Installations

24
Aug

2018

Timang Beach Gondola — World’s Most Exciting and Expensive 30-Second Ropeway Ride?

Timang Beach Gondola. Image by Pandora Voon.

As early as 250BC, ropeways have been used to transport people and goods across difficult terrain. Even today, as many parts of the world are rapidly modernizing, some places are still reliant on simple cable systems.

In the Yogyakarta region of Indonesia, locals have strung together a rather precarious-looking cable car over the treacherous waters of the Indian Ocean. According to some online user comments, the Timang Beach Gondola was built in 1997 and was primarily used in the past to ferry lobster fisherman from the coast to a lobster nest on Pulau Timang, a small rocky outcrop 100m from the mainland.


However, with the advent of mass tourism, locals discovered that international visitors are willing to dish out a whole lot of dough to experience this one-of-a-kind gondola. If you watch the video above, it quickly becomes apparent why the chance to share your “dangerous” ropeway experience on social media (especially Instagram) makes it nearly impossible for millennial travellers to resist.

While the wooden, blue-roped gondola is a rudimentary piece of equipment, the operators appear to be experts when it comes to fare pricing. Believe it or not, the 30 second ride costs US$10.30 for locals and US$13.70 for international tourists!

With this ticket price, the Timang Beach Gondola is certainly not an inexpensive attraction — even by global standards. Given the short duration of the ride, it might even be the most expensive gondola on a per second ratio.

The Timang Beach Gondola costs about $0.23/second, making it more expensive than some of the world’s most advanced ropeways. Chart by CUP.

The open-air double decker cable car (CabriO) in Switzerland costs 3 cents less per second to ride than the Timang Beach Gondola. However, the overall ticket price is more expensive (US$74.50). Image by Alpohi.

It’s hard to imagine that a relatively remote part of Indonesia would be home to one of the world’s most expensive ropeways. But then again, given the physical manpower that’s actually involved to pull riders over, maybe the ride is a bargain after all.



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10
Aug

2018

Portal Towers Seen in Moscow

A “portal tower” being built for the VDNKh amusement park ropeway in Moscow, Russia. Image by Another City.

With the growth of urban gondolas in the cities, architects have naturally begun to experiment with more unique ropeway designs.

One particular element of a cable car which has received significant attention is the design of towers. For instance, decision-makers in cities such as Portland and London have built one-of-a-kind towers to add a touch of distinctiveness to their ropeway and surroundings.

Architects in recent proposals have continued this trend where even bolder designs are now becoming more common.

Above illustrations depict the final four conceptual styles that were chosen above as part of the design competition for the Gothenburg Cable Car. The design, second from the left, was ultimately chosen as the winner. Image from forlivochrorelse.se.

If you look closely above, the first rendering from the left, depicts a rare portal or lollipop tower concept. While this design did not win Gothenburg’s architectural competition, we personally thought that the portal tower could become a strong concept for future proposals.

As you can imagine, we were pleasantly surprised when we found out that a recreational ropeway in Moscow was already under construction with portal towers!

View of portal tower. Image by Another City.

There are currently three giant portal towers erected on site. Image by Another City.

Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot of information about the gondola itself.

However, what we do know is that the system is about 900m long and is being built at VDNKh, an amusement park/exhibition complex located ~10km north of Moscow’s city centre. VDNKh is also known as the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy and is one of the 50 largest exhibitions in the world.

The cable car will be constructed as part of a new 17.3ha theme park. A number of new attractions will be built which includes indoor pavilions, a 140m ferris wheel, and a roller coaster. An estimated 2 million people are expected to visit the park once it opens sometime in Fall 2018.

It’s uncertain when the ropeway will become operational, but hopefully once its complete, it can serve as another notable case study and a demonstration of the tower designs that are possible with urban gondolas.

 

A big thank you goes out to Irakli Z for sharing the photos/links with us!



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Installations / VDNKh Ropeway
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03
Aug

2018

La Paz Opens 7th Urban Gondola, 8th Line To Open in September

Sky Blue Line began commercial service on July 14th. Image from Mi Teleferico.

Construction works for the world’s largest urban gondola network in La Paz, Bolivia continues to take place at record speeds. Large celebrations took over its street when the president, Evo Morales, was on hand to inaugurate Mi Teleferico’s 7th urban gondola, the Sky Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Celeste), on July 14th.

The 2.6km Sky Blue Line has been designed with 4-stations which helps connect the City’s south zone (Spanish: zona Sur) to the downtown area (Spanish: centro paceño). Along the route, the cable car travels by a number of obstacles/features including a sports field, a ravine, under three iconic bridges (e.g. Trillizos bridge, América bridge and the Gemelo bridge), an open air theatre and even under the existing White Line gondola.

With a maximum speed of 6m/s, end to end travel times will be just 11.8 minutes while maximum capacities will be 4,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd). As a comparison, this is equivalent to more than 70 buses every hour!

You might note that the Sky Blue Line is the first of two urban gondola lines in La Paz to open with higher performance capabilities. It’s maximum speeds and line capacity are 20% and 33% higher than the speeds and capacities seen on the six previous lines. In fact, at 4,000 pphpd, the Sky Blue Line will be the first pure public transit MDG system to be designed with such a large capacity. The vast majority of MDGs built in the past typically peaked at around 3,000 pphpd.

