A Toronto Gondola System

Post by Steven Dale

A while back I wrote a post soliciting people to contribute their own Cable Propelled Transit conceptual ideas. Aside from some uptake from the good people over at neoHouston, there was little interest. No wonder: I never offered my own conceptual. Kinda’ hypocritical, huh?

So, without further ado . . . Here’s how I’d use cable in my fine hometown of Toronto, Canada. To readers not from Toronto, please just play along:

The current status. Four high-capacity metro lines but with little connectivity and network qualities.

This initial line seems insignificant. However it could relive thousands of riders from the bottleneck that exists at Bloor-Yonge. It could function as a miniature Downtown Relief Line (DRL).

You'll notice that the concept is intentionally phased. The whole concept being to start small, prove the technology's worth and not risk vast sums of money.

Over time the network can be expanded. Phases are not, however, dependent upon subsequent phases to be worthwhile. In other words, Phase 1 is useful even if Phase 3 is never built. This allows for the winds of political change to do what they will with no adverse effects.

People familiar with Toronto will also notice how the network utilizes the Don Valley Corridor, the Gardiner Expressway and Overlea Blvd, vast open corridors that are ideal for accommodating urban gondolas.

Overlea Blvd, meanwhile, is the third densest employment cluster in all of the Greater Toronto Area. The purpose of this concept is to connect places where people work, play and live.

And that's what I'd do.

One thing I love about conceptual maps and ideas is they allow us to play, dream and get excited. Feel free to tear my concept apart in the comments section and propose alterations.

And if you’ve got an idea (for Toronto or anywhere else), just jot it down whenever you like and send it to us. We’ll make sure to post it.

