Media & Blogs



Toronto Star Profiles Toronto’s “Only Cable-Propelled Transit”

Image via Toronto Star.

Yesterday, the Toronto Star profiled Toronto’s “only cable-propelled transit” system – Pearson Airport’s Link APM cable car connector.

It’s a good article and worth taking a look at, especially as they discuss how an upcoming rail connection to downtown Toronto will integrate with the existing system. Apparently the rail line will arrive “on a rail spur that runs right down the middle of the two LINK guideways.”

(One caveat though: As per the image above, the arm that connects the cars to the cable is not a bogie, it’s called the grip. The bogie is the wheeled carriage the vehicles travel on.)

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Over The Top: The Gondola Project in The National Post

On Saturday one of Canada’s two national newspapers, The National Post, printed and posted an article by reporter Tristin Hopper. The article, entitled Over the top: Transit planners look to gondolas to put an end to urban gridlock, is a refreshingly exhaustive look at the technology and how we got to where we are now.

You can read it by clicking on the title above or clicking here.

Of late I’ve become hesitant of press due to a general lack of thoroughness on their part when it comes to the technology, yet Mr. Hopper’s piece is well worth the read – and I’m not just saying that because The Gondola Project is prominently (and I’d also say positively) featured in it. I say it because it’s a well-researchered, well-written and articulate feature.

Most interestingly, gondolas are really only one half of the story. Mr. Hopper goes beyond the mere capabilities of the technology and delves into the complexity of how one communicates a ridiculous idea to the world without it coming off as stupid.

Again: Well worth the read (and the comments are strangely positive).



The Gondola Project Profiled In The Toronto Star (Again)

Yesterday The Gondola Project was featured in The Toronto Star in a piece called Looking to the skies for answers: A second look at gondola transit. It was, for all intents and purposes, a follow-up piece to their story from 2 years ago about the work we’ve been doing around these parts (which landed on the front page of the paper, above the fold).

The basic gist of the article is to demonstrate the progress the technology has made over the last 2 years, and to question why Toronto – with it’s rather unique urban topography of ravines and valleys – has yet to explore the possibilities, which is odd given the degree of attention the technology has received from other Canadian municipalities.

Toronto's "network" of ravines and valleys (in green) demonstrate that while the city is commonly thought to be flat, it is anything but - hence providing a topographical opportunity to implement gondola technology. Image via the City of Toronto.

The article’s conclusion is not unlike Nick Chu’s post from a couple of weeks ago that argues the reason cities like Laval (Montreal), Calgary and Burnaby (Vancouver) are more positive on the technology than Toronto is due to their proximity to world class alpine ski resorts.

It’s an opinion I certainly share but am hesitant to believe that to be the sole factor. At the same time, I’m not entirely sure what other factors may be coming in to play.

So as a great deal of our readership comes from good old Hogtown (Toronto), let’s throw the question out there: Why is Toronto reluctant to look at cable transit? Is it merely a question of not having used the systems at world class ski hills? Or is there something else that needs to be considered?

I’d certainly love to know because as we’ve pointed out before, Toronto would be a perfect fit for the technology.



Urban Gondola Transit in Toronto?

Dear Toronto:

You might have heard today on CBC’s Metro Morning an interview with myself, Steven Dale, the Founder of The Gondola Project and Founding Principal at Creative Urban Projects.

Typically, such press causes The Gondola Project to experience a rather large surge in traffic from whatever given geographic region is discussing the idea. As such: Welcome to the conversation.

The Gondola Project is an ongoing participatory planning project to help explain and spread the idea of Urban Gondolas and Cable Propelled Transit throughout the world. It is meant to be accessible, user-friendly and informative.

As most of today’s new readers have probably never contemplated the idea of using what is – let’s be honest – ski lift technology as mass public transit, don’t worry – at first it was totally ridiculous to us as well! We get that the idea is foreign, bizarre and strange.

But after exploring The Gondola Project we hope you’ll see that it’s not so strange and bizarre a notion after all. Feel free to comment, ask questions and generally engage us on the topic – that’s what we’re here for. And if you’re interested, take a look at our concept for an Urban Gondola in Toronto.

And please be rest-assured, The Gondola Project doesn’t suggest cable transit, cable cars or urban gondolas are the solution to our collective public transit woes.

Our cities are increasingly complex entities and the more tools we have to tackle coming challenges, the better. We’re not here to say gondolas are the best tool to the exclusion of all others, but we are here to say gondolas are a viable, valuable tool worth exploring.


– Steven Dale

PS: We’re currently working on site updates, so if there are a couple of things that aren’t working, please give it a day or two.

PPS: A good place to start with The Gondola Project is in our ABOUT section and our LEARN ABOUT CABLE TRANSIT sections (accessible through our the header bar above).

