Proposals & Concepts



Lake Zurich Gondola Releases Final Designs, Hopes to Open by 2020

Lake Zurich Gondola estimated to transport up to 4,300 passengers during busy weekends. Image by Zurcher Kantonalbank.

After over a year of planning and deliberation, the final designs for the Lake Zurich Gondola (ZüriBahn) has been released by the Zurich Cantonal Bank (ZKB).

The 1.3km urban gondola, envisioned as the keystone of the bank’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2020, will be built with state-of-the-art 3S technology with eighteen 24-person cabins. Due to the technical capabilities of tricable systems, tree removals were avoided as the gondolas can easily cross the lake with just two towers (78m and 88m in height).

If completed on schedule by June 2020, the US$40-60 million system will take guests on an 11-minute aerial journey between Blatterwiese Park and Mythenquai Beach. The system will build on the legacy of two former Lake Zurich gondolas which were constructed in 1939 and 1959.

Despite precedence having been set over 50 years ago, this hasn’t stopped present-day opponents from voicing their concerns regarding increased traffic and noise. To overcome these challenges, the project proponents spared no effort towards creating a truly spectacular piece of sustainable infrastructure.

Terminals have been designed with sustainable and recyclable materials whenever possible. Image by Zurcher Kantonalbank.

Aesthetically speaking, the cable car stations have been designed to blend into the surrounding environment. The exterior panelling of the terminals are wrapped with a recyclable film, helping create a lightweight appearance while achieving sustainability objectives. Similarly, to create one-of-a-kind experience, it appears that the system will use customized cabins. The cabins have fully-glazed panoramic windows which provide riders with uninterrupted views of the city and the Alps.

Custom cabins. Image by Zurcher Kantonalbank.

From an environmental perspective, the construction of the cable car’s tower foundations will employ a specialized drilling technique known as the KIDRILL. Unlike standard drilling methods which forcefully pound piles into the subsurface, the KIDRILL will carefully screw piles into the subsoil — thereby, resulting in lower noise, vibration and overall impact to the sensitive lakebed. This new technique was necessary to ensure that the erection of the in-water towers do not negatively affect the legally protected riparian zone.

Rendering depicting how tower piles will be screwed into the lakebed. Image by Zurcher Kantonalbank.

Lastly, from an operational and administrative angle, the cable car has designed a fare structure that incentivizes public transit users. Riders transferring from SBB Railways will receive a 30% discount off the standard US$14 adult fare. The proposal has been greenlighted by authorities from the city and cantonal level and is now undergoing an approvals process with the Federal Office of Transport. Permits to begin construction should be ready by next summer.

As urban ropeway technology has exploded around the world, proponents and officials hope that the Lake Zurich Gondola can inspire other cities in the region to rethink city transport solutions.

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Famous Architect Doesn’t Know About World Heritage Cable Cars

Western Wall Cable Car. Image from ynetnews.

Israeli-Canadian architect, Moshe Safdie, apparently hates cable cars — especially the one that’s currently being planned for the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Since its inception a few years back, the controversial project has faced several hurdles, including the withdrawal of a French construction company due to political sensitivities. Some commentators have noticed a “cable car revival” in Israel as the Jerusalem project is one of five active proposals in the country.

Online sources suggests the system will travel 1.4km and provide connectivity to four sites which includes Emek Refaim Train Station, Dung Gate, Mount of Olives and Gethsemane. The gondola is conceptualized to solve congestion problems in a hilly area with a weekly visitation of about 130,000 persons.

Western Wall Cable Car. Image from ynetnews.

While we won’t deny the sociocultural challenges with this project, some of the statements released by Moshe Safdie on cable transit systems appear to be completely incorrect. The architect is quoted as saying, “As far as I know, and I’ve researched the topic, there is no other historical city in the world that allowed a cable car to be built within the visual core of its historical heritage.”

It is a little baffling to read this remark because a quick google search of the words “world heritage cable cars” will immediately reveal 37 aerial ropeways built in culturally sensitive UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In the defense of Safdie however, there could be some nuance to his statement as it is uncertain how he defined “a cable car built within the visual core of its historical heritage”.

If we assume he’s referring to just cable cars built in cities with historical heritage, many of the 37 world heritage cable cars would by and large be eliminated. But nevertheless, even with a more stringent interpretation of an “heritage urban gondola”, several ropeways (described below) would still fall under this definition.

Koblenz Cable Car crosses the Rhine River.  Image by CUP.

1. Koblenz Cable Car

The Koblenz Cable Car is perhaps the most famous “world heritage” urban gondola built in recent memory. The system was constructed to ease transportation challenges and replace bus service between the city core to the top of Ehrenbreitstein fortress (elevation difference of 112m over a length of 890m).

