Education

26
Apr

2018

Photos: Annual Safety Training and Evacuation Exercises in Grenoble

Grenoble-Bastille cable car held annual safety evacuation training this week. Photo by R Lemercier.

Aerial ropeways are amongst the safest, if not the safest forms of transport in the world.

For those who work with cable transport, they will personally understand and acknowledge that there is a deeply embedded culture of safety where passenger security is prioritized first and foremost.

While aerial lifts rarely suffer any mechanical or electronic failures — some estimate that there is an evacuation only once every 4.5 years — cable cars still employ teams of first responders who are trained to safely evacuate passengers during emergency situations.

To ensure aerial rescuers are fully prepared, the Grenoble-Bastille cable car conducted its annual evacuation exercises this week. A specialist team skillfully lowered thirty brave evacuees — all of which were actually volunteers! Photographer R. Lemercier was there in person to witness the annual event and was kind enough to share with us some of his personal images.

Photo by R Lemercier.

Photo by R Lemercier.

Photo by R Lemercier.

To view the entire photo album from this year’s training sessions in Grenoble, click here.



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21
Apr

2018

Nostalgic Carrier Designs

The Port Vell Aerial Tramway in Barecelona is built with Bleichert’s dodecagonal (12-sided) cabin. Image by Jordiferrer.

Many modern urban ropeways and their manufacturers are easily recognizable based purely from their cabin designs.

For instance, monocable detachable gondolas (MDGs) built by Doppelmayr use the OMEGA carriers from CWA while the Leitner Group (Leitner ropeways and Poma) uses the Diamond cabins from Sigma. However, before the industry experienced a flurry of mergers at/near the turn of the 20th century, many smaller ropeways manufacturers expertly plied their craft around the world.

Not so dissimilar to some of the iconic cabin models we see today, many prominent ropeway builders of the past were also easily recognizable based solely on their carrier designs.

With the return of the custom-built “Charlotte” cabin on the Brest Cable Car this week and the continued growth in cable transit, we thought it would be interesting to showcase a few nostalgic cabin types that are practically unknown to the outside world.

As ropeway companies and planners are becoming increasingly sensitive to the importance of aesthetics in the urban environment, perhaps some of these images will inspire cities to add a little more flavour and personality to their cabin designs.

 

Gerhard Müller Dietlikon (GMD) — Lightweight Aluminum Cabins

Emmetten-Stockhütte Gondola (1968) was built with Müller’s iconic aluminum 4-person cabins. Image from Seilbahn-Nostalgie.

The steel lattice hanger arms were another unique feature of the Muller gondola design. Image from Seilbahn-Nostalgie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerhard Müller was a Swiss engineer and one of the pioneers in detachable ropeway technology. As the founder of Gerhard Müller Dietlikon (GMD) in 1947, he was one of the most important players in the production of aerial lifts until his death in 1985.

Among his many accomplishments, he was known for designing lifts with portal/gantry towers, inventing the detachable Müller grip and inventing the ill-fated Aerobus. In addition to his great technical achievements, many of Müller’s ropeways were immediately identifiable by spotting its lightweight aluminum cabins.

More than twenty of these gondola systems were built throughout the world but many, if not most, of them have been modernized.


Carlevaro & Savio — Futuristic / Egg-Shaped Cabins 

Piana di Vigezzo gondola (1986) built with the iconic egg-shaped cabins. Most of the cabins were designed to fit 2-4 persons. Image from chairlift.org.

UFO-style cabin at Mount Snow, Vermont. Very little information is available about this system. Image from Colorado School of Mines.

Carlevaro & Savio was an Italian ropeway company that was founded in 1945.

They were recognized for designing their lifts with charming egg-shaped cabins made of metal and fibre glass. Many in the industry considered Carlevaro & Savio’s designs as some of the most futuristic-looking ropeways for their time. Dozens of these systems were built around the world in countries such as the USA, Italy, Switzerland and France.

Aside from their whimsical gondola cabins, they were also one of the first companies to develop a detachable grip. Their spring-loaded clamp is considered the forerunner of the detachable grips now used by Doppelmayr and Leitner ropeways.


Von Roll — Side-Chairs

The Krupka-Mückentürmchen sidechair (Czech Republic), built in 1952, is still operational today! Note that the chair has a roof for weather protection. Image form Seilbahn-Nostalgie.

VR 101 sidechair constructed for the 1949 KABA Expo in Thun, Switzerland. System carried 300,000 riders. Image from R. Von Roll.

Voll Roll, a Swiss ropeway manufacturer based in Bern, was another prolific builder of ropeways.

