Installations

07
Mar

2017

Blue Line (Línea Azul) Transports 41,000 Passengers In One Day

Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Mi Teleférico.

Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Mi Teleférico.

La Paz-El Alto’s newest Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) system, the Blue Line (Línea Azul), opened for passenger service last Friday and has already surpassed initial projections during its maiden voyage. During the weekend, the urban cable car hit a peak day ridership of 41,000 persons and has directly boosted passenger levels on the Red Line (Línea Roja) by 15%.

At this rate, the Doppelmayr-built Blue Line may likely add 20,000 – 40,000 daily passengers to the entire Mi Teleférico network each day — thereby single-handedly increasing overall network ridership by up to 50% from current passenger numbers (existing: 80,000 – 100,000 daily riders).

Locals came out in droves to be the first ones to experience the Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Bolivia Sigue‏.

Locals came out in droves to be the first ones to experience the Blue Line (Línea Azul). Image by Bolivia Sigue‏.

A cursory analysis and comparison of La Paz to other rapid transit lines in North America indicates that only five other light rail systems (i.e. Calgary, Toronto, Guadalajara, Boston, Los Angeles) would have a higher daily ridership than Mi Teleférico.

Arguably, since Toronto’s “light rail system” is really more a “streetcar” network, this means that only four North American LRT systems see larger daily ridership figures. However, it is important to keep in mind that these light rail networks are 60-650% longer than Mi Teleférico and have up to 4.5x more stations.

From an average daily boardings per mile perspective, this is where the La Paz-El Alto’s system truly shines. Mi Teleférico on average transports ~13,000 – 15,000 passengers/mile. Compared to North American LRTs, La Paz would rank 2nd after Mexico’s Guadalajara Light Rail. And if La Paz was measured against all rapid transit systems in North America, Mi Teleférico would actually break the top ten list, ranking 9th just ahead of Santo Domingo’s metro line!

Passenger Boardings Per Mile (North America and La Paz)

SystemCountryLength (miles)Year OpenedStationsLinesAvg Daily Boarding Per Mile
New York City SubwayUSA23219044682439,055
Mexico City MetroMexico14119691951230,603
Montreal MetroCanada43196668429,390
Toronto SubwayCanada42.4195469425,785
Monterrey MetroMexico20199131224,984
Panama MetroPanama8.5201413121,176
PATHUSA13.8190813518,167
Guadalajara Light RailMexico14.9198929217,790
Mi TeleféricoBolivia9.3201416413,000 - 15,000
Santo Domingo MetroDominican Republic17200930210,461

Note: Guadalajara Light Rail added to Wikipedia’s “List of North American rapid transit systems by ridership” in table above to allow for comparison of all rapid transit and not just Metro systems.

 

Some readers will likely argue that these are unfair comparisons since the landscape and modal split for North American and South American cities are different. While this might be true to a certain degree, this brief analysis reinforces that urban cable transit is no longer a fringe technology that’s incapable of operating as a reliable mass transit system.

On the contrary, Mi Teleférico demonstrates that when properly implemented, urban gondolas can quickly enhance and complement existing public transit networks.

Cultural celebrations took place at the Blue Line's western terminus, Wana Jawira, on March 3, 2017. Image by Bolivia Sigue.

Cultural celebrations took place at the Blue Line’s western terminus, Wana Jawira, on March 3, 2017. Image by Bolivia Sigue.

With this fantastic reception, manager of the state-owned ropeway system reiterated that the entire urban gondola network has achieved economic self-sufficiency — a goal rarely achieved by mass transit systems. Overall, as the city’s transport system modernizes, officials are diligently monitoring the system’s performance to ensure maximum reliability, safety and comfort.

 

 

03
Mar

2017

La Paz Opens City’s Longest Mass Transit Urban Gondola: Blue Line (Línea Azul)

Blue Line flying high in city of El Alto. Image by Mi Teleférico.

Blue Line flying high in city of El Alto. Image by Mi Teleférico.

