We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know – Revisited

Post by Steven Dale

There are somewhere around 20,000 cable systems installed and operating around the world at this very moment. Most of the have no implications or ramifications for the urban environment whatsoever.

But some do – and there’s virtually no way to find out. That’s daunting to think about.

While I’d like to think The Gondola Project has established itself as an excellent specialist resource for the field of Cable Propelled Transit and Urban Gondolas, the simple reality is there are too many systems spread across too wide a geographic region to know everything about every one of them. Want proof?

Consider the five days (one, two, three, four and five) we spent exploring the Algerian Gondolas: We learned a lot, but are we fully comprehensive yet? Not really. That was one week’s work to learn about roughly 23 gondolas – of which we learned deep information about maybe 6 of them.

Divide 20,000 by 6. That’s 3,333 weeks. Or 64 years. Daunting indeed.

How then do we discover useful, fascinating and interesting systems like that in Livigno, Italy?

This ski system built a few years ago has two terminals and one intermediary station. One terminal is underground and the intermediary station is partially underground. That has dramatic implications for the urban environment, I don’t need to tell you why.

An artists' rendering of the underground terminal of a gondola lift in Livigno, Italy. Image via Alpinforum.

This was a system Nick Chu (he of the wonderful Sunday Morning Stats) stumbled across six months ago purely by chance. He wasn’t looking for underground gondola stations, it found him. It seems like a bad idea to rely on chance encounters to build a research base, but I suppose that’s what Louis Pasteur meant when he said “chance favours the prepared mind.”

So how many other such systems exist in the world? Simple: We don’t know. Why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know. We discussed this a long time ago in a post discussing how not knowing about cable solutions had dramatic implications for a project in Hamilton, Canada.

The same thing holds here on our end. When we don’t know something exists, we can’t discuss it. We can’t learn about it. We can’t spread it. We can’t inform people about it.

It’s an issue we wrestle with continuously and have no good answer for. How do we solve this problem?

We’d deeply and seriously love your ideas and suggestions.

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  1. well, we know about the station in a building in singapore, but here's another, in china, which has an end station in the top few floors of a building: http://images.travelpod.com/users/sherberts2/1.1273827612.cable-car-docking-station.jpg and that system, Chongqing Cable Car, closed earlier this year. so not only are we missing examples of innovation that presently exists, but sometimes also designs that have already come and gone.