Background

01
Nov

2009

One Summer In Switzerland . . .

. . . after graduating from planning school, I was visiting my partner’s family when plans arose to go hiking around her local ski resort.

Let me make this clear from the beginning:  I am no skier.  I’ve skied twice in my life with little success and those occurrences were on hills of inconsequential size.

In my humble opinion, nailing oneself to a couple of planks of wood and throwing oneself off of a cliff is not so much sport as it is suicide.  If that’s what you’re into, great.  I’m happy down here.

As such, I was unprepared for the journey up the 2000 meter high Melchsee Frutt.  I was also unprepared for my first gondola trip.

Just to clarify, prior to my experience in Switzerland, my understanding of a gondola was this:

Skiers

Skiing in Switzerland, apparently.

Wrong, I discovered.  A gondola was also this:

Also Skiing

Also skiing in Switzerland.

What kind of bizarre contraption was this gondola I asked myself.  Is it safe?  How many people can it carry?  How fast is it?  Is it safe?  Really?  But it’s just dangling by that cable?  Again:  Is it safe?

My worries were quickly put to rest.  The gondola was fast, comfortable and calm.  And if it wasn’t safe, no one seemed to care or notice.  I put my faith in the dozens of other Swiss passengers who showed little qualm about the vehicle.

As we ascended the mountain, however, a very curious event occurred.  On the ground beneath our car, about 25 feet below us, a pick-up truck whizzed by along a service road.  It was at that moment I had a realization:

There is no traffic 25 feet in the air!

After the hike I was curious:  Could this gondola technology be used in an urban environment?

I understood how ridiculous the idea was, so I secretly scrambled to uncover as much research as I could without anyone knowing.

Nevertheless, after a few weeks of digging, I’d uncovered enough research to suggest something I thought to be profound:  Gondola (later to be known as Cable-Propelled Transit) technology was not only an attractive option for urban environments, in many ways it was superior to our traditional family of transit technologies.

That experience, just over two years ago, sent me off on a bizarre hunt for information about what must be one of the most misunderstood and most underestimated transit technologies in history.  Sometimes the quest was borderline quixotic but it has always been exhilarating.

The Gondola Project is the culmination of that work.

Creative Commons images by bratha and ben.ramirez.



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