Media & Blogs

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.

Education / History / Media & Blogs / Research & Development / Thoughts
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17
Feb

2016

No, We Are Not Cable Car Evangelists

So apparently as of today I’m an evangelist.

Hallelujah.

According to a recent article in the Hamilton Spectator I am now both a “cable car evangelist” and a “North American evangelist for gondola systems.”

A little over the top, no? And categorically untrue.

The thing about evangelists is that they seek to establish their faith (whether religious or technological) as the de facto standard within a market or society. By definition, the establishment of that standard through evangelism is necessarily to the exclusion of all others.

We’ve never done that. We educate people about gondolas, we speak to people about gondolas but we never do so with the idea or intention that they are somehow superior to other forms of transportation. We’ve never once said that gondolas are the best tool, simply that they are a tool.

Do I think cable cars and gondolas are useful as public transportation? Yup.

Do I think more city planners and transit engineers should be looking at the technology to solve certain transit problems? Most certainly.

Do I think it’s important to open our minds to the possibilities that cable cars hold for our cities? Guilty as charged.

Do I think cable cars and gondolas are better than all other transportation technologies and should be the de facto standard for all public transport systems? Not on your life.

In fact, I’ve gone on record numerous times stating where gondolas are not appropriate and superior to other technologies. 

For example:

On September 7th, 2010 I wrote — “One thing we’ve tried to do with The Gondola Project is get above the knee-jerk, reactionary mode-choice debate. LRT’s great when implemented in the right way, poor when implemented the wrong way. Ditto for BRT. Same for Urban Gondolas and CPT. Again, it’s about multi-modality and options. We believe transit planning isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s about matching the right tool to the right task at the right price.”

On July 11th, 2011 I defined the term “Transit Techno-Zealotry” as “The practice of insisting upon a singular public transit technology to the exclusion of all others with no strong justifiable reason . . .  a rejection of multi-modality in public transportation.”

And on March 12th, 2012 I further wrote — “We’ve a demonstrated understanding of public transit and its various permutations. We’re not hostile to other modes. We don’t claim gondolas to be superior to all other forms. We aren’t violent, rebellious or aggressive. At the end of the day, all we say is that gondolas are a transit tool – nothing more.”

This site is lousy with commentary like those above.

Just because you have expertise in something and choose to share it with people doesn’t make you a evangelist. It makes you someone who has expertise in something and chooses to share it, nothing moreWhether or not you choose to evangelize on behalf of your speciality is your business. We’re not going to be techno-zealots. Despite what the Hamilton Spectator says, we’ve chosen not to evangelize.

We’re not cable car evangelists, we’re simply urban planners who happen to know more about cable cars than almost anyone else in the city-building business.

I’m proud—deeply, profoundly proud—of the work we do here and the fact that we don’t advocate for one technology over the other. Yes, we educate people about cable cars but we’ve never said they’re better than other technologies.

Call me a cable car advocate, specialist, researcher or whatever . . . But an evangelist?

No where on this site will you find evidence of that.

Media & Blogs
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01
Jul

2015

Gulmarg Ticket Scam: An Expensive and Cautionary Lesson

Gulmarg Gondola. Image from Wikipedia.

A huge system of rip-offs was recently exposed in the Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation. This sophisticated and carefully organized scam sold cheaper, fake tickets to the public for the Gulmarg Gondola, one of Asia’s most scenic cable cars. The tickets looked so genuine that, according to the news story, management believes the scam could only have been an insider job. Authorities believe the fraud has been going on for a long time.

The scam was revealed when passengers were overheard speaking of cheaper but identical looking tickets. When their tickets were scanned for authenticity, it was only their bar codes that proved false and gave them away.

The entire affair is an expensive and painful lesson for the corporation and its shareholders. Gondola systems provide inexpensive infrastructure, but builders should not skimp on any necessary elements.

Had they used the cable car industry’s leading ticketing control systems, this scam would have been far harder to execute. We’ve always believed that it’s worth the investment to do things right. Paying for quality at the start means fewer hiccups later on. As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” And in this case, they truly paid for what they got.

