrutiny. After all, transit isn’t always purely about function.

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Tower Design Lesson from Disney World Skyway

Post by Steven Dale

Walt Disney World Resort recently released new details about their Skyliner transportation system (here, here and here) — a topic I’ve been researching in hopes of a more fulsome analysis in the near future. During that research, however, I came upon something rather arcane that to a lot of people is probably rather mundane. But, trust me, it isn’t.

During our research about the Skyliner, I came upon this image of Disney World’s gondola, nicknamed the “skyway.”

Image from PlanningforDisney.com

What do you notice in this image?

Here’s what I notice — A series of benches. A flowerbed. A fountain. A clock. And a whole lot of people congregating around the base of the gondola tower.

Simply plunking a gondola tower into the middle of the public realm would be a non-start for a company as meticulous as Disney. Instead of seeing the tower as a liability, the staff who designed this system chose to turn the base of the tower into a focal point within their space.

We oftentimes hear clients complain about the towers. That they are unsightly and ugly. Which is, to some extent, true. But so is a lot of urban infrastructure. What’s interesting here is that system designers paid no attention to the tower itself. The towers pictured are off-the-shelf components of their time and era and it would be hard to imagine any special design or customization being put into their fabrication.

Instead, designers focused on the seam where the tower meets the street. That, after all, is where the majority of people will actually interact with the tower. It’s an elegant solution that costs thousands of dollars rather than the millions of dollars some people spend on customized towers (Portland and London, for example).

From the myriad of images of this system online, it’s clear that not all of the tower bases were given such a treatment with the answer as to why not likely lost to time.

As cable propelled transit systems slowly penetrate into urban realms, there will be increased scrutiny as to their impact on the surrounding public space and urban fabric. That’s why this precedent is so important. The Disney skyway shows in great detail how simply re-imagining this “ugly” piece of infrastructure can turn it into a focal point for public recreation. Urban gondola planners should take note.

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Photo of the Week: Fansipan Legend

Post by Gondola Project

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French Island of Reunion Prepares to Build 5-Station Urban Gondola

Post by Gondola Project

Chaudron <> Bois-de-Nefles — Moufia Station. Image from telepherique-urbain.cinor.org.

The city of Saint-Denis, located on the small overseas French department of Reunion, is preparing to build the island’s first urban cable car.

At first glance, given the remoteness of Saint-Denis, it’s perhaps one of the last places one would expect to find interest for Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) solutions. Upon closer inspection however, there seems to be considerable merit and tact to the gondola plans.

As the city’s northern coastlines are largely urbanized, it appears that development pressures are now spreading towards the mountain slopes to the south. From a general perspective, these urbanization patterns appear not so dissimilar to those found in other cable transit cities such as Medellin, La Paz and Ecatepec.

Communauté intercommunale du Nord de La Réunion (CINOR), an intercommunal public agency created in 2000 through the agglomeration of three communes, has been responsible for spearheading the island’s urban gondola plans.

On its dedicated gondola website, the agency has introduced two ropeway alignments, known collectively as the Urban Cable Cars of CINOR (French: Telepherique Urbain de la CINOR). One proposal is referred to as Bellepierre <> La Montagne while the second is referred to as Chaudron <> Bois-de-Nefles.

Chaudron <> Moufia Cable Car — Campus Station. Image from telepherique-urbain.cinor.org.

Chaudron <> Bois-de-Nefles Cable Car

The Chaudron <> Bois-de-Nefles Cable Car is the first concept released for public consumption back in late 2016. At 2.5km in length, the 5-station MDG is estimated to benefit not only the 15,000 pupils studying at the University of Reunion, but to also improve transport for the 53,000 residents living in the affected neighbourhoods of Moufia (15,000 residents), Bois-de-Nefles (9,000 residents), and Chaudron (29,000 residents).

While the system is not the longest urban gondola in the world, the system’s size in terms of total stations (5) rival the large cable transit lines found in La Paz (i.e. Blue Line and White Line).