The cable car, which is noted for being built with the world’s most advanced aerial ropeway technology (3S / Tricable Detachable Gondola), was constructed in preparation for the 2011 Federal Horticultural Show (BUGA 2011) in Germany.

At a capacity of 3,800 persons per hour per direction (pphpd), it provides the equivalent hourly capacity of more than seventy 50-person buses! Since the system is constructed in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site — an area with over 2,000 years of history — the cable car was scheduled for disassembly four years after opening. In other words, the decommissioning was supposed to occur so that Koblenz would not lose its designation.

However, the system performed beyond expectations during the horticultural festival and it became an instant hit with locals. As such, system proponents collected over 100,000 signatures to keep the cable car. With this data, the City was then able to convince the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to permit the extension of cable car operations until 2026.

To this day, the cable car has become a symbol of Koblenz and in June 2015, carried its ten millionth rider.

Sugar Loaf Cable Car. Image by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira.

2. Sugarloaf Cable Car

When it comes to the heritage and history of Rio de Janeiro, there is perhaps nothing more recognizable than the Sugar Loaf Cable Car. The cable car operates within the Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea World Heritage Site.

The system, built in 1912 travels adjacent to Guanabara Bay en route to the City’s most iconic hill, Sugar Loaf mountain, and the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Based on TripAdvisor reviews, the system is currently ranked the number one “Things to Do” in the Marvellous City! Historically, this ropeway was one of the first aerial passenger lifts ever built and has transported riders safely and efficiently for more than than 105 years.

If you speak to locals and tourists alike, it is not too farfetched to say that the cable car is intrinsically linked to the City’s cultural heritage.

Funivia di San Marino. Image by Vladimir Menkov.

3. Funivia di San Marino 

San Marino, a city-state located entirely in Italy, is designated as a World Heritage Site and the last city-state in the country. Due to its strategic location at Mount Titano, San Marino has been in continual existence for over 700 years.

To enhance transport to the city centre and nearby commune of Borgo Maggiore, a 353m long cable car was opened in 1959. Despite being nearly 60 years old, the cable car remains one of the most popular ways to move around the city state and transports an average of 400,000 persons per year.

In fact, the system was so popular that it’s former 20-person cabins had to be upgraded to 50-person cabins in 1995!

— — — 

As we’ve discussed before, we believe that detractors of ropeway technology are often misinformed.

And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, it is somewhat disheartening to find that such a well-known and intelligent architect could make such a rookie mistake when it comes to assessing gondolas.

Hopefully, Safdie is able to objectively assess the cable car proposal on its actual merits and shortcomings rather than spreading false information.


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Mexican Officials Wants to Start Construction on a Massive 8.4km Gondola

The Naucalpan Cable Car will join the Mexicable system (pictured) in helping enhance transport for urban residents in Greater Mexico City. Image by Presidencia de la República Mexicana.

After the success of Mexico’s first urban gondola, the Mexicable, the country’s capital city is preparing to embark on another large cable car project.

The concept of an urban gondola has been floating around for the last few years in Naucalpan, a municipality located northwest of Mexico City, but reports now suggest that the US$105 million (MXN$2 billion) system will begin construction in the first quarter of 2019.

At 8.4km in length with six stations, the Naucalpan Cable Car will be 3.5km longer than the existing Mexicable (in Ecatepec) while having one less station. In fact, this upcoming system should be one of the world’s longest aerial cable transit lines built in recent memory — surpassing the likes of the longest top-supported urban ropeway systems in Santo Domingo (5km), La Paz (Blue Line, 4.7km), and Caracas (Metrocable Mariche – Palo Verde, 4.8km).

Not so dissimilar to the many urban gondolas in Latin America, the Naucalpan system is being constructed to reach residents living in remote valley communities with poor public transit access.

Officials estimate that once the cable car is complete in two years time, it will transport 35,000 passengers per day and reduce commute times by more than 50% (from 60 minutes today to 27 minutes). Riders from the Barrancas de Naucalpan region will have direct rapid transit access to the western terminus of Mexico City’s Line 2 Metro, Cuatro Caminos.

Project proponents have also promised that ticket prices will not be more than US$0.80 (MXN$15) and that university students from technical backgrounds such as Engineering, Architecture, and Law will be invited to help design the cable car.

While construction is only a few months away, online articles suggest that the station locations have yet to be finalized and it appears that almost no information is available on the route alignment. If any of our readers have a better grasp on Spanish and has more information, please leave a comment below, email us [gondola(at)creativeurbanprojects(dot)com] or send us a message on Facebook.

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32km of Urban Gondolas Proposed in Southern Russia

Rendering of Krasnodar Cable Car. Screenshot from 24krasnador YouTube channel.

Chances are you’ve never heard of Krasnodar — a city of 900,000 people that’s located some 1,300km from Moscow and 300km from Sochi.

