Post by Nick Chu
This is a guest post by Billy Beasley.
Urban gondolas are revolutionizing the field of urban transportation today. Cities across the globe are utilizing this technology to improve the transit system in their community. However, the Urban Gondola idea may be impractical or impossible for some cities to implement due to a number of reasons, one of them being money.
Urban gondola installations, similar to other transit technologies, can be subject to unanticipated and/or unforeseen implementation costs. For example, the Emirates Air Line in London went over budget, suggesting that although useful and innovative, urban gondolas can sometimes be impractical. Living in Colorado and being an avid skier, I used ski lifts many a time to head up the slopes. So why aren’t these types of lifts being talked about for urban applications? In my opinion, there are three types of lifts that are typically used in skiing and could be used to transport people in a city.
#1 Pulsed Gondolas
For those unfamiliar with pulsed gondolas, this type of cable technology involves fixed grip cabins that travel in groups or “pulses” along the line where the entire line slows down or comes to a complete stop when cabins arrive at stations. Pulsed gondolas are most often used by ski resorts today to provide transport between a real estate development and a mountain. The Kadenwood Gondola in Whistler Blackcomb, Canada, the Wildhorse Gondola in Steamboat, Colorado, the Waldorf Gondola in Canyons, Utah and the Highlands Gondola in Northstar, California are all pulsed gondolas which serve real estate developments.
All of these systems are also primarily in place to provide real estate access to a lodge or condo development from a base and are mostly used for pedestrian transportation, both uploading and downloading. Two other notable pulse gondola systems are the Iron Mountain Gondola in Glenwood Springs, Colorado which is built to serve a mountaintop amusement park and cavern which has uploading and downloading and the Sky Cab in Snowmass, Colorado. The Sky Cab does go up a ski hill but its main use is to be an aerial shuttle bus between two of the base areas at Snowmass, thus the name Sky Cab. This system also has both uploading and downloading capabilities.
A pulsed gondola would be a great and economical solution for a city with less money and for transporting people over short distances. The only drawback to this type of system is its capacity, a pulsed gondola has a very limited capacity and wouldn’t be a good option for a city that needs a capacity of say 2,800 people per hour as the Sky Cab, a six passenger pulse gondola with four pulses, has a capacity of 530 people per hour.
#2 Cabriolet Gondola
A cabriolet gondola is a gondola that has open air cabins instead of the usual enclosed cabins. The cabins can fit 8 people and allow guests to experience the open air. Other than the cabins, cabriolet gondolas work the exact same as a regular, Monocable Detachable Gondola, right down to the grips and stations. Cabriolet gondolas are used mostly at ski resorts for transporting guests from parking areas to the main base village. This way, the base village can have no cars and guests can experience the scenic alpine base village. A superb example of a cabriolet gondola is the Village Cabriolet in Winter Park, Colorado. This cabriolet gondola takes guests from Winter Park’s main parking lot to its base village where the lifts are a short walk away and replacing an overused bus system. Although they are used mostly at ski resorts, they are almost solely used for transport and foot passengers with one exception that I know of, the Cabriolet in Mountain Creek, New Jersey. Other examples of cabriolet gondolas include the Cabriolet in the Canyons, Utah and the Cabriolet in Mont Blanc, Quebec. Both of those cabriolet gondolas are also used for transportation to the base of the ski lifts and the base village. Since these systems feature open air cabins, they would be better suited for urban areas with warmer climates.
This is the most radical of the three ideas. Chairlifts can come in two models: Detachable Chairlifts work just like a detachable gondola except that instead of sitting down in an enclosed cabin, passengers sit down on a chair that faces up the lift line. Meanwhile, Fixed Grip Chairlifts stay fixed onto the cable the entire time which makes them travel at slower speeds. Chairlifts are known for being used primarily at ski resorts for transporting passengers up slopes since skiers don’t have to take off their equipment to ride them. However, some chairlifts are used for applications not involving skiing. Many chairlifts at ski resorts operate in the summertime while some chairlifts are also open for downloading from the mountain for skiers who aren’t able to make it down the mountain.
Several chairlifts are also used outside of ski resorts. At the Blizzard Beach Water Park at Walt Disney World, there is a fixed grip triple chairlift to take people up to the top of the water slides. There is also an urban chairlift at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado where the Mountaineer Sky Ride takes guests over zoo exhibits and to a scenic overlook. Chairlifts can also be outfitted so that the rider is not exposed to the elements as much. Two good examples of this are the Orange Bubble Express high speed quad in Canyons, Utah and the Bluebird Express high speed six passenger chairlift in Mount Snow, Vermont. The Orange Bubble Express and Bluebird Express both have a bubble over the chair to keep the elements out. Bubble chairlifts on an urban chairlift could provide the comfort of a gondola at a lesser price. Chairlifts can also have mid stations like the Peak 8 Superconnect in Breckenridge, Colorado. These mid stations could be applied in urban applications for unloading and loading at certain destinations and for the lift to turn around major obstructions. Chairlifts also have similar capacities to gondolas as the Bluebird Express at Mount Snow has a capacity of 2,400 people per hour. Chairlifts also take less time to load then a gondola and would streamline the unloading and loading process. Fixed grip chairlifts are less expensive and have a lower capacity so they would be better for shorter, less crowded applications while detachable chairlifts could be used in the same situations as a detachable gondola.
That’s it from me. All statistics about the individual ropeways are from http://www.lift-world.info/en/start.htm , a great website about all sorts of aerial transportation. Check it out! Feel free to comment about what you think of the ideas and have a nice day.
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