15
Jan

2010

The Hungerburgbahn (Part 2)

Post by Steven Dale

Hungerburgbahn, Alpenzoo Intermediary Station. Image by Steven Dale

This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series of posts on the Innsbruck Hungerburgbahn. To read Part 1, click here and to read Part 3, click here.

Leaving the technology-side of things until tomorrow’s post, let’s talk about the Hungerburgbahn’s station configuration.

A common misconception about cable transit is that the stations are large and are, therefore, incompatible with an urban environment. Fortunately this is just a misconception.

The Hungerburgbahn demonstrates how cable stations can be elegantly woven into the urban fabric. Whatever your opinions about Zaha Hadid’s intriguing design (my partner describes it as ugly play-dough from the future), these stations do not impose themselves on the city.

Intermediary Station, Löwenhaus, Image by Steven Dale

Terminals use a beguiling Open-Air-Yet-Underground (OAYU) design and the two intermediary stations are slim and provide ample space for bicycle parking. While the intermediary stations are two stories high, there is no reason they could not be placed on medians at street level much like the current practice common to Light Rail station infrastructure.

Above-Ground Entrance to the Congress Terminal (Exterior), Image by Steven Dale

Underground Congress Terminal (Interior), Image by Steven Dale

To understand cable, you have to divorce the infrastructure from the architecture. Cable infrastructure is relatively modest in size and can be located virtually anywhere (even a few stories underground). The architecture that encases the infrastructure, however, tends not to be. Not because it must be that way, but because it tends to be that way. Strip away the architecture and you have a minimal station footprint, which is highly desirable in urban environments. That’s why the Hungerburgbahn is so important: The stations are small and converse with the city beautifully.

Most alpine cable installations (which are the ones most are familiar with) have just two terminals and (possibly) a mid station. These terminals double as maintenance bays and car yards for the vehicles themselves. This automatically drives up the station size. So a minimum of one large-footprint terminal for maintenance and storage are a base requirement for cable, but intermediary stations can be as slim as desired.

Intermediary Station, Löwenhaus, Image by Steven Dale

Subways, Buses and Light Rail have the exact same problem, but their maintenance facilities tend to be located off-terminal. This “hides” the large footprint of traditional transit, but it does not eliminate it. Furthermore, traditional transit’s off-terminal maintenance configuration means significant costs are incurred to build the infrastructure necessary to shuttle vehicles to and from maintenance yards. A further cost is also incurred during daily operations to bring vehicles into service from the maintenance facilities. In-motion-but-out-of-service vehicles are common to all traditional transit technologies and are an inefficient and costly waste of resources that does not occur with cable transit.

Continue to Part 3.

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