Today, users travelling on road-based transport face considerable congestion due to the steep, and narrow mountain roads. With a 13-minute aerial gondola ride, proponents hope to enhance transit service and attract 6,100 users per day.

Starting last year, CINOR spent three to four months soliciting feedback from stakeholders where it amassed over 1,000 responses and engaged with more than 350 locals. Surveyed results indicate that 85% of respondents are in favour of the cable car.

From the translated materials found online, the proposal appears to be well thought out as it was developed in conjunction with two regional transport plans (Réseau Régional de Transport Guidé – RRTG and Réseau Intégré de Transport Moderne – RITMO).

This week, the construction contract totalling US$53.0 million was officially awarded, paving the way for system commissioning by late 2019.

Bellepierre <> La Montange Cable Car — Belvedere Station. Image from telepherique-urbain.cinor.org.

Bellepierre <> La Montagne Cable Car

The second cable transit proposal, located in the west side of Saint Denis, appears to be a much simpler system. With only two stations, 1.3km of ropeway and a ride time of less than 5 minutes, the proposal is designed to improve connectivity between Bellepierre (bottom station) and La Montagne (top station).

Between 1999 – 2012, the population at hillside district of La Montagne grew by 9% to 13,300 residents. In the future, enhanced transit service will be even more critical as 2,250 additional housing units are slated for construction. Already, traffic studies found that road congestion may increase by 15% to 14,000 daily vehicles by 2021 if transport alternatives are not provided.

Bellepierre <> La Montange Cable Car — Bertin-Hopital Station. Image from telepherique-urbain.cinor.org.

Given the spectacular views on the plateau, project proponents anticipate that this cable car will play a touristic role as well. Thanks to the work completed for the initial Chaudron <> Bois-de-Nefles Cable Car, CINOR has incorporated many lessons in its second proposal.

From the aerial images and online commentary, route planners were able to design a system that not only reduces visual intrusion and avoids private properties, but conceptualize a cable car that minimizes tower construction. This US$30-35 million 3S cable car is currently designed with only four towers.

Similar to the previous proposal, project proponents have developed the cable car in conjunction with regional transport plans. At the Bertin-Hopital station, passengers will be able to seamlessly transfer to the region’s bus network.

If everything goes according to plan, CINOR hopes to open this cable car by 2020-2021.



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Megacable Pereira

Post by Gondola Project

Pereira is a mid-sized Colombian city located nearly equidistant from the country’s three largest urban centres — Bogota, Medellin and Cali. Referred to as “mini-Medellin” by some due to its similar topography and climate, it perhaps is not a surprise that the City has taken major steps towards realizing its own Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) system.

From a cursory look, the urban gondola proposal, known locally as the Megacable de Pereira, has received zero coverage outside of Colombia and has basically slipped the radar of all transport news outlets, including yours truly. However, thanks to loyal readers, we’ve received some snippets of the proposal.

The current alignment is a 3.4km cable car that is designed to connect four station areas — Olaya Herrera Park, Pereira Transport Terminal, Pereira Technological University and Villa Santana. A total of 60,000 persons are expected to benefit from this service.

The aerial ropeway will operate as part the mass transit network and provide users an opportunity to switch onto the City’s bus rapid transit network, Megabús, at Olaya Herrera Park.

Megacable de Pereira Route Alignment. Screenshot from YouTube.

This particular rendition of the gondola seems to stem from the 2015 campaign promises made by Pereira’s current mayor, Juan Pablo Gallo.

Projected to open in 2019, Megacable will be Colombia’s longest public transit gondola (3.4km) and become the country’s fifth city to build a CPT line after Cali, Medellin, Manizales and Bogota (scheduled to open April 2018).

Back in September, the tender for the Megacable was released with an upset limit of US$40.1 million (COP 118 billion). Two firms, one led by Doppelmayr and one led by POMA, responded to proposal with bids coming in lower than the ceiling amount.

A decision on the winner is expected to take place next week on December 5. Stay tuned.