Ultimately, greater performance standards will be useful as the Sky Blue Line is connected to three other urban gondola lines (e.g. White Line, Green Line, and Yellow Line).

Evo Morales (Bolivian president) and Cesar Dockweiler (GM of Mi Teleferico) were amongst the first riders of the Sky Blue Line. Image from Los Tiempos.

Sky Blue Line. Image from Mi Teleférico.

As part of the opening remarks, Morales emphatically called the newest cable car, “a dream of the people of La Paz”. Arguably, this statement isn’t really that far from the truth as the Sky Blue system was built in just 366 days!

The entire Mi Teleferico network as a whole is equally as impressive as it has now logged in more than 135 million passengers since the first gondola line opened in 2014. To put that into perspective, this ridership figure is more than 13 times the entire population of Bolivia!

Master plan for all 11 urban gondola lines. Image from Mi Teleferico.

Shortly after the 7th urban gondola opened, officials announced that the Purple Line (Spanish: Línea Morada) will begin commercial service in the first half of September. Similar to the Sky Blue Line, the Purple Line will also operate with higher system speeds and capacities than that were seen on the previous six lines. Effectively, this means that passengers will be able to travel from 6 de Marzo station to Obelisco station in just 16.8 minutes.

As construction is nearing completion, the system is now undergoing test operations.

Purple Line cabins are still being covered by protective wrapping. Image from Pagina Siete.

It’s a little hard to believe at first, but the entire Mi Teleférico master plan is coming together beautifully. By September, more than 70% of the system will be opened with only three lines left to complete (i.e. Brown Line, Silver Line and Gold Line). Urban gondola followers won’t have to wait long as the whole network should be fully built by 2020!

 

 

 



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Mi Teleférico
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29
Jun

2018

Are Disney’s Skyliner Gondolas Public Transit?

Disney Skyliner cabins are starting to arrive at Disney World. Image from WDW News Today.

Construction works for the upcoming Disney Skyliner cable cars has reached an exciting milestone this week as the first wave of cabins were spotted on the back of a truck at the world’s most visited entertainment complex.

For those who have not followed this project, the Skyliners are a network of three gondola lines that were first announced last July. The system is presumed to be built by Doppelmayr given what is clearly an Omega cabin depicted above. The 5km (3mi) of aerial lifts broke ground in June 2017 and are scheduled to open by mid-2019 (i.e. a construction period of approximately two years).

They are designed to improve transport connectivity between two theme parks (i.e. Epcot and Hollywood Studios) and four resorts (i.e. Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation, Pop Century and the upcoming Riviera Resort).

Conceptual drawings of Skyliner released by Disney in July 2017. Image from Disney Tourist Blog.

Aerial image of construction progress (May 2018) of the Caribbean Beach Resort station. This station will be the main hub of the three gondola lines. Image from Ziggy Knows Disney.

As expected, the project has received little attention outside Disney news media and has been basically ignored by the urban planning community. This of course is not surprising since many Disney projects are often brushed off as a perverse form of “real” city planning and is not meant to be taken seriously. It is also not far from the truth to say modern-day urbanists have a strong distaste for the artificiality of “Disney-style planning”.

Whether planners agree with the aesthetics of Disney World, there is a strong possibility for the Skyliners to not only become preeminent case studies of how to integrate ropeways in transit networks but to hold valuable lessons for future ropeway planning.

We know this might sound a little far-fetched but let us explain.

Read more



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Disney Skyliner / Installations / Public Transit
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14
Jun

2018

Moscow’s Sparrow Hills / Luzhniki Stadium Cable Car to Open Soon

Sparrow Hills Cable Car travelling across Moskva River. Luzhniki Stadium, known as Russia’s national stadium, can be seen on the right. Screenshot from YouTube.

With the start of the 2018 World Cup today, it seems appropriate to take a sneak peek at an upcoming urban cable car which will soon connect passengers between one of the game’s central venues to one of Moscow’s most popular destinations.

The gondola system, known as the Sparrow Hills Cable Car (Russian: Канатная дорога на Воробьёвых горах) was originally scheduled to open before the start of the games but will not enter commercial service until the World Cup is over. This is unfortunate as Luzhniki Stadium will be hosting seven soccer matches, including the finals.

Nevertheless, once the system becomes operational, it will ease transport for visitors travelling between Luzhniki Stadium and Sparrow Hill. With the cable car, travel times between these two destinations will be reduced to five minutes — down from 15 minutes via car.

System undergoing the test phase in late May. Image by tjsuresh.

The 3-station gondola system is 737m in length and has been designed with a capacity of 1,600 pphpd (thirty five 8-passenger cabins). Luzhniki Stadium station is built as a two-storey terminal with ticketing facilities on the first floor and passenger boarding on the second floor. From this station, travellers head southwest to the Kosygina mid-station where they can one day rent sports equipment and visit a museum.

