Post by Steven Dale
With the possible exception of New York, there is arguably no more important city in the English-speaking world than London, England. During the summer of 2012 when the British capital hosts the Olympic Games, that city’s profile will be even higher.
That’s why those of us interested in Cable Propelled Transit are watching the proposed London Cable Car with such interest. If built – and with last week’s submission of the project’s formal planning application, that seems likely – there is the chance that the attention the system would receive from London and the Olympics could popularize the idea of cable transit and spread it throughout the developed world.
That belief, however, needs to be tempered. Optimism is great but optimism bias is not. While I’m hopeful about this system, I doubt it will be the watershed moment for CPT that some imagine. Here’s why:
- While the system will be integrated with London’s pay-as-you-go Oyster farecard, access to the system will require an additional £2.50 fare. All others (read: tourists) will pay £3.50. It seems unreasonable to expect London commuters to pay an additional £2.50 for what is, in essence a 5 minute connection. The vast majority of system users are likely to be tourists.
- The system lacks physical integration with the rest of the London transit network. Transfers between modes will be mildly challenging
- Unlike more advanced Urban Gondola systems, the London Cable Car (Gondola) has only two stations. This only reinforces the idea that cable is meant for short-haul, point-to-point travel.
- The Thames crossing is both blessing and a curse. Let’s be honest, without the Thames this system would never be built (that’s the blessing part). This situation does, however, just confirm what people already believe about cable – that it’s only useful for traversing topographically challenging terrain (that’s the curse part).
- The system is an MDG, not the more advanced 3S. As we’ve discussed before, the 3S Urban Concept vehicles could be a key to selling this technology to the world. An MDG probably won’t cut it. (Update: I’ve said the system is an MDG based upon the images provided – it looks like an MDG – however a colleague has informed that the system may be a 3S. We’ll explore further and update as more info becomes available.)
This isn’t to say the London Cable Car (Gondola) isn’t a step in the right direction. It is. But it isn’t likely to change people’s perception overnight. People won’t immediately start thinking of cable as a bona fide member of the public transit family. This system just doesn’t hit all the right buttons and touchstones to do that.
Instead, the attention the system receives will cause some to question the idea, give others pause and change people’s perception in an incremental, rather than sudden way.
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