In recent times, this so-called unofficial capital of the Russian south has been experiencing significant population growth. Between 2007-2017, the city added about 200,000 residents. Today, it is the 16th most populous city in Russia and the 3rd most populous in the country’s Southern Federal District after Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd.

To alleviate traffic congestion and improve transport options, the city’s economic committee released a proposal to build a massive 36km network of urban gondolas in November 2017. Since then, the proposal has been revised to 32km, spread over 12 stations and five lines. If Krasnodar is successful in this endeavour, their urban ropeway network would be the world’s second largest, right behind La Paz who has a final build out length of 32.7km.

32km network of urban gondolas have been designed. Screenshot from 24krasnador YouTube channel.

Given language barriers, it’s difficult to say where the cable cars are travelling to, but it appears that the five lines are planned to connect major activity nodes such as the Gallery-Krasnodar (shopping and entertainment center), the German Village, the Krasnodar stadium and several residential districts.

The proponents believe that they can complete the entire network in just 3.5 – 4 years at a cost of US$150 million (10-12 billion rubles). The current model is set at US$0.50 per ticket, attracting an estimated 35 million passengers per year (approximately 100,000 per day).

While this figure seems high, the ridership numbers wouldn’t be that far-fetched as Mi Teleférico has transported over 135 million since the first cable car line opened in May 2014. This roughly equals to more than 31 million passengers per year.

Gondola system passing through and connecting the new Krasnodar football stadium which was built just two years ago. Screenshot from 24krasnador YouTube channel.

Screenshot from 24krasnador YouTube channel.

In comparison to local data, the city estimates that its current transport network carries over 210 million persons per annum. With the cable car, proponents believe it can reduce traffic loads by 12%, and eliminate 178,000 cars and 105 buses from the road.

Similar to many recent gondola proposals seen in Hollywood, Branson, and Albany, the project lead believes the system can be privately financed and built via a PPP structure. In a news article this week, Krasnodar’s Mayor, Evgeny Pervyshov, appears to be supportive of the project if investors are willing to step up to the plate.

Within Russia, urban gondola technology seems to be finding it stride. So far, Nizhny Novgorod has operated its transit cable lift since 2012 while Moscow should be opening two recreational systems in the short- to mid-term (Sparrow Hills/Luzhniki Stadium gondola and VDNKh Ropeway).

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Krasnodar Cable Car / Proposals & Concepts
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Media Sensationalism and Gondolas – The Case of Melbourne’s Skyloop Cable Car

AMMI Station is the Melbourne Skyloop cable car’s eastern terminus. With a 3,000 space parking garage, it is designed for commuters to park-and-ride. Image by Caulfield Krivanek Architecture.

In recent gondola news, reports coming from Down Under suggested that a local architect had proposed a US$525 million (AUD$700 million) cable car project for Melbourne’s downtown.

This astronomical number naturally grabbed our attention since half billion dollar transport projects are often associated with major underground subway lines and bridges rather than lightweight ropeway systems. After all, the world’s longest 3S cable car and one of the most expensive ever built — the 7.9km Hon Thom gondola system — was implemented for an estimated US$225 million.

From what we can gather online at the time, the Melbourne system would be designed with standard MDG technology — at a modest length of 2.5km, 4 stations and 1 custom tower. In other words, this would be a fairly standard urban cable car project which should never cost anywhere close to half a billion dollars. Our gut instinct was that someone out there, whether intentionally or not, must have misreported the project.

So to try to get to the bottom of this we decided to contact Robert Caulfield, the proponent behind the proposal.

The Melbourne Skyloop proposal would connect four major nodes throughout the sports precinct and CBD. Image by Caulfield Krivanek Architecture.

Read more

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Hanoi’s Red River Gondola Proposal

Mr. Ngo Manh Tuan, Deputy Director of the Hanoi Department of Transportation wants to carefully assess and evaluate the gondola concept that was submitted this week. Image by elevonic.

The Vietnamese capital of Hanoi has received a proposal to build an urban gondola across the Red River. Based on articles found online (Vietnam Biz, VTN and Moi Truong), the ropeway system is apparently 5km (3mi) in length and is designed to transport 3,500-4,500 persons per hour per direction onboard a fleet of 25/30-passenger cabins. While the technology was not mentioned, the proposed system may likely use 3S technology given the cabin capacities stated and the potential spans required.

The current concept is to have a ropeway travel over the Red River at heights of 50-100m (160-320ft) while connecting Long Bien Bus Station to Gia Lam Bus Station. Proponents hope that the cable car will relieve traffic congestion and reduce cross-river travel times.

The gondola could be a welcome addition to Hanoi as its rapid transit network is highly underdeveloped for a city with 7.5 million residents. At this time, the capital has zero subway lines (the first urban rail line won’t begin trial operations until August) and its public transit network is merely composed of 100 bus routes. Many, if not most, residents still rely upon the city’s five million motorbikes for daily transport.