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Medellin Continues Urban Gondola Expansion

Post by Gondola Project

Line H, opened in December 2016, is currently Medellin’s newest urban cable car. Image by Secretaría de Movilidad de Medellín.

In transit planning and city-building circles, Medellin is often regarded as the birthplace of modern Cable Propelled Transit (CPT). Last week, the Colombian metropolis announced that the City will open its sixth urban cable car, Line P, by Q3 of 2019.

For those unfamiliar with Medellin, the City’s journey to international superstardom began with the implementation of Line K in 2004.

In brief, Medellin’s first urban cable car was met with worldwide acclaim for its remarkable ability to physically and symbolically integrate impoverished and disconnected barrio residents into the city proper.

Alongside social infrastructure improvements, the cable car sparked incredible urban renewal efforts where Medellin was transformed from a violent cartel-run city to a vibrant urban metropolis known for its innovative city-building ideas.

Line K’s remarkable success led to the construction of subsequent urban gondolas, including the newest CPT system to date, Line H.


Line H became Medellin’s fourth cable car line after it was inaugurated last December.

The cable car was built with a capacity of 1,800 pphpd to help improve transportation for the 150,000 residents living in eastern Medellin’s Commune 8. Similar to Line K and Line J, the cable car complements a higher-order rapid transit line — the Ayacucho Tram.

The cable car effectively takes riders from the tram’s eastern terminus at Oriente to the Villa Sierra neighbourhood on the hillsides — overcoming an elevation difference of 197m.

Medellin Metrocable Line H. Image by Secretaría de Movilidad de Medellín.

In the past, there was only one steep narrow road connecting Villa Sierra, but now the gondola provides the community with an alternative five minute ride to the Oriente tram station.

Technologically, the MDG system is nearly identical to existing cable cars in Medellin which utilizes 10-passenger carriers built by POMA/Sigma Cabins. At 1.4km in length, Line H is the second shortest gondola line in the City.

System characteristics of Metrocable Line H and Metrocable Line M. Image from El Colombiano.


Similar to Line H, Metrocable Line M serves the eastern parts of Medellin and is the second cable car connected to the Ayacucho Tram.

Originally scheduled for completion in July 2016, Metrocable Line M has faced a number of delays related to complicated geological/structural issues at its Miraflores transfer station.

However, these challenges have been resolved and reports indicate that the system is now 70-80% complete. From its bottom station (Miraflores) to its top station (Trece de Noviembre), passengers will travel over 11 towers while experiencing a vertical rise of 275m.

Residents are told that the system should be ready for passenger service by August 2018. At 1km in length, Line M will be the shortest urban gondola in Medellin.


Earlier this year, the government released a tender for Medellin’s sixth urban gondola, Line P. After receiving two submissions, a French consortium was chosen as the winning bidder to construct the US$99 million project (COP 298 billion).

Line P will be Medellin’s longest (2.8km) and highest capacity (4,000 pphpd, 127 cabins) cable transit system. Technically speaking, Line L is longer at 4.8km, but it functions solely as a recreational system.

With a directional capacity increase of 1,000 pphpd over its cousin systems Line K and Line J, Line P will benefit an estimated 420,000 persons. This capacity increase is designed to serve the northwestern communities including areas considered the most dangerous in Medellin — Commune 5 (Castilla), and Commune 6 (Doce de Octubre).

With supplementary social interventions such as 30,000 square meters of new public space, the City hopes to replicate the success it has seen in the Santo Domingo neighbourhood. Officials believe that travel times to the city centre will decrease from 60 minutes today (via two bus lines) to just 15 minutes.

Rendering of Acevedo Station – Metrocable Line P. Image from Mayor of Medellin.

At its western terminus, the 4-station Line P will be connected to the Acevedo intermodal station. Once operational, residents can transfer between three rapid transit lines — Metro Line A, Metrocable Line K and Metrocable Line P. Implementation works are planned for the next 18 months.

