Translating Gondolas Into Urban Gondolas

Post by Steven Dale

A CPT system in Lisbon, Portugal

A CPT system in Lisbon, Portugal

Sometimes we’re not great at extrapolating and translating from one realm into another. We’re hard-wired to imagine one technology, idea or product as being appropriate in only one environment.

It’s like when you learn a second language. Oftentimes, you’ll be baffled by words with multiple meanings. Because you first learned the word in one environment, you reject its usage in another one.

You don’t even have to learn a language to experience this. Instead, just go tell your grandmother that her homemade chocolate chip cookies are sick. See how well that works out for you.

So too with cable transit.

When people hear about cable, they only know it on a very basic level. They likely only know it as a niche technology used in mountain regions. Because they only know it in that form, they make an error in logic and assume that because it is rarely used outside mountain regions, it must therefore only be useful in mountain regions.

See the difference? It’s subtle, but the impact of that difference is huge. It’s a common error that’s more about being human than it is about being foolish.

Consider the image above. It’s a CPT system built at Lisbon’s Parque das Nações for the World Exposition in 1998. Notice something about it? You should:

It’s running parallel to and only 20 metres above ground. Not a mountain in sight!

It’s an excellent translation of the technology from one environment to another. Sure, the Parque das Nações Urban Gondola was designed be used primarily for tourists. But just because cable technology is often used by tourists does not mean it must be used only by tourists.

Think about subways, metros and Heavy Rail Transit (HRT). Locomotive railroads had been around for about 75 years before the first metro systems. How crazy must it have seemed when someone suggested building one underneath London?

Was the idea insane? Probably but wonderfully so. It happened, succeeded and flourished. Londoners translated locomotives from intercity systems that moved goods and tourists to interurban systems that moved local commuters.

It was an enormously important translation and we’re still reaping the benefits of it to this day.

Cable Propelled Transit is going through that translation now. In many places, that translation has already occurred and in other places the translation is still coming.  I’m betting, however, it’s going to occur in North America sooner rather than later.

Construction of the Original London Underground, 1861

Construction of the Original London Underground, 1861

Creative Commons image by ricardo-pereira.

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