05
Jan

2015

New Year, New Gondola Project

The Rheine and The Moselle

Back in November, the Gondola Project celebrated its fifth anniversary (!) by expanding its staff to include an Editor-in-Chief — namely, me

Over the course of its 1,892-day existence (so far), the creators of this site have been working tirelessly to provide readers with an informed yet accessible overview of all the cable-propelled transit developments around the world, and to educate people about every aspect of this particular technology while also introducing them to a wide range of other under-the-radar urban planning and alternative transit ideas.  

Going forward, we’ll be increasing the frequency of posts and looking to include a number of new voices, as well as refining our approach to the cable car primer section. The goal here is to create an engaging and informative entry point for cable transit news and views, while developing a comprehensive guide to the most important systems in the world and the technologies that make them work. 

I’ll be overseeing the site’s evolution, bringing nearly a decade of journalism and magazine editing experience (city/culture editor and infographic creator at The Grid, staff writer at Eye Weekly, freelance writer for Spacing, Report in Business, Exclaim!, etc.) to the table in order to enhance the overall look and feel of the Gondola Project.

Stay tuned for lots of exciting developments. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CUPprojects and look for us on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest (coming soon). 

09
Dec

2014

5 breathtaking gondola rides that should have made the Daily Mail’s list

Stanserhorn CabriO in Switzerland. Image courtesy of CabriO.

Stanserhorn CabriO in Switzerland. Image courtesy of CabriO.

Back in October, the Daily Mail posted their list of the most breathtaking gondola rides in the world. The inventory of cable car systems, which included Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Teleferico de Merida in Venezuela, and the rotating Palm Springs Aerial Tramway in California, is impressive, if a little bit obvious. So we rounded up five more gondolas that offer uniquely breathtaking rides. 

Stanserhorn CabriO (Switzerland)

Opened in 2012 as an updated alternative to the 120-year-old rail funicular, the CabriO cable car provides access to the top of Mount Stanserhorn in the centre of Switzerland. Beyond the thrill of ascending the mountain along 2,320 metres of cable, riders can venture into the open air to check out the scenery on the gondola’s second deck. (Pictured above.)

Peak 2 Peak (Whistler, Canada)

Ostensibly created to service the ski resorts at the tops of Whistler-Blackcomb’s two major mountains, Peak 2 Peak has gained considerable recognition for its record-breaking innovation. The almost entirely horizontal system stretches from Whistler Mountain’s Roundhouse Lodge to Blackcomb Mountain’s Rendezvous restaurant across 4.4 km of cable, more than 3 km of which is a free span — the longest in the world. At the time, its highest point (436 metres) held the world record for highest cable car. Discovery Channel even made a documentary about the construction of the system.

Peak 2 Peak in Whistler, BC. Image by Flickr user Dan Dan The Binary Man.

Peak 2 Peak in Whistler, BC. Image by Flickr user Dan Dan The Binary Man.

Roosevelt Island Tram (New York)

While not breathtaking in the natural majesty sense of the word, New York’s refurbished Roosevelt Island Tram nonetheless offers riders an impressive view of Manhattan, not to mention the waterfront skyline along the Hudson River’s east channel. Plus, this is the only CPT line to feature in a Spider-Man movie. 

Roosevelt Island tram. Image by Flickr user Chevar.

Roosevelt Island tram. Image by Flickr user Chevar.

Koblenz Rheinseilbahn (Germany)

The cable car system that services Koblenz was constructed specifically for the city’s turn playing host to Germany’s bi-annual Bundesgartenshau horticulture festival in 2011. Using advanced 3S technology, the gondola carries riders directly from downtown Koblenz to the area near the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress across the Rhine river — a trek otherwise requiring a roundabout surface route and a funicular.

Image by Flickr user Mundus Gregorius.

Koblenz Rheinseilbahn. Image by Flickr user Mundus Gregorius.

Mi Teleferico Red Line (La Paz, Bolivia)

The first of the three lines that make up the urban cable car system in Bolivia’s capital, Mi Teleferico’s Red Line opened in May of this year to the relief of the city’s gridlocked commuters. Aside from providing a convenient alternative to the traffic-clogged driving routes (the Red Line traverses its 2.4 km in around 10 minutes), the journey gives commuters a stunning view of the Andes and a look at the surrounding metropolis from nearly 500 metres up. 

Mi Teleferico's Linea Roja. Image by TheGamerJediPro (Wiki Commons).

Mi Teleferico’s Linea Roja. Image by TheGamerJediPro (Wiki Commons).

