17
Sep

2010

The Koblenz Rheinseilbahn, Part 5: Conclusions

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.

This is Part 5 of a 5 part photo essay resulting from that journey. Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2. Click here to read Part 3. Click here to read Part 4.

All images by Steven Dale.

The Koblenz Rheinseilbahn.

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.

View from the interior of the Urban Concept vehicle.

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.

Crossing the Rheine.

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.

Click here to read Part 1.

Click here to read Part 2.

Click here to read Part 3.

Click here to read Part 4.

 

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Comments

  1. "Capacity is likely to be reduced after the event it was built for" Can you elaborate? How would this be possible, and what advantages would it give? The only way i can think of is the removal of a few vehicles. this would increase the spacing, and wait times and therefor reduce the capacity (assuming speed is not changed). However the advantages of this course of action are low. I assume the residual value of a custom 3S cabin would be low. Surely the Air/friction drag reduction would be trivial, as would the extra cleaning expense. Really the only advantage i can think of is that a lower capacity system will appear full more often and hence be perceived as more successful.
  2. Scott, This is somewhat speculative on my part (and I've added that note in the post). I've seen documentation that says initial system capacity was roughly half of what it is currently. My guess is that capacity will be reduced after the BUGA festival, but I have zero confirmation of that. At the same time, it could've been at half capacity simply by virtue of testing. Sorry if any of my clearly irresponsible speculation caused any confusion ;).
  3. I wasn't trying to accuse you of irresponsible speculation. I view fixed capacity as one of cable based transit's weaknesses and am keen to learn possible ways this can be overcome. I asked about it back in your "Where Do We Go From Here" post. I would be interested to know how you speculate the capacity will be reduced. By the way, have you made any progress on my heating/cooling question from the same post?
  4. Scott, (I didn't think you were accusing me of irresponsible speculation, but I did realize what I said was highly speculative and worth commenting on.) My guess is that the urban concept vehicles could have use elsewhere in other similar demonstration situations. Imagine if some of the vehicles on the Peak 2 Peak were swapped out for these? I think if they were to reduce capacity it would likely be by removing a few vehicles or by reducing speed somewhat - as the needs switch from being about moving millions of tourists quickly to moving thousands at a more leisurely pace. Let me address heating and cooling next week.
  5. The Tricable Ropeway Detachable of the German Federal Garden Show at Koblenz is for this very reason a temporary installation, because Koblenz is afraid to lose the honor of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with this modern ropeway. But they expect about 1,5 million visitors, the garden show is divided into two parts at the two riversides of the Rhein, connected by these exciting ropeway. The ticket price of € 20,- for the garden show includes the ticket for the Ropeway. I think it is no loss and a blockbuster advertisement for the operator Doppelmayr.