Post by Steven Dale
(Note: It’s been a while since I’ve posted on The Gondola Project. It’s been a busy summer with lots of changes to our company and our site. We’ll let you all know about the details in the coming months, but in the meantime, I’d like to extend a big thanks to Nick and Charlotte for holding down the fort while I’ve been awol.)
One of the problems the cable industry faces (like most transit industries), is prospective customers who fear nuance. Prospects often don’t care about the complexity of a system, they simply want to know how much it costs “per kilometre” (or “per mile” for our American friends).
Here’s the problem: It is virtually impossible to provide a per kilometre cost for a cable transit system. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to provide a per kilometre cost for any transit system, period. It’s kind of like that old idiom—how long is a piece of string?
No where does this become more obvious than with the relationship between the length of a cable transit line and the number of stations within a cable transit line.
Let’s assume, for example, a given 1 kilometre long cable transit system that has two stations and costs $8mm. Let’s call it Line A.
Now let’s assume a second cable transit system. This one is the same length of Line A (1 kilometre) but has a total of three stations rather than two with all else equal. Let’s call this system Line B.
Now, let’s assume a final third cable transit system. This one has only two stations but is double the length of Line A—it’s 2 kilometres long with all else equal. Let’s call this system Line C.
Okay? Got it? No? Let’s review then:
- Line A: 1 km, 2 stations.
- Line B: 1 km, 3 stations.
- Line C: 2 km, 2 stations.
Which line is more expensive? Line B or Line C?
People who imagine the problem as a question of cost-per-kilometre will invariably say Line C is more expensive than Line B because Line C is double the length of Line B.
Problem is, they’d be completely, 100% wrong.
In cable, the marginal cost of stations is almost always more expensive than the marginal cost of length.
People considering a cable transit system of their own need to understand that. Per-kilometre costs estimates are blunt tools that don’t tell you what you really want to know—and they often lead to early-stage financial estimates that tell a completely false story.
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