March 3, 2017 marks a very special day not only in the highlands of Bolivia but in the world of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT). Known on social media as the “Great Blue Leap” (Spanish: #ElGrandSaltoAzul), the 5-station Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Azul) was officially opened for passenger service. The CPT system, built by Doppelmayr, is the 4th urban cable car that is a part of Mi Teleferico’s world leading gondola network.

Depending upon how a public transit ropeway is defined, initial estimates suggest that the Blue Line may be one of the longest mass transit urban gondolas in the world. Comparatively speaking, this system slightly edges out its closest Latin American counterparts by ~100-200m (Mexicable – 4.8km and Mariche Metrocable -4.8km).

Unlike the previous Red, Yellow and Green Lines, the Blue Line operates entirely in El Alto (world’s highest metropolis) and is the first system to be fully equipped with free wifi and security cameras in all cabins. Estimates suggest that the aerial lift will transport 30,000 passengers daily and benefit upwards of half a million residents in 18 neighbourhoods!

From a network perspective, the Blue Line effectively extends the Red Line’s reach deeper into El Alto. The 16 de Julio (Jach’a Qhathu) Station’s role is further strengthened as an interchange station. Already, the station’s ground floor is home to the Amauta Shopping Centre and a commercial area where passengers will walk through during a transfer.  At full build out, 16 de Julio will be one of two interchange stations where you can conveniently transfer onto three separate urban ropeways.

Mi-Teleferico-Map-March-2017

Map of Mi Teleférico at full build out. Image by Mi Teleférico.

Travelling westbound from 16 de Julio station, passengers arrive at Plaza Libertad Station. At this location, a cultural center for El Alto was built to complement and enhance site usage. Between Plaza Libertad Station, Plaza La Paz Station and Universidad Pública de El Alto (UPEA) Station, the cable car is built entirely within the traffic median of 16 de Julio Avenue. In fact, both the Plaza Libertad and Plaza La Paz Stations are built in the middle of a traffic circle. This stretch of the cable car demonstrates how CPT systems can be fitted nimbly and strategically within a city’s existing built form. As more urban cable cars are built, expect many more systems in the future to utilize this design strategy.  


At UPEA station, an estimate of 10,000 from the University’s 35,000+ student population are expected to fully take advantage of the gondola’s direct connection to the campus.

And finally, at the Blue Line’s western terminus is the Ex Rio Seco (Waña Jawtra) Station. An existing commercial area and an interprovincial bus stop are both located at this node, which undoubtedly enhance convenience and connectivity for passengers.

With the completion of the Blue Line, six more systems are left as part of the massive US$450 million Phase 2 investment plans. The next systems that are scheduled to open include the White and Orange Lines (Spanish: Línea Blanca and Línea Naranja) in late 2017. The White Line in early February 2017 was reportedly 60% complete.

As for the remaining cable cars, the Sky Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Celeste) and Purple Line (Spanish: Línea Morada) will open in 2018 while the Silver Line (Spanish: Línea Plateada) and Gold Line (Spanish: Línea Dorada) will open in 2019.

Overall, the Blue Line continues the mandate of the Bolivian government to modernize and improve its transport infrastructure. Just like the existing urban gondolas, the Blue Line is open for 17 hours each day and the fares are priced sensitively at US$0.40 (Bs 3) or US$0.30 (Bs 2) if a passenger is transferring from the Red Line.


02
Mar

2017

System Dossier: Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway

 

The Shin-Kobe Ropeway. Image by Flickr user Valeri-DBF

The Shin-Kobe Ropeway. Image by Flickr user Valeri-DBF.

The maritime city of Kobe is highly regarded as one of Japan’s most attractive cosmopolitan cities. For many centuries, Kobe has acted as an important port for the Kansai region and was one of Japan’s first ports to open for trade with the West. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, but the city is the source of the popular cuisine dish, Kobe beef.

A popular tourist site situated to the north of the city along the Rokko mountain range is the Nunobiki Herb Garden – home to 75,000 unique types of herbs. Connecting tourists to the garden from the city is accomplished by a 1.5 km urban gondola system.