They were famous for being the inventors of the detachable chairlift, the VR101 model, way back in 1945. They were similarly well-known for designing 2-seater side chairs where passengers actually sat perpendicular to their direction of travel. This might seem a little odd nowadays, but from what we can gather online, the sideway seating was believed to provide passengers with a better ride and viewing experience. Also, the sideway profile of the chairs meant that station widths could be reduced.

While the chair is not a “cabin” per say, sidechairs do provide an example of the unique carrier designs that were once found on passenger ropeways.


Bleichert — Dodecagonal, 12-Sided Cabin

Predigtstuhl Cable Car (1928) is the oldest, still operational, large-cabin cable car on the planet. It connects a 1613m tall mountain in southern Germany. Image by HUvB.

The Aeri de Montserrat (Spain) opened in 1930 and still operates with its original cabins. The 1.3km system links visitors to the Monserrat Mountain near Barcelona. with Image by HuvB.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Established in 1874, Bleichert was once the world’s largest ropeway manufacturer, having built thousands of cable lifts on every corner of the globe.

While it initially focused its efforts on constructing material transport ropeways, it began to build iconic passenger lifts after World War I. Some famous systems include the Tyrolean Zugspitze Cable Car (formerly highest altitude), Predigstuhl Cable Car (oldest operating cable car with original cabin, 1928), and Port Vell Aerial Tramway (formerly highest ropeway tower, 107m).

Despite the age of some of Bleichert’s systems, it appears that some systems still operate with the original cabins built almost 100 years ago! As you might be able to tell from the photos above, the 12-sided dodecagonal cabins which fit 20-35 persons were a instantly recognizable symbol of Bleichert’s aerial tram products.

The aforementioned images and videos really just scratch the surface of the diversity found in the historical ropeway carrier scene. Given the dozens of cable car companies in the past and thousands of installations worldwide, let us know below in the comments section which nostalgic cabin designs are your favourite. 



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Design Considerations / Education / History
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07
Mar

2018

Next-Gen Gondola Education: Virtual Reality and 360° Videos



Perhaps it’s a little hard to imagine nowadays, but nine years ago when we first started this blog, easily accessible information on urban gondolas was difficult to find. Valuable materials were mostly hidden away in educational depositories such as the Colorado School of Mines and/or in untranslatable foreign language articles.

However, as the internet has by and large democratized and decentralized the flow of information, being able to collect, analyze and disseminate data has never been easier. In fact, we’ve discussed in the past that today’s worldwide growth on Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) may not have been possible without the internet.

If we take a moment to pause and reflect upon the evolution of ropeways, the historical lack of knowledge and expertise in the urban sphere was not coincidental. Traditionally, the development of the technology was primarily concentrated in rural areas where its application was centred around recreational and mining usages.

Even if urban transit ropeways existed — which it did as early as the turn of the twentieth century — chances are that even the most informed city planner in the “pre-internet age” would not be able to tell you that aerial lifts have been used successfully for transit purposes in far-flung places such as Algiers, Medellin, and Chongqing.

The Kohlererbahn was built in 1908 to connect Bolzano and Kohlern. It is considered one of the first aerial lifts built for passenger transport and public transit. Image from Provinz.bz.it.

Compounding these difficulties was the reality that most of the manufacturers, and therefore, expertise in the industry was located in the European Alps where English is not the dominant language.

However, with resources such as Google, Google Translate and YouTube (and of course Gondola Project), immersing yourself in ropeway vernacular today is just one quick click away.

In particular, YouTube, has been an incredibly useful tool for research since many users now upload entire videos of a ropeway’s journey (see Green Line, Yellow Line and Red Line). These videos allow analysts to personally witness and experience the conveniences of urban ropeway transport.

As the next stage of camera and virtual reality (VR) technology is basically ready for mass adoption, it appears that 360° videos will become the next medium for research and analysis. Comparatively speaking, since 360° videos allow the viewer to fully control the viewing direction, viewers can feel as if they are literally sitting in the cabin. No amount of still videos and photos could match the degree of realism in comparison to 360° videos. We can’t help but to imagine what VR could do to help educate users, especially critics, on the possibilities and feasibility of urban ropeways.

From a preliminary search, there are now dozens of 360° gondola videos already on YouTube. And to say the least, the experience is almost unworldly. As an example, we’ve compiled some of the best ones for your viewing pleasure below.

But what do you think? Could 360° videos and VR be used to foster greater appreciation and understanding of ropeway technology? And what kind of consequences could it have on ropeway development in the urban market? Let us know in the comments below or find us on Facebook / Twitter.