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  1. A few questions A. Did you select gondolas or CPT in general which could be other modes as a cable driven rail system?. At Phase 2-3 What do you mean with cable shuttle? A gondola, an Aerial tramway or a rail supported cpt system? B: For Phase 6 are you going to use two physical lines in parallel or just merge the traffic of two lines into one high capacity line? C: Trip times would be interesting. Like the current trip times and the estimated trip time for each phase. eg. Castle Frank-Dundas is xx min including interchange using the subway, with CPT it will be yy min without interchange. Think trip times important to "sell" the system. Since you will have to proof that CPT is better than the current options.
  2. i like this project and was following the whole story since about december but there are a few questions you should take care of. since you are putting so much effort in this case you really should be able to answer a few more questions and at least get a little deeper than "very conceptual". being familiar with cable cars i was wondering how do you come up with a capacity of 12.000? the biggest cable car system so far only manages to reach about 4.500 (with the 35ppl cabins - instead of those small ones it seems you are using). i would really enjoy to read or see a little more depth in this design. maybe you could offer a few sketches or else?
  3. This is an interesting idea. Where do you imagine Laird station going exactly?
  4. Also, what would the southern leg of Phase 1 look like? Would there be supports installed on Dundas St. E? How low to the ground would the cars be? How would it connect to the Yonge Subway? I understand this is more of a conceptual idea than anything, but Im curious to know what the options are, so to speak.
  5. Very interesting idea for sure. One of the ideas that I had contemplated is using this technology to connect to Pearson, via either the Richview Corridor from Eglinton West station (or the terminus of the future Eglinton LRT/Subway, hopefully subway though), or via the Kipling Hydro corridor from Kipling Station. Either way, it would need to cross over a tonne of highways (427/401 interchange, 409) in order to reach Pearson, which is something that would be extremely expensive for a fixed-rail system. However, just stringing some lines over it, with a few towers in strategic locations, would be relatively easy. It would also be an interesting thing for visitors to the city, where the first form of transit they take to get nearly anywhere by transit is a gondola. Not many cities can claim that. And with Toronto trying so hard to convince the world that it's "world class" and "unique", having that as a showcase as soon as tourists step of the plane would definitely help.
  6. I created a map based on the phases you described in the diagrams above. I have no idea if this is what you intended, geographically speaking. http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=104157219847380940993.0004891d2363b06404ec3&ll=43.63359,-79.416733&spn=0.135424,0.308647&z=12&lci=transit_comp
  7. So one problem I see with this proposal is the connection at Castle Frank. Geographically it makes a lot of sense for the technology, but there's no northbound bus service at the station at all. There's only the 94 Wellesley coming in from the west and the 65 Parliament coming in from the south. It's an alright transfer point for people who are already on the Bloor-Danforth Subway, but for people who have to take local service to GET to the B-D, it's inconvenient. And compared to the other stops on the system it's not really much of a destination in itself. I think it would make more sense to run both lines through Broadview (which has connections to the 100 Flemingdon Park, 8 Broadview, 62 Mortimer, and 87 Cosburn) and have them zig-zag across the Don to get from station, like so: Toronto Gondola We're still hitting all the stops from phases 1 and 3, but we're doing it with a T-shaped network rather than two parallel lines. Much simpler to navigate. You'll never have to transfer more than once to get from anywhere to anywhere on the gondola system, and anyone getting on at Regent Park, Bridgepoint, or Broadview can just ride directly to their destination.
  8. If youre still collecting gondola ideas, here is my concept for a gondola in Norwalk, Connecticut: http://www.livablenorwalk.org/2010/06/norwalk-gondola.html It would serve a corridor that currently sees heavy transit use (6 buses/hour each way) and where the town is looking for an option to attract more choice riders to new development being planned. Itd be great to hear your take.
  9. about david's comment: it's a really good track. could you find more information about traffic? how the track/street is used by public transport and private. when the town is looking for options there have to be official papers. analysis sheets and experts reports. it would be good if you could post here everything you have.
  10. @LX, By 2013, the primary corridor (West Ave) is projected to have just shy of 1000 vehicles/hour at peak evening in each direction. In addition there are 6 buses/hour in each direction that run mostly full during peak times...not sure of the precise ridership figures. A study for putting a bus circulator on the corridor projected daily ridership in 2015 would be between 2,400 and and 4,200. I would expect the gondola to attract somewhat greater usage than even a snazzy circulator bus.
  11. hmm, it seems good you want to use the smaller cabins. MDG (Monocable Detachable Gondolas) is more flexible when it comes to putting in diversions. i took a look on google earth using street view to get a view of norwalk and an idea of your suggestion - and i found the idea quite interesting. of course it is up to you to get more information and maybe start getting serious. there is something else i have in mind: norwalk doesn't seem to have space or traffic problems. there are huge numbers of parking lots everywhere. so what you are really suggesting is an alternative to the given present situation - replacing the bus line, become maybe a little 'greener' and definately more interesting than using common buses. the idea / line has the right to exist. how many stopovers are there on the bus line? putting the boardings on the second floor is also a nice idea, but entering the transport quick and easy on street level has it's advantages and less costs by adding no elevation.
