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16
Feb

2016

Will the USA Become the Next Hub for Urban Gondolas?

US CPT Proposals. Image by Gondola Project.

Cable car proposals in USA. Image by Gondola Project.

Naturally as the world’s 3rd most populous nation and one of the world’s most advanced, the United States is a huge market for any product — and of course, this includes Cable Propelled Transit (CPT).

While the US has a few urban ropeways to call its own (i.e. Portland, Roosevelt Island and Telluride to name a few), American cities still lag behind its counterparts in South America (and to a lesser degree its equivalents in Asia, Europe and Africa).

Nevertheless, the country is now waking up big time to the major developments in cable transit. Based on counts from our world urban gondola map, there are over 10 CPT proposals throughout the US, with seemingly a new American city announcing their gondola plans every few weeks.

While this awakening took some time, some transit planner may recall that this cable car movement is not so dissimilar to that found in other public transport technologies, namely Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). CPT, similar to BRT, was able to incubate in South American cities. These cities required innovative and cost-effective solutions to their age-old traffic problems and found that in cable technology.

Today, in just 42 years since the first BRT was built in Curitiba, Brazil rapid buses have spread to 186 cities, with over 4,700km (2,900mi) of lanes. In the US alone, nearly 40 BRT systems have been installed.

While past trends don’t necessarily reflect future prospects, if we use BRT as a barometer, CPT has a lot of room for growth.

We, at the Gondola Project, have always believed that multi-modal transport networks make the best cities. And in turn, this means that as cities become more familiar and comfortable with ropeway technology, planners will become more adept at integrating CPT into their plans.

Exactly how CPT might influence US cities is anyone’s guess but the next few years will undoubtedly be an exciting one for all transit planners, especially cable car supporters. Do you think gondolas will make an impact on the American urban landscape? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.



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26
May

2015

Likoni Cable Express

A look at how the Likoni Cable Car may one day transform the stressful and chaotic 10 minute ferry ride to a convenient and comfortable 3 minute aerial commute.



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14
Dec

2011

Why not a gondola?

I’ve been asked to write a bit of a backstory — after all, just how does one get into the “gondola” business?

Nothing less than a few crazy ideas and some random luck, I can assure you.

But generally the story goes something like this.

After finishing school in Chicago and attempting to enter a plummeting job market with a serious degree and a less than serious wish to dress up and plop down at a desk, I up and applied to a post graduate design program in Toronto. I got in and figured, cool, let’s go to Canada!

At the Institute without Boundaries one of our first projects was to figure out how to get more people to and involved with the Evergreen Brickworks, an abandoned brick factory turned community/tourist/sustainability center. At the time the site consisted mostly of a weekend farmers market and a grand vision. (Since then it has transformed into an incredible urban destination with youth and adult programs, a restaurant, a garden shop, an ice rink, a bike repair shop, offices, an auditorium, as well as trails and historical relics spread throughout).

So that was the task at hand. While most of our team focused on what to do on site, I took a stab at the transportation to the site. I was new to the city, had no car, and little idea how to get anywhere except by bike, foot, or transit. Because the Brickworks was located in the middle of a large valley with a highway running down the center, I felt options for getting to there were limited.

Now, I had ridden gondolas before … on mountains, but had never really seen a gondola in a city. That’s actually not completely true. I had ridden the old Madrid Teleferico once. I remembered it traveled from somewhere in the city, over a highway, and into a huge park that I otherwise would probably have never even known existed. It was cheap (i think), it was direct, and I saw the city from a totally new perspective. Basically, it was awesome.

So jumping forward. I was in school, back in Toronto, looking at this site in the city, with almost no way to access it except by an intermittent shuttle bus from the subway. I must have just blurted out “let’s use a gondola” during some meeting, then sort of melted away as I considered how ridiculous I must have looked in front of all my new classmates.

But looking around I knew some of them got it. Sure we’d not really seen one of these or heard of one used for this, but we were trying to be insightful and creative. So low and behold, the idea stuck. We figured … yeah, a gondola. I mean, why not a gondola?