Built initially in 1991, the gondola was upgraded to an MDG system in 2011 by Nippon Cable. Before the upgrade, the system was operated by Kōbe City Urban Development (神戸市都市整備公社) but is now owned by Kobe City and managed by Kobe Resort Services (神戸リゾートサービス ).

 

View of mid-station. Image by Flickr user Henry Lau.

The base station of the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway is conveniently located 5 minutes from the Shin-Kobe train station. From there, the gondola makes an intermediate stop at Kaze no Oka station, which is located at the bottom of the Herb Garden. From Kaze no Oka, passengers can access hiking trails leading to Mount Maya and the Nunobiki waterfalls.

Lastly, the cable car reaches its destination of Nunobiki Observation Deck where tourists can experience scenic views of Kobe (and even the distant Osaka if visibility allows it). A fascinating feature regarding the ropeway is the medieval Tudor design of each station. While this is an architectural style not often seen in urban cable cars, the design fits in appropriately to the garden’s naturalistic and serene ambiance.

The Ninokobe Herb Garden Observatory Deck. Image by Flickr user Manish Prabhune

The Ninokobe Observatory Deck. Image by Flickr user Manish Prabhune.

All the gondola’s 69 cabins are composed of glass around all sides allowing for panoramic vistas of the garden and city at day or night, making the trip up to the destination just as exciting as the actual destination. The ropeway has been a premiere attraction in Kobe for nearly 3 decades now and demonstrates once again how urban gondola technology can enhance visitor experience and satisfaction.



Year opened (upgraded) 1991 (2011)
Length (km) 1.5
Trip Time (minutes) 6.5-10
Stations 3
Capacity (pphpd) 1,800
Speed (m/s) 4
Fare both ways (Yen) 1,400
23
Feb

2017

Emirates Air Line Cable Car: London’s Best Transport Line?

Image by Flickr user fsse8info.

Since the Emirates Air Line (EAL) cable car first took flight in 2012, local media coverage of the system has not been particularly kind. Detractors have called it everything and anything you could think of: white elephant, dangleway, Boris’s vanity project — just to name a few.

Unfortunately, what’s often lost in this conversation is the many successes experienced by London’s first and only urban gondola. As discussed in a previous post, an oft-forgotten but very important point is that the cable car actually makes a profit — a surplus of US$1.25mm (£1mm) since its opening. 

How many other public transport systems can say that? Very few except for a handful in highly dense Asian cities

Emirates Air Line Cable Car Customer Satisfaction

Emirates Air Line cable car rated the best transport mode in London. Image from Tfl.

A preliminary examination of the cable car’s performance data also depicts a much rosier picture than what is often associated with the cable car. In particular, the customer satisfaction report from Jan-Mar 2016 provides some great insight. 

Based on customer surveys conducted for all Transport for London (Tfl) modes, the Emirates Air Line cable car has consistently received the highest level of customer satisfaction at 93-94 points. Comparatively speaking, this is ~8-12 points higher than the customer satisfaction levels seen on the London Underground and ~17-19 points higher than London Roads.

What people like and dislike about the Emirates Air Line cable car.

What people like and dislike about the Emirates Air Line cable car. Image from Tfl. 

The urban cable car has also received much praise from sampled passengers (base size: 590-861) where personal safety, helpfulness/appearance of staff, ease of getting into cabin, and warmth /friendliness of staff were ranked as the system’s biggest strengths.

As for it weaknesses, respondents suggested that it did not have the best “Value for Money”. This seems somewhat counter-intuitive since a one-way adult ticket price is just USD$4.25-5.50 (£3.40-4.50). At this price, it would be more expensive than the mass transit cable cars in South America, but would be considered a huge bargain if compared to other recreational cable cars in major metropolitan cities. For instance, base adult fares for the Ngong Ping 360 (Hong Kong) and the Mount Faber Cable Car (Singapore) both start at a ticket price of more than US$23.00!