  12. I say Steven's on the wrong track. He wants his system to serve as transit. I say the best chance gondola has for Toronto (and anywhere else, for that matter) is to make it a toy – and not just for tourists, but for everyone. Here's Toronto's stats: 6+ million regional population. 16 million visitors a year, most concentrating in a very small area downtown. Harbourfront along Lake Ontario gets 12 million visitors a year. Two mil for the 1,800'-tall CN Tower with its revolving restaurant and observation deck where, on a clear day, you can see the mist rising from Niagara Falls (an excellent site, btw for a We-know-what). The 'Ex' (1.3 million during its two-week run) and year-round Ontario Place. The 'Islands' get 1.2 million visitors. Lots more for the Molson Indie. Tons more for hockey etc. at Air Canada Centre. Then there's Eaton Centre, City Hall, and Historic Fort York. All in that one concentrated area. How do you get to most of these attractions? Typically, subway and/or streetcar. Boring. So, here's my gondola suggestion for Trawna: starting at Yonge and Bloor, and straight down the Yonge 'drag' to my main Hub 'n Haul (station and parking) located in the vacant lot east of Capt John's floating restaurant. Two branch lines: one, due west above Harbourfront to Ontario Place/Exhibition grounds; the other in one giant leap for cable-kind up, up, and away across the harbour to Ward's Island. Another branch line due west from Yonge and Front St. to the CN Tower/domed stadium, with a south line intersecting with the Front West line. In case you're wondering about stations and tower placement, especially along Yonge, we elevate them above intersections - with walkways providing direct connection to stores (Eaton's Centre, etc.) The stations also serve as ped crossings and supports for street and traffic lights, etc. Towers (1,000'-spacing) to use aerobus 'golden gate' approach http://www.aerobus.com/ , and instead of being planted in the middle of prohibitively-narrow Yonge St.) are 'sidewalked' over intersections like the towers of Vietnam's Vin Pearl http://www.travelpod.com/travel-photo/nannaogsigurd/1/1278362109/vinpearl-disneyland-for-meget-smaa-boern.jpg/tpod.html Map attached. Working on a photoshop rendering.
  13. I've always thought a gondola system to the Island Airport was the most logical first step for Toronto. Given all our nasty debates on the bridge and tunnel, this link would be a nice compromise between tourist toy and utilitarian functionality.
  14. Sam. That ferry is not only the shortest trip in the world, it's also the dumbest. So, yes, an aerial connection to the Island Airport is a 'natural'. Ideally, it would also continue south to the west islands. The problem is the height you'd need for passage of boats through the Western Gap. Not sure if there's a prohibition on freighters, but certainly some of those 'tall-ship' sailboat masts would require quite a bit of height, more along the lines of the now-proposed London gondola. Which would then bring it into conflict with Transport Canada. The main runway running the full east-west length of the island would scuttle a west link, but our Wards Island link, already a ferry route, would (methinks), be far-enough east of the airport so as to be approved. The solution, of course, would be to finally relocate the airport (offshore, as I recall someone once suggested. Oops, that was me!).
  15. Agreed with Sam. By taking a look at the geographical situation and especially when I took a look on Google Earth user-added-pictures it would make sense to serve the island with one station. One thing about the aerobus: it seems the only privilege is that planners can overgo the given situation, because it's not street level. But basically it is a tram one level higher. You will have to wait for the next unit, each one will need its own motor. The contradiction I think for man it is easier to understand, that there's a big unit of transportation and everyone will fit in than loads of small ones. But small units will do the job too. Like cars in a way. Well, they are propelled on their own, but in case of cpt's there is just one motor. I'm not quite sure if we will understand, but I hope that one example will make us experience the whole idea and maybe change our mind. It's visionary and we're not used to it, but we're used to electricity, oil, gas and all kind of networks - what if someday it's not there anymore? Car-industrie now starts again to think about alternative options to continue with mobility and our standard to live our lives. At least it's a proposal for a solution (even just for one case - it's worth thinking about)
  16. The Don Valley would certainly serve as a great corridor for gondola technology. My only issue with it is the 'overlapping' with the DRL. Peak hour, the DRL is expected to carry 17,500pphpd, well beyond the capacity of a gondola. My worry is that building this is lieu of the DRL could push back the single most-needed piece of transit infrastructure in Toronto even further. I think the best hope for CPT in Toronto is in high-frequency, mid-range capacity, semi-express feeder lines. Kipling Stn-Eglinton LRT-Pearson-Malton GO type of routes, or Dufferin to the EX and Toronto Islands. Routes that will serve a very distinct purpose, as opposed to a general commuting purpose. In short, start with giving gondolas its neiche use (direct connection to the airport, etc), and then once the technology has been proven to work in people's own backyards, begin to implement it in more places. Personally I think Hamilton is much more suited for CPT, given the relatively small population and ridership projections, and the challenging topography. The implementation there would be in much more of a 'backbone' as opposed to a 'supplementary' fashion.
