9 Reasons Why The London Cable Car (Gondola) Just Might Fly

Post by Steven Dale

London is looking at building an Urban Gondola (‘Cable Car’ as they’ve mistakenly dubbed it) for the 2012 Olympics. On first glance, the idea seemed somewhat suspect. It appeared to be more a Toy for Tourists rather than a genuine piece of cable transit infrastructure.

Upon closer examination, however, not only does this project have significant merit, it also has a very strong chance of actually being built. Here’s why:

  1. The London Olympics are less than 2 years away. The London Cable Car (Gondola) will connect venues on the North and South sides of the River Thames. Currently, no fixed link infrastructure exists to cross the River Thames and connect these two areas. The time required to plan, permit, build and test a bridge is likely too long to be operable for the games. A two station, 1 km long gondola system, however, can easily be installed in that period of time.
  2. London’s broke. Like all major western metropolises, London is in financial straits and the British government is trying to slash spending wherever it can. Even at an estimated £25 million for the London Cable Car/Gondola, it’s a bargain compared to the estimated cost of £500 million to build a bridge.
  3. Fare Integration. Reports suggest that the London Cable Car (Gondola) will be integrated with the city’s Oyster transit fare card. This moves the system beyond pure frill and into the realm of actual transit. This is an absolute prerequisite.
  4. Physical Integration. The line may not be integrated into existing transit station infrastructure, but will be in proximity to LRT and Underground lines. Fare integration should ensure easy transfer between lines.
  5. Demonstrated Need. With increasing residents and commercial activities, the area the Gondola will serve has been in need of a Thames crossing for a while now. The London Olympics are a convenient way to pay for it.
  6. Decent Capacity. The system is estimated to offer capacity of 2,500 pphpd. This is no where near the upper range of Urban Gondola systems, but well within the range of most medium capacity transit lines like LRT and bus. It would also be the highest capacity cable transit system ever built in a major English-speaking city.
  7. Topographically Challenged. Urban Gondola systems tend to occur first in areas of topographical constraints. The River Thames is just such a constraint.
  8. A History of Multi-Modality. London has one of the most multi-modal and diverse transit systems in the world. Now that cable transit has finally caught up to standard transit technologies, it makes logical sense for London to be one of the first to truly take advantage of its benefits.
  9. A History of Innovation. Against all conventional wisdom, it was in London that a team of promoters and engineers first suggested throwing a locomotive underground, thus ushering in the era of Subways and Metros. Why not follow suit?
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  1. Nothing new. Deja vu to 1984 and New Orleans' well-named Mississippi Aerial River Transport (MART) that spanned the Mississippi during the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.
  2. Hopefully it gets built, and even more hopefully it so impresses London that they leave it in place and build another line soon after the Olympics. At that point, I would guess that the worldwide interest in gondola public transit would dramatically increase.