Even in local terms, considering that entrance fees for “observation/sightseeing” attractions such as the London Eye (USD$28.00-34.00) and View from the Shard (USD$32.00-38.50) start at USD$28, the cable car is way more affordable. 

While London’s urban gondola isn’t perfect, the cable car’s stories of successes should be shared as much as its stories of failures. 

 

17
Feb

2017

Photo of the Week: Ngong Ping 360

#hongkong #ngongping360 #traveller #travelphotography #travelersnotebook #traveldiaries #travelgram #beautifuldestinations

A post shared by Roderick Samonte (@ericpsdancefit) on

11
Feb

2017

Tbilisi / Georgian Ropeways, Part 1.1

Narikala Ropeway, one of Tbilisi's modern urban cable cars soaring towards the ancient Narikala Fortress. Image by Prasanna Raju.

The Narikala Ropeway — one of Tbilisi’s modern urban cable cars — soars across the Mtkvari River towards an ancient fortress. Image by Prasanna Raju.

Update February 10, 2017: As we’ve alluded to in our original post, filtering and interpreting Soviet-era information with a high degree of precision is proving to be a little more challenging than we first expected. 

To compound these difficulties, we’ve learned this week that much of the history for Georgian/Tbilisi ropeways may have been lost forever. During the tumultuous times in the 90s, the central ropeway repository along with other historical archives were subject to, how you would say, collateral damage (read: burned down). As a result, much of the data and knowledge is only available through word-of-mouth at this time. 

While this is undoubtedly terrible news, we do have some good findings to share. Thanks to reader Irakli Z’s incredible research skills, it appears that there were actually many more ropeways we didn’t list in the original article. In fact, during Soviet times, up to 10 urban ropeways (or 11 if you count one that was partially constructed) were built! 

Hopefully we can compile the data and share it online while we still can. At this time, we’ve updated the map to reflect these changes and will continue to provide findings (and hopefully not lack thereof) as it comes.  



09
Feb

2017

System Dossier: Constantine Cable Car (Télécabine de Constantine)

Constantine Cable Car. Image by Flickr user Bilouk Bilouk

Constantine Cable Car. Image by Flickr user Bilouk Bilouk

The mountainous terrain of Algeria poses a unique challenge for urban planners and developers. To solve this problem, several Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems have been built in Algerian cities throughout the country. These include ropeway systems in Algiers, Skikda, Tlemcen and Constantine. The installation of these gondola networks has been crucial to improving traffic flow and mitigating vehicular congestion.

In particular, Constantine has experienced great success with its urban cable car. Known as the City of Bridges, the municipality has built numerous overpasses to improve connectivity throughout the city’s challenging terrain. However, with rapid growth in the city, many of the existing bridges became overwhelmed. After much contemplation by city officials, the plan to construct the Constantine Cable Car (French: Télécabine de Constantine) was finally conceived in late 2006, and by June 2008, the system opened to the public.

Constantine Cable Car. Image by Flickr user Bilouk Bilouk

Constantine Cable Car. Image by Flickr user Bilouk Bilouk

With the arrival of the gondola, 100,000 residents in the city’s northern quarters were benefitted alongside 5,000 hospital workers.

The Constantine Cable Car is an MDG system built by the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group that transports passengers across the Rhumel Gorge. The system was designed with thirty-three 15-person cabins and an initial capacity of 2,000 pphpd. However, the capacity is expandable to 2,400 pphpd should passenger flows increase in the future.

The cable car makes 3 stops along its 7-minute journey: Terrain Tannoudji, Ben Badis Hospital, and Place Tatache. Since opening, the cable car has been an incredible success carrying 4.5 million passengers in its first year of operation and reaching 12 million passengers by 2012. This urban gondola is another example of how a CPT system can effectively enhance and complement a city’s existing infrastructure network.



Year opened 2008
Length (km) 1.63
Trip time (minutes) 7
Capacity (pphpd) 2,000 (expandable to 2,400)
Speed (m/s) 6.0

 

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