  17. The TTC is currently studying the DRL (or re-studying it), and there has been tremendous pressure from City Council towards Metrolinx to move it up into the 15 year plan as opposed to the 25 year plan. City council has made it very clear that the Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill is contingent on the DRL being built either first, or in tandum. It isn't just a pipe dream anymore, it's a real possibility. And the 17,500pphpd is taken directly from a TTC document that quoted Metrolinx. Don't forget, it's not just the subway transfers that the DRL will cater to, its the riders currently using the College, Dundas, Queen, and King streetcars as well, in addition to people to choose to subway to Yonge instead of B-D, because they want to avoid transferring at Bloor-Yonge (if you lived in East York Centre for example). It's quite concievable that it actually will carry that amount. And I disagree that the DRL is just about serving Union. The proposal I favour has the downtown routing under Wellington St, with connections to the Distillery District, the Rogers Centre, and CityPlace. This line is badly needed, and any further delay in its construction will have a city-wide impact. Conversely, once in service, both the YUS and B-D subways will see a much needed relief in terms of ridership numbers. It will also relieve the over-crowded streetcar routes, so that they can serve a more local function, as opposed to acting as long-haul commuter lines. CPT certainly has it's place in Toronto, but acting as a DRL is not one of them. It may work as a supplement to the DRL, once it's built, but CPT acting as a reliever to B-D and Yonge should not preceed the DRL subway.
  18. *choose to BUS to Yonge, not subway
  19. The reason Transit City is dying on the drawing board is because it was ill-conceived to begin with. It's a plan drafted by politicians, designed to cater to the social planning crowd. I have spoken to very few reputable transit planners who actually support it. Transit City was sold to Toronto as a cost-effective solution to subway expansion. Problem is, it's little more than a glorified streetcar, for 1/3 the cost of a subway. The Eglinton line could be built as grade-separated HRT for little more than what is being spent now on LRT. As for Sheppard, the ridership predictions were off because they only built half the line. If you expect a sprinter to be able to run the 100m in under 10 seconds, and then chop off his legs at the knees, and then sit there and wonder why he isn't performing very well, the answer should be pretty obvious. And even for the Stubway that it is, it still performs pretty well. It still has a higher peak hour ridership than a good portion of the subway lines in Chicago. And a gondola line carrying 6,000 pphpd may be a good start, but like expanding the platform at Bloor-Yonge, it's only a stop-gap solution. I think people place too much emphasis on getting things done quickly, as opposed to getting things done right. The DRL is not so much about serving origins, as it is giving people an alternative route to bypass a backlog. Many people choose not to take the subway because it is simply too crowded. Freeing up 17,500 spots during rush hour can potentially entice a lot more people to take transit. Suburban transit expansion is all well and good, but if the system leading to the destination can't handle the increased passenger load, what good is it? You focus on improving the connectivity to the destination first, and then focus on improving connectivity to the origin, especially when the destination is a single point, and the origin is many points all across the city. You widen the spout before you widen the funnel. Yes, it may take some time before the DRL is in service, but implementing a stop-gap solution that covers only a fraction of the potential ridership of that corridor will only delay the needed infrastructure even further. If your new line is at capacity on Day 1, you didn't build it big enough. Guaranteed, that's what would happen with the gondola. People would have to choose between a backlog waiting for a gondola, or a backlog waiting for a train at Bloor-Yonge. Either way, it's not an optimal choice. I'd much rather choose which route is more convenient for me in terms of timing, not which route will pack me in like a sardine less.
  20. Steven, While it meets all of the technical requirements, I am still somewhat dubious of whether or not it is the right choice for the corridor, specifically: a) Aesthetics: Running a gondala through a valley, hydro corridor, or rail ROW is perfectly fine by me, because it somewhat compliments the look of the area. However, I feel that in an urban environment such as downtown Toronto, having gondolas running overtop of streets that already have streetcar lines will make somewhat of a sight for sore eyes. I don't even really fancy the look of streetcar wires everywhere. b) Interlining: One of the big advantages doing the DRL with subway technology has is the possibility of interlining with other subway routes, specifically Eglinton (should it be built as a subway). c) Political Hot-Potato: Let's face it, the DRL is a highly visible project, which will affect the entire city. While I know that CPT has been proven in other parts of the world, the majority of Torontonians don't know about it, or don't know the merits of it. The city has had a hard enough time selling large-scale LRT projects to the populous, in a city that is well known for its streetcars. Let's face it, people are ignorant. "If I don't already know it, I don't want to learn about it". While I do see the merits in building the DRL using this type of technology, I think you will agree with me that the majority of people will not. Here in Ottawa, we're having a hard enough time convincing people that this slam dunk of a transit plan is worth building. I guess what I'm saying is that people need to be exposed to CPT in Toronto in a less high-profile and system-essential way. I still maintain that a CPT line from Kipling Stn, to Eglinton, to Pearson, to Malton Stn would be the perfect showcase for this technology in Toronto, and would open people's eyes to the possibilities (even this would likely be somewhat controversial). However, until people see it in action, high profile projects like the DRL will never get the public support they need to get off the ground. And my worry is that in the time it would take for CPT to grow on the city, the need for the DRL will be even more urgent. Technically speaking, either proposal would theoretically work. Politically speaking, HRT is the much safer bet.