I drew some lines on maps, then life took its course, and a year later a friend sent me the Toronto Star article with Steven’s image of a gondola running through the Don Valley and I knew that maybe, just maybe, there was some logic behind this crazy, ridiculous idea of cable transit in cities.

 



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09
May

2010

Clip Show, Part 2

A comment from Wednesday’s Post made me realize that not everyone who encounters this site for the first time are aware of the arguments that are buried in posts from half a year ago. That’s a mistake I made; and I apologize to any readers new to this site.

With that in mind, here are 10 more posts from the first 3 months of The Gondola Project that help to clarify my position on the topic:

New material tomorrow, I promise!



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08
May

2010

Clip Show, Part 1

A comment from Wednesday’s Post made me realize that not everyone who encounters this site for the first time are aware of the arguments that are buried in posts from half a year ago. That’s a mistake I made; and I apologize to any readers new to this site.

With that in mind, here are 10 posts from the first 3 months of The Gondola Project that help to clarify my position on the topic:

We’ll have another 10 posts tomorrow just to round out your weekend reading. New material Monday, I promise!



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15
Feb

2010

History and Future

For most of the 20th century, the cable industry had been a hodge-podge of European, Japanese and American companies each jockeying for their piece of the blossoming ski industry. Some companies specialized in manufacturing, others in operations and maintenance. Privately owned and maintained systems were common. There were dozens of players but few titans.

Like the American cable car industry of the 19th century, barriers to entry were low. There was nothing proprietary about the technology and all the components could, quite literally, be bought off the shelf. As the ski industry boomed, the cable industry attracted all sorts of fly-by-nighters and charlatans. Companies came and went and experienced companies found themselves fighting off insurgents with dubious safety records who exploited the lack of regulation within the industry.

Competition was brutal and innovation scarce.

Look back over cable’s 20th century history and you find something uniquely curious: New technology and innovation is almost entirely absent. A single game-changing innovation hadn’t been developed since the detachable grip in 1872. Imagine the computer, car or airline industry essentially not introducing a major new model or innovation for 125 years and you begin to understand how bizarre this actually was.

The ski industry was booming, yes, but it was a small industry with a razor thin target market. First you needed a mountain. Then you needed a population who knew how to ski. But you also needed a population that was wealthy enough to afford such an expensive sport and had the time to partake in the pleasure. The ski industry was (and still is) a pretty small pie to carve up amongst dozens of lift suppliers. What little profits the cable industry made were plowed back into getting more business. Research and development wasn’t the priority; survival was.

This all changed in the last quarter of the 20th century.

A flurry of mergers and acquisitions saw two major competitors emerge: The French-Italian consortium of Leitner-Poma and the Austrian-Swiss partnership, Doppelmayr-Garaventa. Today, these two companies control roughly 95% of the entire cable transit business and this concentration has provided the economies of scale necessary to advance the technology.

The integration of computer-controlled Programmable Logic Circuits has made cable safer than ever before and tight regulation has weeded out most of the deadbeats. In the last ten years alone at least four major new technologies have been developed and older technologies are being stretched to new limits. Cable’s popping up in totally unexpected places and thriving. It’s rare that a year goes by without some new surprise. I’m constantly surprised.

While consolidation in many industries often marks the beginning of the end of innovation, it marked the beginning of a new era for cable. Hopefully, that innovation continues. The urban market is just now starting to look at Cable Propelled Transit and I suspect cable finds itself on the cusp of something great.

Rather than slow the pace of innovation, now’s the time for the industry to push forward with more.



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02
Dec

2009

Absurd Ideas

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying if at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

Absurd indeed.

When I first started my work on Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT), I hid it from everyone.  I knew it was an absurd idea and the last thing I wanted to get tagged as was that lunatic who thinks we should use ski-lifts for transit.

I didn’t even tell my girlfriend, and I tell her everything.

It was only after intense digging through obscure research that I realized the idea wasn’t absurd at all. In fact, it wasn’t even my idea; CPT had been implemented successfully in several different places.

Was the idea unique? Totally. Absurd? Not at all.

Suddenly, there was hope.



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