PPPS: To save you the hassle of wading through months of old blog posts, we’ve also hand-selected a group of older posts to get you up-and-running:

In order to broaden the scope of the site more, we will often discuss issues peripherally-related to public transit and urban gondolas. To get a feel for those kinds of discussions, we’ve hand-selected a group of older posts that should give you a reasonable understanding of The Gondola Project’s worldview:

  • Forcing Functions – Humans make mistakes constantly. Forcing Functions help prevent those mistakes. What forcing functions do we need to see in transit to make it better for everyone?
  • A Minute Is Not A Minute – Are our transit models undermined by the fact that people perceive time in very different ways?
  • Inflexible Inventory – Everyone wants to travel at the same time in the same direction. Can that problem be solved?
  • Never Mind The Real World – Do our planning models sufficiently take into consideration that which actually occurs in the world, rather than what we hope will occur?
  • Our Outsourced RailsDo North Americans really deserve all the credit for the massive rail projects they’ve built in the past?
  • The Ten Day Traffic Jam – If the Chinese are more willing to sit in a 10 day traffic jam than ride transit, what does that tell us?
  • Canadian Prosciutto – If you don’t believe something to exist, does that mean it doesn’t?


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Win Some, Lose Some: Media Response To Urban Gondolas In Calgary

Considering how nascent the idea of urban gondola transit in Calgary is, it’s incredible to see how the media has pounced on it – and in some situations gotten the story completely wrong.

More than likely, the media attention has been little more than a light-hearted distraction from the more serious business of Canada’s Federal election and the death of Osama Bin Laden, both of which having dominated Canadian news for the last few days.

But whether the interest is genuine, or just a time-filler, it’s important for the media to report responsibly and accurately on the story. And – as always when dealing with responsible reporting in the media – you win some and you lose some.

First the good. Check out Bindu Suri’s report with Global News Calgary:


This is a responsible report. It doesn’t pass judgement, gets the facts right, remains fairly objective and lays out the particulars:

  • It’s an idea other cities have successfully implemented.
  • The idea is in the early stages.
  • Images of systems comparable to what’s being discussed in Calgary (such as Medellin and Koblenz) are given.
  • A brief mention of the fact that Aerial Trams are different than gondolas.

Now let’s contrast Ms. Suri’s report with that of Kevin Rich’s at CTV Calgary. (Unfortunately, CTV does not allow their videos to be embedded on outside sites, as such, you’ll have to click through to view the report.)

  • The idea is referred to as a “gondola balloon.”
  • It’s reported that myself, Steven Dale, is the initiator of the project – which is completely and utterly incorrect. I’ve given a few talks on the subject in Calgary, but that’s about the extent of it. It’s remarkable that Kevin Rich gets this aspect of the story so wrong, considering he interviewed me for the story last night.
  • The report confuses Aerial Trams with Gondolas – witness the very first image of the Roosevelt Island Tram while the reporter says “they’re called urban gondolas.” Also strange, considering I made the distinction perfectly clear during my conversation with Kevin Rich during our interview.
  • Rather than having images of actual urban gondolas throughout the world, the report relies on conceptual images of funitels and out-dated and laughably inaccurate images of the Aerobus. (Note: the image is so out-dated, I can’t even figure out where they got the image from). This implants an idea about the topic in the viewers head that is completely counter to the idea in play.
  • And lastly: While it’s important to have a differing opinion on the topic, urban planner Bryan Romanesky’s concern about the system being too static and a lack of ability to “move it somewhere else” is completely off-base for two reasons: Firstly, with the exception of buses all transit is basically static and unmovable. And secondly, as we’ve seen with the gondola systems in Rostock and Munich, gondolas can be relocated to other places.

Nothing wrong with healthy, dissenting and skeptical debate about any and all ideas. It’s important, however, that the media provides enough accurate information to allow those debates to occur.



Market Street Film Mystery Unravelled

Back in January I posted an historical archive film of the San Francisco Cable Cars.

The film is historically important for numerous reasons, not the least of which being its date. Filmed mere days before the Great Earthquake of 1906, this video stands as one of the most vivid documentations of San Francisco before the quake that would utterly transform the city.

Interestingly, most historians had assumed the video to be from 1905. Film historian David Keihn, however, thought otherwise. He theorized the film to be from a later date and went about to prove it.

This past weekend, 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer went behind the scenes of this film to meet David Keihn and uncover the history, mystery, stories and personalities behind it. The story has an almost whodunnit quality to it that will keep you interested to the end.

The Market Street Film is hauntingly surreal. It stands as a silent eulogy to a place all but destroyed which  – quite literally – no longer exists. As Mr. Safer so eloquently puts it, the film documents “San Francisco closing in on its rendezvous with catastrophe. The odds are, some of the people you see had just days to live.

It’s wonderful, charming and beautiful. It will make you stop and contemplate. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but it will. Take the 12-and-a-half minutes required to watch it. You’ll be glad you did.

As an added bonus, a whole new, never-before-seen HD remastering of the film is presented.



Urban Gondolas Bound Over The Competition

This week I was interviewed by the awesomely-named Chikodi Chima of the transit site start-up AltTransport.

Check out the results: Urban Gondolas Bound Over The Competition.

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