Oddities

09
May

2012

Google’s Self-Driving Car Approved For Use In Nevada

Here we go, folks . . .

A variety of media outlets are reporting that Google’s self-driving cars have been approved for use in the state of Nevada. This is the first-ever license issued under new state-specific legislation permitting the testing of autonomous automobiles. Under the legislation, all vehicles will be required to have at least two passengers inside the vehicles at a time.

In case people think this is just some isolated, Google-centric, pie-in-the-sky fantasy it’s worth noting that major manufacturers like BMW and Audi are pursuing similar products and General Motors has gone on record as predicting such a market shift by as early as the year 2020.

Regular readers of The Gondola Project know that we:

  • once conceptually outlined a scenario by which the vehicles may be deployed throughout the developed world and;
  • laid out ten strong reasons why the technology has the very real potential to destroy and/or radically alter the public transportation industry.

Does this mean Public Transit should start shopping around for a tombstone and casket? Not at all.

But it does mean Public Transit should start monitoring its cholesterol and getting to the gym a few times a week. You bet.

This fight is going to come sooner than expected and the Public Transit industry is completely ill-prepared for it. Public Transit advocates will point to developed transit cities like New York, Toronto and a revitalized Los Angeles as evidence to the contrary, but Google and the auto manufacturers would never be so stupid as to fight the battle in those cities.

Instead they’ll choose to fight the battle in largish American urban regions with high populations, extensive road infrastructure and little in the way of formalized public transit.

Places like Tampa Bay, San Diego and . . . Las Vegas, for example.



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11
Jan

2012

Gondola Fondue

In the past, we’ve seen that Gondola technology is extremely flexible.

It can adapt itself literally into anything, whether it be a Gondola Sauna, or a Gondola Music Concert, Cable Lifts have got you covered.

However, one can argue that public transit is pretty wacky in general – especially with the recently held 3rd annual No Pants Subway Ride. While I’ll admit that rail certainly encourages some cheeky behaviour, gondolas are undoubtedly the cheesiest of all.

Evidence you say? Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly introduce to you Vercorin, Switzerland’s fondue gondola. Enjoy!

PS: A big thank-you goes out to Damien for the link!

PS PS: Anyone know what they’re saying?



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02
Jan

2012

Should An Escalator Be Considered Public Transportation?

The Independencias I Connection Pathways, the world's first escalators for "Public Transport." Photo - AFP.

As we’ve argued before, Medellin is quickly becoming the poster child for multi-modal transit planning and the city’s latest public transit addition only solidifies that reputation.

Last week, the BBC reported (not to mention many, many others) that the city has opened a six-segment, 130m long system of escalators that rise 384m up into Comuna 13 – the same barrio served by Linea J of the Metrocable.

The escalator trims walking times for residents from up to 30 minutes down to 5 for the area’s 12,000 residents and was installed at a cost of approximately $7m. The system is free for all users.

I’d rather not wade into the chorus of people debating whether this is a good or bad development (and if you think there aren’t people virulently against this system, feel free to check here and here for examples of the ideologically-driven narrative against the escalators).

Instead, I’d like to focus on the system’s curious positioning specifically as public transport. As Medellin Mayor Alonso Salazar said during the system’s inauguration ceremony, “we used to see escalators in shopping malls, but Medellin will be the first to use it as public transport.”

Salazar’s comments are certainly arguable. There are no shortage of examples of outdoor escalators that aren’t considered “public transport.” So what then makes these specifically “public transport?”

My knee-jerk reaction is to say “well, of course, they’re public transport!” After all, they’re transporting members of the public in a way that improves the lives of area residents. But that might just be the emotionally-driven part of me reacting to the feel-good story this system inspires (and Mayor Salazar deftly exploits).

The flip side of the argument is this: Like roads, sidewalks and highways, the escalators are nothing more than pieces of outdoor mobility infrastructure that are usable by the general public without a specific fare or user fee. Furthermore, they’re presumably not operated or maintained by Metro de Medellin – the region’s transit agency.