With six urban gondola lines by the end of 2019, Medellin will have built 14.7km of cable cars spread over 20 stations — making it the world’s second largest CPT network. While that is less than 50% of La Paz-El Alto’s Mi Teleferico (at full build), Medellin’s continued efforts to expand its urban gondola network is equally impressive and noteworthy.

Based on operating statistics, the cable cars have been nothing short of success as the combined ridership of Line K, Line J, Line L and Line H have totalled 241 million passengers since 2004 while Line K and Line J operate with an availability of 99.09 – 99.90%!

The opening of two additional CPT lines in the next two years will build on Medellin’s past success and will further cement the City’s as one of the leading urban innovators in the new millennium.


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New Haifa Urban Gondola Proposal Builds on City’s Ropeway Legacy

Post by Gondola Project

Haifa Urban Cable Car – University of Haifa Station. Image from 1075.fm.

When an Israeli city is brought up in a conversation, ropeway technology probably isn’t often the first topic that comes to mind. However, for the city of Haifa in northern Israel, readers might be surprised that Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) has actually been an integral part of the city’s transport network for nearly sixty years. Geographically, since the city was built beside the Mediterranean coast along the slopes of Mount Carmel, ropeways have provided a logical means of overcoming Haifa’s topographical constraints. Today, two ropeways have been constructed in the city — the Haifa Cable Car (pulsed gondola) and the Carmelit.

Carmelit. Image by random exposure.

The Carmelit is a short 1.75km, 6-station underground funicular that was opened in 1959 to connect the business district at the foothills of Mount Carmel to the residential areas on the top of the mountain range. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it appears the system is out of commission until 2018 as it suffered fire damage earlier this year.

Haifa Cable Car (Pulsed Gondola). Image by מיכאלי.

Three kilometres northwest of the Carmelit is the city’s second cable transport system. Built in 1986 at the western end of the Bat Galim waterfront, this 355m long bubble-shaped tourist gondola takes visitors on a 5-minute aerial ride while providing passengers with sweeping views of the sea and mountain. The system is primarily a toy for tourists, but recently has been “re-functioned” as transit line for students attending Gordon Academic College (located on the mountain top).

Given the city’s legacy of rope-propelled transport, it probably should not be a surprise that the city is now hoping to be the first Israeli city to implement an aerial transit cable car. We first learned about an aerial ropeway project in Haifa back in 2010, but earlier this year, the Minister of Transport released detailed plans to build a 10-passenger Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG) to connect Haifa Bay Central Bus Station to two of the city’s post-secondary institutions.

Haifa Urban Cable Car’s alignment shown in the dotted green line. Screenshot from Youtube.

Check Post Station. Image from fm1075.

Dori Station. Image from fm1075.

Designed to reduce vehicular congestion, ease parking shortages, and to provide alternative transportation access, the 4.6km urban gondola will link five station areas: the bus terminal, Krayot Junction (Check Post), Dori Street, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Haifa. Travelling at a maximum speed of 5m/s, the cable car climbs Mount Carmel to Technion from the bus terminal in just ten minutes before taking another nine minutes to arrive at the University of Haifa.

Technion Station. Image from fm1075.

From a technical standpoint, the US$79.6 million (ILS 280 million) cable car will feature 76 cabins leaving every half minute with an initial capacity of 1,200 pphpd (expandable to 2,400 pphpd). The system will be fully integrated with the local transit network and officials estimate that 4,000 – 5,000 passengers per day (2 million per year) will ride the gondola. If everything goes according to schedule, the urban cable car should open by 2020.

Interestingly, Israel may give La Paz’s massive Mi Teleférico network a run for its money as the world’s urban cable car hub. Reports indicate that the country is working on a number of aerial ropeway proposals including ones in western Haifa, Tiberias, Afula, Carmiel-Maaleh Adumim, Jerusalem, and Zirkhron Yaakov. In fact, news reports this week suggest that Jerusalem is moving forward with plans to connect the Old City with a tourist gondola despite some controversies.

As strange as this may sound, perhaps in the near future, Israel will not only be home to religious pilgrimages, but also act as a hub for those seeking transportation (CPT) enlightenment. 

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