  21. Short Explanations please: HRT - LRT - DRL - Downtown Relief Line and I'm not sure if I understood "rail ROW". It seems like one of the obvious first things to do would be to connect the Airport Island with the City and maybe one or two more locations - just to so how it works and if it will get accepted. Compared to the price of building a tunnel or a bridge that investition should be realistic. And if one big cable car manufacturer manages to finance a temporary cable car line for three years I think it would be a better step to invest in that 4-station-project in Toronto connecting the Island to the mainland.
  22. I agree that the DRT is probably not the best place to introduce Toronto to CPT (especially not of the untested triple-decker variety). A gondola in the Don Valley could certainly be useful to supplement a DRT subway (especially if the subway stops at the Danforth instead of heading all the way north to Eglinton) but on its own I don't think it's going to be enough to relieve the transfer at Bloor-Yonge. I actually think the ideal place to implement a CPT line might be a street like Jane. It's a priority transit corridor with a busy bus route, but the ridership doesn't justify a subway and the street is too narrow for a dedicated right of way. The only real possibility that's been put forward is an LRT line with surface running from Steeles to Lawrence and then a 6km tunnel from Lawrence to Bloor, but the cost of that is pretty steep, which makes it low on the Transit City priority list. A 4km gondola running from Eglinton to Bloor could hit the sweet spot in terms of cost, ridership, and lack of reasonable alternatives. Of course I'm no engineer so I have no idea how feasible it would actually be to construct.
  23. Hey Steven, did you hear about the idea of having a gondola system installed in Burnaby, from the Skytrain to SFU? There isn't much information out yet, but if the forums page gets going, it would be nice to see everyone's opinion on the matter. There is a good forum going about it on Skyscraperpage.
  24. Hi Steven, I'm an M.Arch student at Dalhousie University in Halifax but I'm from Toronto. I'm currently doing my thesis on infrastructural architecture in the Don Valley Corridor and my internet searches have lead me to your blog. I think it's wild! Funny thing is I was inspired when I saw the Caracas Metro Cable system at the Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement exhibition at the MOMA in NYC this past fall. Anyhow I was hoping I could send you some questions but I don't think this comment box will do, would you be will to get touch with me? Cheers!
  25. hi steve! Can you please reply my mail I sent you 2 days ago :)
  26. hi steve! For a brief introduction, I'm from India , a student pursing masters in Urban Transportation Planning and Management. I'm currently working on my thesis as in 'transit options for hill cities'. I wrote you a mail asking few questions like 2 days ago and I'm eagerly waiting for your reply.I hope you write back because only you can answer my questions......and who knows you might as well help me sort out my hill hometown....... someday :)
  27. From: Sam Wong Date: Wed, Feb 9, 2011 at 11:52 AM Subject: public transit connection via aerial gondolas To: ideas@ontarioplace.com As a suggestion to improve public transit connection to Ontario Place, you can consider building an aerial gondola (like they have at ski hills) from the street car and Go Transit stop on the north side of the CNE to Ontario Place. The gondola lines can go over existing CNE structures and Lakeshore Blvd. It can terminate at an existing Ontario Place entrance or it can go right into a quiet part of Ontario Place so that it can act as a 3rd entrance to the park but somewhere inside the park. This could potentially help with traffic flow at major events. My understanding is that modern gondola lifts can be quite fast (25 km/h) and a capacity rivalling streetcars & buses of 4000 people per hour. As am example, the Peak 2 Peak gondola ride at Whistler has been well received. Having a gondola "ride" would add a spectacular start to most people's experience of Ontario Place while fulfilling a utilitarian purpose. Thanks for considering this suggestion. Sam Wong xxxx@gmail.com
  28. Now that the Eglinton crosstown LRT construction is underway (with the tunnelling starting over the summer), does it make sense to have Thorncliffe/Overlea connected to Eglinton instead? It would be closer and only one stop. It might even be possible to have a straight line up Beth Nealson Dr and avoid turning stations. That might require advance planning on the location of stations on the Eglinton line to match up with a cable line from Thorncliffe/Overlea.
  29. I love this. Especially relevant today with all the bickering over transit at city hall. A gondola over the Don Valley would be gorgeous... a transit solution that would double as a unique tourist attraction. Same goes for the Exhibition Place line--this would definitely make lists of things to do with 24 hours in the city. A much more functional and unique tourist project than the portlands ferris wheel that was proposed, for example.