09
Jun

2014

Endearing and Useful.

Post by Steven Dale

Befitting a country with some of the best transportation options in the world, Switzerland is home to the Swiss Museum of Transport (naturally).

As Switzerland also has more cable cars per capita than any other country on earth, it also makes sense that said museum would have the world’s only permanent exhibition discussing this website’s favourite subject.

Recently, my eye was drawn to the homepage of that exhibit due to this wonderful introductory statement that says perfectly something I’ve wrestled with to explain:

“The last mile to the mountain top – whereas conventional transport systems covered long distances in the shortest possible time, primarily for the movement of goods, the arrival of funicular railways and cog railways brought a means of transport whose purpose lie in opening up the beautiful countryside and in the pleasure of the journey for its own sake.”

Read that again: A means of transport whose purpose lie in opening up the beautiful countryside AND in the pleasure of the journey for its own sake.

Cable cars are now demonstrably proven to be useful additions to public transit systems. But there’s still a large number of system users who are tourists. Why is that?

Because unlike other standard modes of transportation, there is an inherent quality to cable cars that make them appealing to tourists as well as commuters—the pleasure of the journey for its own sake.

That’s something that often gets lost in debates between people like Jarrett Walker and Darrin Nordahl. Those debates pit what Walker terms “useful” and “endearing-but-useless” transit modes against each other excluding a lot of nuance from the conversation.

But here’s the thing: It’s not one or the other. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. You’re not either endearing or useful. You can have your cake and eat it too.

You can be endearing-AND-useful.

All things being equal, a transport system that’s useful and endearing is always going to be better than a transport system that’s useful and not endearing.



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

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Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Comments

  1. Couldn't agree more. Cable systems have an attraction to embark on a journey for the journey's sake. What is more, gondolas are one of the few means of public transport with the potential for a private cabin (if you spread out a bit or look particularly unfriendly or there's a few of you or you happen to own a German Shepherd). This in itself increases the quality of the journey exponentially. I haven't visited the transport museum in Luzern since I was a child but have very fond memories!