02
Nov

2009

No City Wants To Be First . . .

Post by Steven Dale

but every city wants to be second.

The competitive drive to be number one just doesn’t seem to permeate City Hall and that’s understandable.  Infrastructure is terribly expensive and no politician or planner wants to embarrass themselves by green-lighting a future white elephant.

Cities are therefore remarkably conservative when it comes to infrastructure.  Cities tend only to adopt ideas and technologies that have already been proven in other locations, but sometimes even that strategy backfires:

The Portland Aerial Tram was the only Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT) system to be built for public transit purposes in North America since New York’s Roosevelt Island Tram was built in 1976.

Portland Aerial Tram

Portland Aerial Tram

Unfortunately, the Portland Tram’s planners took all their cues from New York and decided on using aerial tram technology; the most expensive of cable technologies and the one with the least upside.

Roosevelt Island Tram

Roosevelt Island Tram

There were several other cable technologies Portland could have and should have considered, but didn’t.  Instead of being inquisitive, Portland simply did what New York did, seemingly unaware that New York’s choice of technology was due in part to the limited options the cable technology offered way back in 1976.

Playing Follow the Leader is fine when you’re in kindergarten, but when you’re all grown up you have to ask questions.  Hard ones.  And when you find answers, extrapolate from them and apply them to your own unique situation.

Images by William Beutler and CUP Projects



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Comments

  1. What other cable technology choice could Portland have made and why? Is it a cost mistake, or efficiency issue or capacity? Wondering. Thanks.
  2. Again, valid points. I think it is agreed that circumstances conspired to increase costs to a level not fully anticipated. The Cabrio is quite a people mover. I was not aware it was done at such a reasonable cost for the distance covered. Is that the principal metric used for budgetary efficiency when it comes to tramways generally?