21
Feb

2010

Bondada-Neumann Study, Part 1

Post by Steven Dale

(This is Part 1 of a 2-Part piece on the Bondada-Neumann Study from the late 1980’s. In Part 1, I focus on the issue of Familiarity. In Part 2, I’ll discuss the differences in perceptions between planners with cable experience and those without.)

In the late 1980’s two civil engineers from West Virginia University (WVU) had a theory. Murthy Bondada and Edward S. Neumann guessed that a lack of familiarity with cable transit among engineers and planners was holding back cable’s use in urban environments.

The pair created a mailback survey designed to measure not the quality of cable transit itself, but rather the perceptions planners and engineers had of the technology’s relative worth within a group of seven different transportation technologies: Passenger buses, passenger vans, self-propelled people movers, personal rapid transit (PRT), cable-propelled people movers, aerial tramways and aerial gondolas.

Firstly, Bondada and Neumann sought to discover how familiar transit planners and engineers were with cable transit. Planners and engineers were asked to rank their familiarity of the seven technologies along a five point scale from Very High to Very Low. How familiar were they with cable? In short, not very. Of the seven technologies, cable-propelled people movers, aerial tramways and aerial gondolas were ranked 5th, 6th and 7th respectively.

That could hardly be surprising. Even today, cable transit is little more than a triviality to the planning community but at least we now have tools like the internet (and this website!) to help people learn more. Not so in the neon-hypercolored glow of the 1980’s.

There were, however, two truly surprising results of the familiarity survey.

In the 1980’s cable-propelled people movers were incredibly rare. If you were planning on building an automated people mover, you were likely to use self-propelled technology. Aerial gondolas and tramways, however, had been implemented in ski resorts and cities around the world. The difference in relative familiarity between cable-propelled people movers, gondolas and aerial tramways was statistically minor, but even still: Why had the rare cable-propelled people movers ranked higher than common tramways and gondolas?

While Bondada and Neumann never answer this question explicitly, I suspect the answer lies with the fact that a cable-propelled people mover simply looks more like the “traditional” (ie: train-like) transit technologies we’re used to. Aerial cable systems must have just looked too weird to the survey’s respondents.

The more you look at the Bondada-Neumann study, the more bizarre things get. Of all seven technologies included in the study six were actual, real-world technologies. Only one – personal rapid transit – was theoretical. The technology had never been built and even though a people mover system at West Virginia University (the school Bondada and Neumann hailed from) had been dubbed “Personal Rapid Transit” it was not.

And yet – in rather stunning irony – respondents to the familiarity survey ranked PRT technology 4th by a healthy margin over all cable technologies despite having never been implemented anywhere in the world.

This was quite shocking. One expects a travel agent to be more familiar with Rio than Atlantis; an archeologist more aware of King Tut’s Mask than the Holy Grail; or an equestrian to have more experience riding Zebras than Unicorns. But not in this case. Here was an entirely illogical result. The planners and engineers in the study had demonstrated more familiarity (or at least a willingness to admit more familiarity) with a mythical/theoretical technology than three other technologies that had been successfully implemented worldwide.

If ever there was a case that showed just how subjective our transit planning system and regime was, this was it. But what Bondada and Neumann discovered next was equally (if not more) surprising.

(Click here to read Part 2 where I discuss what Bondada and Neumann discovered about the differences in perceptions between planners with cable experience and those without.)



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Aerial Trams / Analysis / Cable Cars / Gondola / Research Issues
Comments Off on Bondada-Neumann Study, Part 1
Comments Off on Bondada-Neumann Study, Part 1

Comments