Post by Steven Dale
This past summer I brought attention to the Rheinseilbahn in Koblenz, Germany. In a past post I suggested it was likely a strong example of an Urban Gondola given its innovative design. That opinion, however, was based upon second and third hand knowledge, not first-hand experience. Last month, however, I had the opportunity to visit Koblenz and tour the Rheinseilbahn myself.
All images by Steven Dale.
This is the most attention I’ve ever given a single system on The Gondola Project. That’s strange because the Koblenz Rheinseilbahn doesn’t really fit within my definition of what Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) is. It has neither fare nor physical integration with the transit system of its host city. In all reality, the system is better defined as a Toy For Tourists.
It is, however, a Toy For Tourists that has a good chance at longevity. Unlike several attempts in North America, the Rheinseilbahn exists for a specific purpose; getting 2 million German tourists to-and-from a hard to reach horticultural exhibition. Systems such as these also tend to stick around more in European rather than North American cities.
Furthermore, as the system was privately-financed by the builder, few public funds were involved in the project. Should it become a mainstay of the Koblenz landscape, great. If not, no taxpayer dollars were wasted.
It’s also a great teacher.
One thing I’ve tried to do with The Gondola Project is not be so narrow in my definitions so as to exclude things we can learn from. That, in essence, is the very nature of this site. By opening our eyes to new ideas and possibilities we can help transform our cities into things never dreamed of before.
In other words: Who cares if it’s a Toy For Tourists? What can we learn from it?
The Rheinseilbahn fascinates not for what it is but for what it represents. It is more a demonstration piece, like an electric car at an auto show. It challenges you to imagine something more. Ideally, the system would’ve had at least one other station to fully demonstrate the concept of an Urban Gondola system.
But again, we have to judge a system based on its own merits. There’s no reason to have a 3-station system in Koblenz, at least not as far as I can see.
Judging the Rheinseilbahn on its merits as a short-distance tool for moving tourists, it’s a success. But judge it as a means to envision a future where gondolas are an integral part of transit systems and it takes on an importance beyond itself.
In summary (with some additional thoughts):
- The Urban Concept vehicles are inspired. They truly look like transit and should alleviate many troubles transit planners have with the idea of Urban Gondolas and Cable Propelled Transit.
- Being located in a democratic, western European city should make this system more accessible to the wider world than those located in Colombia, Venezuela and Algeria.
- Stations are slim in profile and well-integrated into the urban fabric.
- Station footprints are very small and hint at all sorts of ways to configure stations in a variety of urban forms.
- Towers are the major weakness of the system. They are large, ugly and imposing. That is not a necessity of the technology, rather the result of the system originally being a temporary installation.
- All vehicles can be stored within the envelope of the existing stations. No need for costly storage and maintenance facilities.
- System speed is a modest 20 km/hr. This is due to the touristic nature of the system, not due to the technology itself.
- At 3,700 pphpd, the capacity of this system is quite high. Capacity is likely to be reduced after the event it was built for. (Note: This is speculative, see comments below.)
- Vehicles are fully accessible with plenty of room for standees.
If ever you’re in south-central Germany and have a thing for transit; make your way to Koblenz. There’s something there you should see. And it might just change the way you see transit forever.
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