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27
Dec

2017

5 Top Urban Gondola (and Ropeway Related) Stories in 2017

The last 12 months has been an another eventful year for urban gondola systems and ropeway technology in general. La Paz’s continued expansion of its massive gondola network combined with a flurry of proposals worldwide has made 2017 another incredible year. In this post, we take a moment to review some of the biggest events and stories from the past 12 months.

1. La Paz Leads the Way

Unsurprisingly, the Bolivian capital makes it to the top of our list.

Three years ago, La Paz-El Alto embarked on an incredible journey to revolutionize the city’s urban transport network. The Austrian ropeway giant, Doppelmayr alongside Mi Teleferico, now operates five Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems in the city. In March 2017, one of the world’s largest urban gondola projects (the longest system in La Paz-El Alto), Blue Line (5.0km, 5 stations), was successfully inaugurated. During its first weekend, the system recorded a peak of 41,000 passengers in one day. Today residents fly high above the skies of El Alto before descending into the valley below on the Red Line.

A few months later in September 2017, the 4-station Orange Line (Spanish: Linea Naranja) invited riders to hop aboard with Bolivian President Evo Morales kicking off the celebrations. The Orange Line effectively extends the Red Line eastbound by another 2.6km and will be integrated with the upcoming White Line.

Effectively, the two new urban gondolas not only increased the length of the city’s rapid transit network by 76%, it also added nine more stations (7 if you only count the two transfer stations as one station each).

A post shared by Mi Teleférico (@miteleferico) on

Four other urban gondolas are currently under construction (e.g. Silver Line, Light Blue Line, White Line and Purple Line) with three of these expected to begin commercial service in 2018 (e.g. Purple, White and Light Blue).

And just a few days ago, the system officially recorded its 100th million passenger! Once the cable car masterplan (Spanish: Red de Integración Metropolitana or RIM) is all said and done by ~2019, passengers will be able to ride nearly 34km of aerial lifts spread over 39 stations.

Conceptual design for Toulouse’s “South Urban Gondola” at CHU Rangueil station platform. Image from SMTC-Tisseo.

2. First “True” Urban 3S

At the moment, mass transit cable cars are nearly all built with Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG) technology. However that may soon change as Gothenburg (Sweden) and Toulouse (France) are in a close race to see who will be the first to build a pure transit 3S cable car.

To clarify, while the Koblenz Cable Car and the Rittner Cable Car is often referred to as an “urban gondola”, these systems can’t be considered true “public transit” cable cars since it largely provides a recreational transport function.

Based on current scheduling, Toulouse is set to open its system by 2020. However, in November, the proposal had a slight setback as it had to modify its route and build a new station at US$6 million (€5 million) to avoid travelling over a high school.

Conceptual design for urban gondola in Gothenburg, Sweden by Group A. Image from forlivochrorelse.se.

Gothenburg on the other hand has also been steadily planning and designing its system for the past few years. It currently is scheduled to inaugurate its cable car by 2021 as part of the City’s 400th year celebrations. However, a recent court challenge by a losing consortium could cause some slight delays.

Other upcoming urban transit 3S proposals that have been publicly announced include the Téléphérique Pont de Sèvres – Vélizy, Wuppertal Seilbahn, Likoni Cable Express and the Réunion Téléphérique (Bellepierre to La Montagne).

Albany hopes to connect its downtown to the nearby Amtrak station in Rensselaer. Image from Capital Gondola.

3. Studies Galore in North America

North America is home to a few public transport ropeways: the Portland Aerial Tram, Roosevelt Island Tram, the Telluride & Mountain View Gondola and Mexicable. All these lines have been successfully implemented and continue to provide reliable, safe and efficient transportation to tens of thousands of passengers daily.

Mexico’s first public transit gondola, the 7-station Mexicable, opened in 2016 and carries an average of 29,000 riders per day. However, within the English-speaking countries of North America, a transit cable car hasn’t been built in 10 years since the Portland Aerial Tram was opened in 2007.

Given the precarious nature of project development, it’s difficult to ascertain how many projects are fully active, but in the last couple of years, the total number of publicly announced urban cable car proposals in North America has exceeded 40.

San Diego alone has already studied 3 alignments!

 

The IGA 2017 Ropeway provides green, barrier-free and near silent transport across the 100+ hectares of event grounds. Image from LEITNER Ropeways.

4. French and German Developments

As the most populous nations in Western Europe, a number of French and German cities are finally coming to grips with ropeway technology.

In fact, France is one of the world leaders in rope-propelled solutions as the country is estimated to have over 3,600 ropeways while Germany ranks ~5th globally with over 1,800 lifts. Last year, Brest became the first French city to build an urban transit cable car (albeit with limited success due to malfunctions and an accident) while Berlin saw its first recreational cable car in over 50 years at IGA 2017.

