Post by Steven Dale
The last aerial cable technology worth mentioning is the Funifor. Like the 3S, Funifors are very rare beasts. Only around a half dozen exist, and are all located in northern Italy (for whatever strange reason).
In essence, the Funifor is nothing more than a fusion of a Funitel and an Aerial Tram. It’s dual grip mechanism allows for a short grip arm and a more stocky, yet purposeful appearance. It doesn’t appear to dangle like other aerial systems. Like an Aerial Tram, however, it lacks the Funitel’s detachability. This means longer than normal wait times and lower capacity. It also means intermediary stations are very difficult and the technology is best used for point-to-point applications.
Like most Aerial Trams, a Funifor runs on a parallel set of support ropes, though the pair are spaced wider apart than standard Aerial Trams.
What distinguishes a Funifor from an Aerial Tram is that each of the two cabins operate separately. As opposed to an Aerial Tram, a Funifor’s propulsion rope is not returned to the opposite direction for use by the other vehicle. Instead, each cabin uses its own set of bullwheels, engines and propulsion ropes. (That’s why when you see pictures of a Funifor, each direction appears to use 4 separate ropes; two for support, one for propulsion plus the return part of the propulsion loop.) This allows a Funifor three distinct advantages over an Aerial Tram:
- As cabins operate independently of each other, higher capacity can be realized through reduced wait times.
- Intermediary stations become possible in locations other than the exact mid-point.
- In the event that one line shuts down due to emergency and or maintenance, the other line can still operate. Yes, that means that capacity is reduced by half, but at least the system is still in operation.
- If evacuation of a vehicle is necessary, the second vehicle can be used. Funifors can be equipped with bridging equipment allowing passengers to move from the disabled vehicle over to the other operational line.
These advantages, however, are offset by a couple of negatives:
- Towers are necessarily larger and sturdier in order to carry the extra load.
- Doubling of engines and propulsion ropes causes a significant increase in cost.
If one were choosing between an Aerial Tram and a Funifor in an urban environment, it would be best to opt for the Funifor. The added capacity, reduced travel times, maintenance potential and evac procedures makes it an obviously superior choice. Yes, it’s more expensive, but on balance worth it.
Why, after all, do you think New York opted to rebuild the Roosevelt Island Tram as a Funifor? Given that the terminals were already built, the $25 million USD price tag that came with this rebuild made the choice easy.
(In fairness to the manufacturer Sigma (one division of the Poma-Leitner group), this is not strictly-speaking a Funifor. Funifor – the word – is a trademarked name of the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group. Sigma’s design, however, clearly captures all that a Funifor is.)
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