22
Jun

2015

Telecabine Lisboa (Lisbon Cable Car)

Post by Nick Chu

 In Lisbon for a few days this summer, I got to ride the Telecabine Lisboa (Lisbon Cable Car) a cable car built for Expo ‘98. Image by Nicholas Chu.


In Lisbon for a few days this summer, I got to ride the Telecabine Lisboa (Lisbon Cable Car) a gondola built for Expo ‘98. Image by Nicholas Chu.

BACKGROUND

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.


SYSTEM




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.

As you walk towards the station from the mall, this is one of the first views of the cable car. Definitely a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city. Image Nicholas Chu.

As you walk towards the station from the mall, this is one of the first views of the cable car. Definitely a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city. Image Nicholas Chu.

The Nations Park and waterfront area is a popular place for families. Image by Nicholas Chu.

The Nations Park and waterfront area is a popular place for families. Image by Nicholas Chu.

The station is beside the Lisbon Oceanarium, among the city’s most popular attractions with 1,000,000 annual visitors. (Note the cable car in the center left.). Image by Nicholas Chu.

The station is beside the Lisbon Oceanarium, among the city’s most popular attractions with 1,000,000 annual visitors. (Note the cable car in the center left.). Image by Nicholas Chu.

Southern terminal. Simple, no-frills design. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Southern terminal. Simple, no-frills design. Image by Nicholas Chu.

School groups waiting outside the station to board the cable car. Image by Nicholas Chu.

School groups waiting outside the station to board the cable car. Image by Nicholas Chu.

South station interiors. Extra cabins stored at this station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

South station interiors. Extra cabins stored at this station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Up we go! Looking south.  Image by Nicholas Chu.

Up we go! Looking south. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Vents allow for air flow. On a 30-degree day, my cabin was stuffy when we boarded. However, once aloft and moving, it quickly cooled. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Vents allow for air flow. On a 30-degree day, my cabin was stuffy when we boarded. However, once aloft and moving, it quickly cooled. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Windows opened for greater air circulation. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Windows opened for greater air circulation. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Looking northbound towards Vasco da Gama tower. Notice the popular riverside walkway below. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Looking northbound towards Vasco da Gama Tower. Notice the popular riverside walkway below. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Looking south, back towards the Oceanarium. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Looking south, back towards the Oceanarium. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Looking north, approaching midpoint. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Looking north, approaching midpoint. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Cabins and towers are designed with standard, off-the-shelf components, lowering installation costs. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Cabins and towers are designed with standard, off-the-shelf components, lowering installation costs. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Arriving at northern terminal. Once again, a low profile, no-frills MDG station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Arriving at northern terminal. Once again, a low profile, no-frills MDG station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Unlike newer gondola systems today, the cabins are not level with the platform floor. However, the system is still accessibility friendly. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Unlike newer gondola systems today, the cabins are not level with the platform floor. However, the system is still accessibility friendly. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Exit, northern terminal. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Exit at northern terminal. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Northern terminus. The design is identical to the southern station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Northern terminus. The design is identical to the southern station. Image by Nicholas Chu.

A few restaurants are in large warehouse-like buildings near the northern terminal. Image by Nicholas Chu.

A few restaurants are in large warehouse-like buildings near the northern terminal. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Families resting and taking shade under the many large trees next to the cable car on a lazy weekday afternoon.  Image by Nicholas Chu.

Families resting and taking shade under the many large trees next to the cable car on a lazy weekday afternoon. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Northern terminus with Vasco de Gama Tower in the back. The Myriad hotel is a relatively new addition and was built next to tower in 2012. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Northern terminus with Vasco de Gama Tower in the back. The Myriad hotel is a relatively new addition and was built next to tower in 2012. Image by Nicholas Chu.

WATERFRONT EXPERIENCE

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.

People strolling along the waterfront and enjoying the sunshine with the gentle ambient hum of the cable cars overhead.  Image by Nicholas Chu.

People strolling along the waterfront and enjoying the sunshine with the gentle ambient hum of the cable cars overhead. In fact, the system is so quiet and because of the breezy ocean winds, the cable car is nearly silent. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Nearby popsicle and ice cream stand, perfect for cooling down on a hot summer day. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Nearby popsicle and ice cream stand, perfect for cooling down on a hot summer day. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Riverfront becomes busier near the trees, with many people taking shelter under the canopy. A great place for people watching and relaxation. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Riverfront becomes busier near the trees, with many people taking shelter under the canopy. A great place for people watching and relaxation. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Riverfront lined with red flower plants, enhancing the site’s peaceful ambience. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Riverfront lined with red flower plants, enhancing the site’s peaceful ambience. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Tower built right in the water. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Tower built right in the water. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Travel along the river beside many visitor-friendly restaurants. Image by Nicholas Chu.

Travel along the river beside many visitor-friendly restaurants. Image by Nicholas Chu.

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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