Poços de Caldas Teleférico

05
May

2017

Special Gondola Design: Cantilevered Towers

Cantilevered tower design maximizes use of airspace above existing roads. Image from Google Streetview.

Thanks to our readers and the internet, documenting unique designs for Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems are now easier than ever before. Notable examples that immediately come to mind include the Finnish Sauna Gondola, the Singaporean Skyscraper Station and the Chinese Arching Roadway Tower.

Unfortunately, it seems that lax record keeping in the industry has meant that many unique ropeway designs created in the past have been largely lost and/or just simply forgotten.

Most recently, reader Conrad W (re)discovered and shared with us a fascinating cantilevered tower design on the Poços de Caldas Teleférico in Brazil. Having reviewed countless urban gondola proposals in the past, we know that this tower design has been theoretically discussed but this is the first instance where we’ve seen its implementation in real life — and it is for this exact reason why this discovery is exciting.

Tower designs examined for the San Diego Bay to Balboa Park Skyway. Screenshot from Feasibility Report.

For those working in the city-building industry, theoretical design solutions are great for sparking lively conversations but unfortunately, most cities are incredibly risk-averse when it comes to adopting new forms of infrastructure. Having real world examples allows project proponents to demonstrate that a design is tested and proven.

For urban planners and designers, this ingenious tower style provides one major advantage: it enables a cable car to follow the under-utilized airspace along an existing right of way — without the need to remove/impact road space. In an urban transport project, this advantage cannot be underestimated as many rapid transit proposals face immense backlash due to the need to take away lanes from motorists.

However, if vehicular lanes and capacity are maintained with the strategic use of cantilevered towers, the concerns of motorists can be mitigated.  Furthermore, in cities where the cost of land is high and the desire to maintain vehicular capacity is strong, this design solution could significantly increase a project’s financial and social feasibility.

While the tower design is fascinating, it should be noted that these towers are designed for a relatively old ropeway system. According to data online, the 1.5km gondola was built in 1974 and only carries 6,000 persons per month. As such, transferability from a cost and technical perspective to modern ropeway specifications is still relatively unknown at this time since no urban gondola (that we know of) is currently built with cantilevered towers.

What we do know now is that thanks to the Poços de Caldas Teleférico, there is precedence for this unique cantilevered tower solution in an urban environment.

All that’s required now is the right set of circumstances for implementation. Luckily, from the hundreds of active cable car proposals, it probably isn’t too difficult to find a city who wants to build additional transport capacity along an existing thoroughfare without removing car lanes.

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