Post by Nick Chu
Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is a vibrant city built on seven hills along the Tagus River. Known for its café culture, spunky yellow trams and rich naval history, the city has become a trending destination for tourists.
Given the variety of attractions and sites, visitors typically spend most of their time exploring the main sites in the popular districts of Baixa, Belem and Alfama. However, if you have time, venture outside the historic city centre to Parque das Nações (Nations Park, about a 20 minute drive or 30 minute metro ride) for a taste of modern Lisbon.
Formerly an industrial part of the city, Nations Park was redeveloped for Expo ‘98. Famous architects such as Nick Jacobs and Santiago Calatrava left their mark on the district. The exposition garnered significant investment, creating this lasting and vibrant legacy of futuristic buildings, eclectic public art, and lush gardens.
The most prominent developments are the Oceanarium, Gare do Oriente transport hub, Vasco de Gama Mall, Vasco de Gama Tower and Vasco de Gama Bridge (Europe’s longest bridge) and of course, the Telecabine Lisboa. Other amenities in the area include the MEO Arena, Casino Lisboa, and the International Fair of Lisbon Convention Center.
It might be difficult to fully capture in a simple blog post, but after reading this article, you may quickly find that the cable car is so low impact, that it operates basically as a benign piece of infrastructure.
1.2km in length, with 9 towers, a 2000 pph capacity and ride time of 8-12 minutes, the cable car is a relatively simple 8-person MDG system. During Expo, it provided a valuable transport link between two large attractions, the Vasco de Gama Tower and the Oceanarium. Today, its transport role is almost not non-existent. It functions purely as a toy for tourists.
The cable car is a perfect example of a low profile, flat land urban gondola
Note these photos: the system is not overly flashy but simple and elegant. Its utilitarian components are painted mostly white with turquoise accents to suit its waterfront context perfectly.
I started my journey where most riders would likely arrive – at the South Station (drive station), a 10-minute walk from the Oriente Metro station.
If you’ve been following our blog and other waterfront cable car proposals, you’ll probably know that some of the most common concerns (once again) relate to aesthetics. Outspoken critics tend to make blanket statements like: “A gondola will destroy the view of the waterfront and ruin it for future generations!”
We disagree. A cable car by itself very rarely single handedly “ruins” a waterfront. Rather, as most urban planners know, poor planning and design will.
In the case of the Telecabine Lisboa, the cable car fits in aptly against backdrop of a calm and leisurely riverfront atmosphere. Let me explain.
Imagine this: you’re a parent of two young kids, or you’re 25 looking for a fun date spot or maybe you’re a retiree and want to do some people watching. What would you do, and where would you go that’s low cost and fun? Well, for many Lisbon residents, Nations Park is the place.
And why not? It’s got nearly everything: an Oceanarium, a tree-lined river walkway, plenty of food options, fewer tourists and great connectivity to a large shopping mall and transport hub.
You hop on the metro, walk towards the river and here you are: under large shady trees by the water and a row of riverfront cafes. The mere existence of a cable car is irrelevant to most residents.
But to most visitors, the cable car functions as an amenity that’s part of a larger amenity – that is, Nations Park. One can function without the other, but neither would be as good, solo. Just €3.95 one-way and €5.90 roundtrip, the cable car is an affordable way to enjoy the river and surroundings. The motion of aerial cabins gently gliding in the sky complements and enhances the relaxed atmosphere of Nations Park.
Though Expo ‘98 is long over, the Telecabine Lisboa continues to provide visitors with a fun and memorable experience.
For those interested just in mass transit systems, this might not be the most important urban cable car in the world. However, the careful colour, alignment and design choices for the Telecabine Lisboa makes it a fascinating case study for urban planners who wish to learn more about low impact and cost effective gondolas.
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