Portland Aerial Tram

22
Oct

2010

The 7 Most Important Aerial Cable Systems In The World (For Various Reasons)

Others might disagree with my selection, but if you’re new to the world of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) and Urban Gondolas, these are the 7 aerial systems you need to know about:

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07
Jun

2010

Portland Tram Gets Mid-Air Maintenance

Oregon’s Daily Journal of Commerce has an utterly fascinating and informative article here about the replacement of the Portland Aerial Tram’s haul rope. The team that conducted the rope replacement did so in mid air on an aerial staircase known as a splicing bridge. They’ve even got a picture of it.

It’s a great read. Thanks so much to Katharina for giving me the heads up!



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Media & Blogs / Portland Aerial Tram / Uncategorized
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26
Apr

2010

6 Iconic (and Important) Aerial Trams

The other day I was pretty hard on Aerial Trams for being obsolete, expensive and inefficient members of the cable transit family. Because of their place in history, however, many of the most iconic and important cable transit systems ever built were Aerial Trams, a point I failed to mention. Here are 6 of them:

6. The Vanoise Express

The Vanoise Express in France. Image by hchalkley at flickr.

One of the world’s only double-decker Aerial Trams, this Dual Shuttle system in France can carry a whopping 200 people in each cabin! Opened in 2003, the system was shut down in 2007 for repairs after a vehicle operator failed to slow the vehicle down upon entering the station. The accident caused no injuries and the system was reopened the following season. Read more



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24
Apr

2010

Aerial Technologies, Lesson 5: Aerial Trams

The Portland Aerial Tram. Image by functoruser at flickr.

Aerial Trams are the granddaddies of cable transit. They’re big, they’re aggressive and what they do, they do really well. Problem is, they can’t do much. They’re a completely antiquated technology due to their lack of detachability.

Like BDG or 3S systems, Aerial Trams use one or two stationary ropes for support while a second or third moving rope provides the propulsion. But unlike BDG and 3S systems the Aerial Tram’s grip is fixed and cannot be decoupled from the propulsion rope during operations. This means that corners are all but impossible in an Aerial Tram configuration and intermediary stations are limited to single mid-points along the line. These mid-stations are incredibly rare. Read more



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15
Nov

2009

Not Over My Back Yard

Here’s an example of how not to implement Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT) in an urban area.

The Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) desired a direct connection between their two campuses in Portland, Oregon; one at the bottom of a mountain, another at the top. A CPT system was a logical choice. I won’t discuss what I see as a poor decision regarding the technology chosen (you can find that here), instead I wish to comment upon the route alignment.

Much to the consternation of local residents, the planners, civil engineers and politicians decided that the most logical route alignment for the Tram was overtop of a neighborhood en route to the campus. Planners failed to notice that while such alignments had worked in other locations, those locations did not fly overtop of people’s backyards.

View From The Portland Aerial Tram

View From The Portland Aerial Tram

If every there was a justifiable (and practically literal) case of NIMBYism, this was one.

Flying overtop of someone’s backyard is an invasion of someone’s private space and that presumed right to privacy is deeply ingrained in the North American psyche.  Before Portland, CPT had typically be installed overtop of low-rise apartment neighborhoods without backyards.  The two situations just weren’t equivalents.

Not surprisingly, the public did not react well.  One resident went so far as to protest in the following way:

Simple, yes.  Effective?  Also, yes.

Simple? Yes. Effective? Also, yes.

Listen, I’m a strong advocate of CPT, but I am in complete and 100% agreement with the owner of the above house. I also think his tactic is a fantastic example of using Portals of Entry to one’s advantage.

The beauty of CPT is that if aligned properly, it needn’t impose itself upon the urban or natural environment. Designers, engineers, planners and politicians ignored that fact and now they all have a black eye which will live on in perpetuity.

Sometimes HOW? and the WHERE? a technology is used is equally (if not more) important than WHAT? technology is used.

Creative Commons images by William Beutler and Misserion



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02
Nov

2009

No City Wants To Be First . . .

but every city wants to be second.

The competitive drive to be number one just doesn’t seem to permeate City Hall and that’s understandable.  Infrastructure is terribly expensive and no politician or planner wants to embarrass themselves by green-lighting a future white elephant.

Cities are therefore remarkably conservative when it comes to infrastructure.  Cities tend only to adopt ideas and technologies that have already been proven in other locations, but sometimes even that strategy backfires:

The Portland Aerial Tram was the only Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT) system to be built for public transit purposes in North America since New York’s Roosevelt Island Tram was built in 1976.

Portland Aerial Tram

Portland Aerial Tram

Unfortunately, the Portland Tram’s planners took all their cues from New York and decided on using aerial tram technology; the most expensive of cable technologies and the one with the least upside.

Roosevelt Island Tram

Roosevelt Island Tram

There were several other cable technologies Portland could have and should have considered, but didn’t.  Instead of being inquisitive, Portland simply did what New York did, seemingly unaware that New York’s choice of technology was due in part to the limited options the cable technology offered way back in 1976.

Playing Follow the Leader is fine when you’re in kindergarten, but when you’re all grown up you have to ask questions.  Hard ones.  And when you find answers, extrapolate from them and apply them to your own unique situation.

Images by William Beutler and CUP Projects



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