13
Jul

2015

Private Gondola Transport: A Sign of Things to Come?

Post by Gondola Project

Kadenwood Gondola. Canada’s first exclusive neighbourhood gondola. Image from Kadenwood.

Ropeways are built for many reasons: skiing, sightseeing, amusement, public transport, and private transport. Yes, that’s right private transport. It’s actually more common than you might think.

We’ve reported examples on the Gondola project before – like the Kriens funicular, Terra del Mar funicular, and of course, some of the rich and famous have their own personal systems.

Recently reader Evan J, sent us a video of Canada’s first exclusive neighbourhood aerial cable car, the Kadenwood Gondola.

Built for $3.5 million in 2008/2009, it serves the 60 home-sites in one of Whistler, B.C.’s wealthiest communities (lots start at $1.0 million, home not including).

A testament to the ski-in/ski-out lifestyle promise, the pulsed gondola transports residents from their doorsteps to the Whistler Creekside Village and the base of the Creekside gondola in 6 minutes flat – pretty useful to grab a pint in the village in case you didn’t want to call your chauffeur or get pulled over drinking and driving your Ferrari.

Astute readers will note that private gondolas are common in Europe and nothing to fret over. (You could even argue the people movers in airports and casinos are private ropeway transport.) Still, to us here in frozen old Canada, an exclusive gondola seems pretty special.

Aria Express (aka City Center Tram) is a bottom supported CPT system connecting the Bellagio and Monte Carlo casinos. Image from Wikipedia.

This got me thinking: do private gondolas have a role in society? Absolutely.

What implications could cost-effective private gondolas have for master planned communities around the world? Perhaps the future is one where governments pay for high-speed long distance trunk lines connecting different nodes while local developers pay for the internal circulators within.

Given the burgeoning income divide, great urban migration and increasingly broke governments, ropeways could behave like the entry points do now in privately owned, master-planned neighbourhoods.

We already see this today when it comes to roads.

Governments construct highways and major arterials while local developers pay for local roads in a development. Meanwhile, in dense urban environments, governments pay for transport infrastructure surrounding office and condo towers but don’t pay for internal public transit circulation within buildings.

That is, elevators — arguably the largest private public transit technology in the world, but so common, they’re rarely considered.

Should we be thinking about our public transit systems in a similar fashion? To do so, a low-cost and virtually on-demand system is essential. Subways and LRT are attractive but cost prohibitive to most private groups.

A lightweight and cost-effective gondola could fill this niche.

In fact, this trend seems to be already happening in many communities around the world. Developers in ski towns such as Breckenridge and Beaver Creek have already discovered the immense advantages of building gondolas around master planned communities.

Perhaps then it’s just a matter of time before others in the private sector catch onto the technology as cities did not too long ago.



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Comments

  1. Eric Callender
    The Canadian Aerial Ropeway Safety regulation currently requires gondolas such as the Kadenwood to have an operator present at the bottom and top stations when the lift is in operation. Additionally, a certified lift mechanic, ski patrol (medical) and enough staff to conduct a lift evacuation must also be onsite while the lift is operating, which is extremely cost prohibitive and thus private lifts of this nature are very uncommon here. The Kadenwood subdivision is a bare lot strata, and the monthly strata fees are in the order of $800 CDN per month per lot. The gondola sits idle the majority of the time, and generally only operates when the ski mountain is operating in the winter and those required mechanical, medical and evacuation support staff are available and paid for by the ski mountain. If it were operated 365 days a year and for extended hours of the day (say until the bars close), strata fees would be considerably higher, i.e. $2000 per month per lot. You can catch a lot of cab rides home from the bar for that amount of money, Ferrari or not :) Elevators once had operators, and only after years of safe operation were they no longer mandated. In a future world home owners may be able to approach the lift station of a private gondola, swipe their access card, and board the next available gondola. Until that is a reality, we won't see many private gondola installations in Canada.
  2. There are lots of developer-owned gondolas operating adjacent to ski resorts in the US and Canada. Other examples include Steamboat's Wildhorse Gondola (owned by Resort Ventures West), Canyons' Waldorf Gondola (owned by the Waldorf Astoria Hotel) and Northstar's Highlands Gondola (owned by the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.) Whistler's is unique because the general public is not permitted to ride. As Eric alluded to, the private gondola model generally only works where there is a large staff of lift maintenance and operations staff nearby. The developer simply pays the ski resort to operate their lift. It would be far more expensive to hire separate staff for one private lift. The only resort community in North America with two separate operations is Telluride, with the private ski resort and public gondola system operating separately.
  3. Good points. It would be expensive if limited to just a few households such as Kadenwood. But in denser environments with a much more concentrated population, the costs can be spread out much more evenly amongst a large number of users. And I imagine there would be a variety of ways a system ( including operational costs) can be financed.
  4. This is obviously an issue that would have to be addressed by the respective regulators but if a number of (what could be) automated gondolas were in operation, surely it would be more cost effective to operate a central gondola rescue service, including technical and medical staff. Depending on geography, it could operate across a region or even a country. 24-hour stand-by and rapid response times would ensure a comprehensive service and gondola operators could subscribe to benefit from the service and thus reduce their overheads. A helicopter would provide rapid response and a useful rescue tool. There is also the potential for centralised monitoring for a large volume of lifts within a single control centre, thus reducing the requirement for an on-site operator. It would all depend upon a cooperative regulator and being able to demonstrate that adequate safety could be maintained but it has the potential to relieve individual gondola operators of a significant financial burden.
  5. The regulator should make a difference between large and small systems. In Switzerland we have automated aerial tramways and funiculars. The operate like elevators. Some villages depend on those systems, especially during winter time. Of course the operators do not need to provide a stand by helicopter. Emergency are handled by existing fire-fighters, police, ambulance and aerial rescue service. sometimes only specialist cab tell whether a system is an inclined elevator or a funicular. AFAIK no detachable gondola can be automated because the capacity is too high. Also to boarding needs to be supervised. But with platform doors it should be possible. that not every station needs to be manned. For funiculars there is already central control in place.