Just For Fun / Media & Blogs / Thoughts
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26
Jun

2013

Assessing User Experience on Urban Cable Cars via Social Networking (Yelp, Tripadvisor)

For many of us, we use social media and online review sites to make everyday life decisions. Websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor can be great resources that help indecisive people, like myself, decide whether or not a restaurant deserves my Friday night patronage.

My personal experiences with crowd-sourcing websites has generally been quite positive — more often than not, a quick scan of reviews can paint a fairly accurate picture of the business.

And since we’re a transit blog built on fun and inquisitiveness, I decided to carry this notion to the world of Cable Propelled Transit. So a few days back, I asked myself: can we use social networking to assess the general receptiveness and desirability of urban cable cars?

Reviews of RIT on Yelp. Screenshot from Yelp.

Reviews of RIT on Yelp. Screenshot from Yelp.

My hypothesis, if you can call it that, is: if these systems are undesirable (i.e. unattractive, a rip-off, poorly designed etc.) in a city, as many detractors claim, surely this will be revealed in crowd-sourcing websites such as Yelp.

While the initial thought of compiling and analyzing user experience data from these websites sounds outright featherbrained, it occurred to me that the findings/implications might actually be the complete opposite. As regular viewers of Kitchen Nightmares know, online reviews can sometimes make or break a business (I won’t post the link here, but if you must know what I’m referring to, search Amy’s Baking Company).

So for my little back-of-the-envelope analysis, I decided to look at the a handful of city-oriented cable cars from across the globe which had reviews, namely: Portland Aerial Tram, Roosevelt Island Tram, Teleférico Madrid, Téléphérique de Grenoble Bastille, Singapore Cable Car, and the Emirates Air Line.

6 urban cable cars reviewed.

Six urban cable cars reviewed – Portland Aerial Tram, Roosevelt Island Tram, Teleferico Madrid, Téléphérique de Grenoble Bastille, Singapore Cable Car and Emirates Air Line. Images from Flickr – Creative Commons Commercial.

Before I began my research, I expected to find a mixed of reviews, both positive and negative. However, what I found was quite surprising — the average overall rating (out of 5) was 4.25 where the lowest was 4 and highest was 5. If you carefully read the reviews, there are very few 1 or 2 star ratings, with the majority of responses being praiseworthy. I quickly noticed that several common themes were emerging — most of which revolved around aerial views, price, and ride quality. A lot of the remarks are quite funny and appear indicative of the general issues surrounding a particular system. For example, my favourite one is from London’s Yelper Tom E. who had this to say about the Emirates Air Line:

Tom E's take on the Emirates Air Line. Screenshot from Yelp.com

I say that’s a fairly accurate assessment. Screenshot from Yelp.

 

Of course by this time, some of you are probably thinking, crowdsourcing reviews are inaccurate and can’t be trusted. While this is true in certain cases, I can’t honestly fathom why a user would take time out of his/her schedule to give a cable car system a fake review.

For the conspiracists out there, could a cable car operator potentially hire people to provide false accounts? Possible, but unlikely. Given the aggregate nature of Yelp where thousands of users write unfiltered reviews, it is likely that if a system is “problematic” in any way, shape or form, the amount of real reviews would counteract the fake ones. Also, I think most individuals are smart enough to weed out the garbage reviews.

So what does this little analysis mean for urban cable cars? My initial feeling is that online evidence reveals that user experience on the CPT system surveyed thus far are overwhelmingly positive. Even in situations where the initial system planning and design was controversial, once these lines become operational, most of these issues are forgotten.

Perhaps due partly to the novelty/rarity of these transit systems and the general “fun factor” of cable cars, CPT lines really do a great job in uplifting people’s spirits while offering them the opportunity to experience their city in a totally different manner.

 

In the future, for a more accurate and detailed assessment, it would be interesting to examine quality of the reviewers, analyze if opinions change over time, expand the sample size and analyze reviews from other websites like TripAdvisor. 

Analysis / Media & Blogs
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19
Feb

2013

Skyscraper 2050 – With Cable Cars

This vision of what a skyscraper in 2050 might look like comes from the well-known architectural firm, Arup.

Notice anything interesting . . ?

Image via ARS Technica.

Read the full story (including a sizeable commentary on cable cars and gondolas) here.

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