At the time of writing, more than 20 proposals were located in France while Germany has seen more than 10 proposals. Within the Parisian Region alone, more than 12 proposals have been identified. Perhaps the most geographically distant and remote location to integrate urban gondolas into its public transit network is the proposals happening in Reunion, a small French island commune in the Indian Ocean.

The Metrocable over top the Santo Domingo barrio. Image by Steven Dale.

5. Latin America Remains on Top

The success of Medellin’s Metrocable Line K (2004) has catapulted urban gondolas to forefront of modern city building unlike anything that transit planning has seen in decades.

While interest has been growing around the world, Latin America continues to dominates the urban transit gondola market. Cultural affinity, geographical proximity and similar socioeconomic conditions perhaps has facilitated this process whereby six Latin American countries operate a total of 17 aerial transit cable cars. This represents about 50% of all the urban transit cable cars in the world.

Barring some sort of global economic recession, as the urban ropeways mature and expertise is developed, more and more cities around the world will likely find inspiration from the continued success of the urban gondolas in Latin America and beyond.



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20
Jul

2017

Small Swiss Ropeways Threatened


To many visitors and locals, aerial ropeways are considered an integral part of Switzerland’s cultural identity. Since the country’s first cable driven system was built in 1866, Switzerland has designed some of the world’s most unique and spectacular cable systems.

Today, despite having just a population of just 8.3 million, more than 1,700 ropeways are currently operational!

Unfortunately, the existence of about 200 of these systems (or 12%) of the nation’s cable cars are now under threat due to a new cable car law that was passed in 2007. These 200 ropeways are small systems that allow tourists to experience the country’s alpine culture and mountains while providing farmers a vital transport link.

The new laws are designed to harmonize regulations across all lift operations (regardless of company size) to ensure greater safety and conformity to EU standards. However many small systems, which only charge a few francs per ride to low volumes of passengers, do not have the financial resources necessary to implement the costly upgrades.

For some small lifts, it is estimated that approximately 1 million francs (US$1 million) are necessary to obtain new permits.

Small ropeway companies argue that the new regulations are too stringent. As such, many are now banding together to lobby the government. Image from Luzernerzeitung.

The federal government contends that they cannot make exceptions until politicians and lawmakers make the necessary changes in parliament.

Luckily, efforts through workshops and lobbyist groups are already underway to ensure that these systems remain an intact for future generations to come. In the meantime, inspectors stress that passengers need not worry about the overall safety of these small ropeways. In fact, statistics demonstrate that Swiss ropeways are the country’s safest mode of transport!



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12
Mar

2017

Reaction: Cable Cars Are Changing the World

Image by Darren Garrett.

Image by Darren Garrett.

It’s no secret that with the rise of the 24-hour news cycle and the collapse of advertising revenues, journalistic standards and intellectual rigour have been on the decline across the publishing spectrum.

As such, when journalist Duncan Geere of How We Get to Next requested an interview of me on the subject of urban cable cars, I presumed it would be nothing more than a 300-word puff piece on the subject written in the time it to takes to write . . . well, a 300-word puff piece.

It was much to my surprise, then, that Greene’s piece “Cable Cars Are Changing The World” is nothing of the sort.

It is an exhaustive, engaging and otherwise top-notch article on the subject of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) and how they are rapidly being deployed throughout the world. For anyone new to the subject matter, I’d suggest starting with Greene’s article. It is comprehensive with a view into the history of the technology that few reporters bother to delve into.

He even takes the time to highlight one of the central complexities of the technology — nomenclature. Green perfectly encapsulates one of our industry’s constant problems:

“Researching the topic can be difficult, primarily because there are seemingly hundreds of different ways to refer to slight variations on the same basic principle. Spend 10 minutes looking into the subject and you’ll find people talking about gondolas, aerial tramways, ropeways, cableways, téléphériques, funiculars, funitels, inclined lifts, and many more.” 

As I read the article, there were at least a handful of moments I had to pause and think to myself “wow, I didn’t know that.”

If you’re new to the subject of urban cable cars, read this article. And if you’re an industry veteran who thinks postures to know everything there is to know about the topic — read this article. I can assure you there are things in there that will surprise and delight you.



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Education / History / Media & Blogs / Research & Development / Thoughts
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07
Jun

2016

This is How You Install a 50-ton Cable

Gore Mountain installs a new cable for the Northwoods Gondola

If you are curious about the process of changing a 50-ton gondola cable, check this out! We’re always working hard to make your mountain even better.

Posted by Gore Mountain on Monday, June 6, 2016



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