Finally, after another 300m ride, passengers will arrive at Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory). For those unfamiliar with Moscow, Sparrow Hill is one of the seven hills in the Russian capital and considered one of the city’s most scenic areas. Since the hill is 220m tall at its highest point, visitors will arrive at an observation platform with great views of the city. While the cable car is a seemingly new idea, the area was actually once connected by a chairlift which operated between 1953 to 2016.


The cable car will primarily serve a recreational function since it does not appear that the system will be fare-integrated with the city’s Troika transit card. However, reports suggest that the operator has the intention of one day integrating its payment system with Troika. Ticket prices are estimated at US$6-8 (400-500 rubles).

To enhance its appeal to visitors, the cable car will be designed with bike racks, have audio guides in multiple languages, and have two VIP cabins. Cabins will also be outfitted with LED lights to enhance aesthetics and passenger experience during night time operations.



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Installations / Sparrow Hills - Luzhniki Stadium Cable Car
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28
May

2018

Urban Ropeway Maintenance: Portland Aerial Tram


Not so dissimilar to any transit system or piece of machinery, urban ropeways require regular upkeep to ensure that operations remain trouble-free.

A cable transport line’s maintenance regime will depend on a number of factors which include items related to technology choice, equipment, regulations/codes, number of operating hours and much more. To put it into perspective, readers can think of a ropeway like a car — there are standard service intervals.

Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance procedures related to the inspection of grips, cabins, towers and stations are all typically timed and conducted during low passenger traffic periods to reduce impact on travellers.

This year, starting on June 23, the Portland Aerial Tram, will undergo track rope maintenance where the system will be closed for five weeks. The YouTube video provides a great overview of the servicing and maintenance program that’s been planned for the aerial tram.

The scheduled maintenance session will help ensure that the system can continue to transport 10,000 passengers per day and operate with a reliability level of 99.98%!



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Portland Aerial Tram
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06
Apr

2018

Green Gondolas: Energy Neutral, Solar Powered Aerial Ropeway

The new Staubern ropeway in Switzerland is built to be “energy neutral”. This means that the system is designed to generate all the energy it requires for daily operations internally and does not require any external power sources. Image from Berggasthaus Staubern.

As gondolas experience tremendous growth in the urban and recreational transport market, many decision-makers are now beginning to realize that ropeways are amongst the world’s most sustainable forms of transport.

For instance, not only are gondolas able to create direct environmental benefits by producing less carbon emissions per passenger kilometre than trams and buses (under the right conditions of course), their electrical power consumption systems can reduce the amount of point source pollutants that are released locally. In the case of the Mexicable, operators estimated that 5,800 cars were removed from neighbourhood roads while 17,400 tons of carbon emissions were eliminated.

While sustainable practices are almost always built into all cable car projects, the Staubern Ropeway (German: Bergbahn Staubern) is expected to take ecological stewardship to a whole new level.

The new modernized aerial tram, which takes users from the Rhein Valley to the Staubern Inn (located 1,800m above sea level), is supposed to be the first aerial ropeway in the world that can operate “independent of energy“. According to online articles, there are a few ways that the gondola can achieve this objective.

Daniel Lüchinger, the project proponent, was inspired to build a true “climate-neutral” gondola after a guest challenge him that his other gondola, the Frümsen-Staubern Ropeway, was not truly “energy netural” as it was powered by vegetable oil that was brought in by his car. Image from FM1Today.ch.

Technologically, the ropeway’s 51-kilowatt drive is powered by electric Tesla batteries which store solar energy. The top and bottom stations are outfitted with solar panels to capture as much power from the sun as possible.

Operationally, in terms of its passenger flows, the gondola is unlike many traditional sightseeing lifts where there is, by and large, an equal flow of passengers riding from the bottom station to the top station (and vice versa).

Rather, since many of the ropeway’s customers are hikers who trek up to the summit, these passengers simply ride the system from the top to the bottom. As such, due to the heavier descending cabin loads (compared to lighter ascending cabin loads), energy is actually generated during downhill operations, which in turn, is fed back to the electric batteries.


As surprising as this may sound, this isn’t the first time that a ropeway has been designed with solar energy in mind. Previously, the Swiss town of Tenna, built a tow lift that was powered entirely by sun power while the American resort town of Telluride implemented a major green retrofitting program for its public transit gondola.

The Staubern ropeway was entirely financed by local hotel operators who built the system without any subsidies. Their investment of US$5.2 million (5 million CHF) is designed to improve passenger service and comfort.

Compared to the old Frümsen – Staubern Ropeway (built 1979), the new gondola will be two times faster (7.0m/s vs 3.5m/s), more comfortable (two 8-person cabins versus one 6-person cabin), and will offer higher capacities (72 passengers per hour vs 18 passengers per hour).

To celebrate this momentous occasion, a slew of festivities are planned throughout this weekend as part of its inauguration. A total of 3,000 – 5,000 visitors from across the region are expected.

While this “energy neutral” cable lift model is only possible in unique circumstances, the laudable achievements of the Staubern Ropeway will hopefully inspire more action towards sustainable development practices.



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Design Considerations / Engineering / Infrastructure / Innovations / Installations / Staubern Ropeway
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