So again: What makes them public transport? Are they public transport? I honestly don’t know and would love to hear your opinions.



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17
Nov

2011

Astrophysicist Proposes Solar-Powered Moon Gondola

Image via the American Natural Museum of History.

Here’s something we’ve never (and I do mean never) seen before:

The American Museum of Natural History is about to open an exhibition titled Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration. The exhibition was curated by astrophysicist Michael Shara and includes his proposal for a jaw-droppingly “simple” means of creating a permanent transit link between the moon to earth.

Why do we here at The Gondola Project care? Obviously because his concept involves a 26,500 mile long cable and a gondola.

Are you as confused and intrigued as we are? Stupid question. Of course you are.

Here’s AMNH News’ exceedingly excellent plain-language description of this amazingly bizarre concept:

Rendering of a proposed solar-powered moon gondola. Image via AMNH News.

“The principle of a lunar elevator is elegant and simple. Any object—let’s say a space station—placed along a line joining the centers of the Moon and the Earth, and more than one-ninth the distance from the Moon to the Earth, will fall toward Earth.

“That’s because Earth is 81 times as massive as the Moon, so its gravitational pull exceeds that of the Moon as soon as you travel more than 26,500 miles toward Earth from the Moon. If you attach a cable from the lunar surface to the space station, the station is tethered: it “wants” to fall toward Earth because of Earth’s dominant gravity, but it can’t because it’s held in place by the cable. Voilà: you’ve just built lunar-Jack’s beanstalk pointing up to Earth from the lunar equator. Now imagine extending the cable 238,000 miles, to just above the Earth’s atmosphere. Attach gripping, rotating wheels to the mechanical arm of a solar-powered gondola connected to the cable, and you have a rocket-free way of transporting anything and anybody between the Earth and the Moon’s surface.”

The saddest part? None of us will be alive to ever ride it. Which is a shame because I want to ride that thing now.



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08
Nov

2011

Children’s Playground on Commuter Train


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A children's playground located within the upper floors of one of Swtizerland's commuter rail lines. Image by Steven Dale.

What you’re looking at above is a children’s playground located in a Swiss train. I came across this purely by accident yesterday so I have little to no information about what can only be described as every child’s public transit fantasy wonderland.

We’re assuming this is a relatively new development, but have no confirmation of the fact.

If any of The Gondola Project’s large number of German-speaking readers has any details on this (or knows where to get details), please post any information you have in the comments section.

Of particular note, we’d like to know the following:

  • Is this a new program?
  • Is it a pilot program?
  • What was the impetus behind the idea?
  • Has it proven useful?
  • What’s the public’s reaction to it?
  • Is it as amazing as we hope it is?


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05
Sep

2011

Newspaper “Boxes” In Vienna

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Image by Steven Dale.

Now here’s something I’ve never seen before.

Apparently Vienna’s newspaper industry is made up of incredibly trusting folk. In theAustrian capital on-street newspaper boxes are nothing more than open plastic bags strapped to lampposts.

Readers are asked to insert their payment into a padlocked black bank. On the banks one often finds a message thanking readers for their honesty.

I have no doubt this system works or else these low-tech vending machines wouldn’t be so ubiquitous throughout the city.

The question I have is this: How do they work? Are people really that honest?



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12
Aug

2011

FORUM FRIDAYS: Gondolas to the Moon?

This week on the Gondola Project forum, in response to last week’s post about the future of aerial transit, there was a video response with the Jetson’s theme song displaying the idea of personalized flying mobiles. This got me thinking about both science fiction and outer space (since everything in that show appears to be hoovering in the air). Logically this brought me to contemplating a space gondola with rotating stations and carbon nanotube cables (how else?!).

 

Possible? Likely? A transit line worthwhile?

This discussion to continue on the forum in 3… 2… 1… [click]


 

 

 



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