The motorbikes can be an efficient (and thrilling) way to move about the city, but officials are hoping to ban their use by 2030 in order to reduce environmental and traffic congestion problems. As such, an urban ropeway with its electric propulsion systems and small footprint, could potentially reduce gridlock, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and provide commuters with an alternative mode of transport.

While cable transit solutions have yet to be implemented in Vietnamese cities, the country is already home to some of the world’s most technologically advanced ropeways. In total, the country holds multiple world records which include:

  1. Longest 3S cable car: Hon Thom-Phu Quoc Cable Car at 7.9km
  2. Second longest 3S cable car: Fansipan Legend at 6.3km
  3. Longest continuous MDG: Bana Hills Cable Car at 5.8km
  4. Largest ropeway cabin: Queen Cable Car at 230 persons
  5. Tallest ropeway tower: Queen Cable Car at 188.8m

Vietnam features some of the globe’s most impressive aerial ropeways. These include the Hon Thom 3S (top left), Fansipan Legend (top right), Bana Hills MDG (bottom left) and the Queen Cable Car (bottom left). Images by pduyma, Viwikipediaorg, vtt, and Newone.

Despite the success of these recreational ropeways, the reaction to the Hanoi proposal appears to be mixed at this time. The Hanoi Automobile Transport Association has apparently said that cable lifts are not suitable for public transit while local transport expert, Dr. Nguyen Xuan Thuy, expressed concerns over a ropeway’s ability to reduce traffic congestion. Of course, these comments are expected with any proposal and they appear to be nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction from those who are unfamiliar with the technology.

For professionals who have followed Cable Propelled Transit (CPT), they will know that over 35 public transit gondolas are now operational worldwide while cable cars have been well-documented in terms of its ability to reduce gridlock. For instance, the Mexicable is estimated to have removed 5,800 vehicles from local roadways, while the Mi Teleferico has eliminated the consumption of over 3,000,000 litres of gasoline per year.

Other local experts, such as Dr. Nguyen Huu Nguyen (Urban Planning Association of Vietnam) and Associate Professor Tu Sy Sy (Hanoi University of Transport) have taken a more open-minded position. They have noted the long and proven track record of the ropeway industry, the large capacities of the cabins (nearing the size of a small bus at 25-30 persons) and the ability of ropeways to easily traverse difficult topography. Officials have also acknowledged their wish to objectively assess the submission and determine if the concept is suitable for the city.

With this proposal, Hanoi appears to be the second Vietnamese city to have an urban gondola plan announced publicly. In a separate project last year, a developer in Ho Chi Minh City was unable to advance an aerial lift idea to connect two parks and the Tan Son Nhat international airport. As more Asian cities are now exploring the feasibility of Cable Propelled Transit, the implementation of an urban gondola in Vietnam could help further cement the country as a hub for ropeway innovation.

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Amsterdam is Getting Serious About An Urban Gondola

Rendering of the IJbaan Cable Car. Looking northbound from Minerhaven Station to NDSM Marina Station. Image by UN Studios.

After three years of research, community outreach, and concept development, designs for a 1.5km urban gondola in Amsterdam were released last week. The cable car project has been spearheaded by locals Bas Dekker and Willem Wessels, who appears to have support from the City of Amsterdam, Port of Amsterdam (Dutch: Haven van Amsterdam) and the Amsterdam Transport Region (Dutch: Vervoerregio Amsterdam).

Since the gondola is designed to cross the IJ, Amsterdam’s waterfront, the system has been aptly named the IJbaan (i.e. a cable car is called kabelbaan in Dutch, so IJbaan, presumably means IJ cable car).

Based on the proposed alignment, the ropeway’s northern terminal, NDSM Marina, is located in the Amsterdam-noord borough while the system’s southern terminal, Minerhaven, is located in the Amsterdam-West borough. NDSM Marina Station has been designed as a transport hub with bike facilities, bus connections and an observation deck. Minerhaven Station, on the other hand, has been planned as a neighbourhood plaza complete with a restaurant and bar.

NDSM Marina Station. Image by UN Studios.

While it appears that most online articles has yet to reveal the technology choice, the renderings make it quite clear that the team has chosen a 3S system. Proponents have estimated ride times at 4.6 minutes, travel speeds at 6m/s (21.6km/h) and cabin sizes at 32-37 persons (with enough room to fit 4-6 bicycles). Initial ridership is projected at 4,000 daily passengers while up to 10,000 riders per day may be transported by 2040.

If you feel that you’ve seen the Amsterdam proposal before, you’re not far off. The architects behind the IJbaan, UN Studios, were the team behind the winning proposal for the Gothenburg Cable Car in Sweden. Image by UN Studios.

Along the journey, passengers will travel over three customized towers which have been designed to pay homage to the city’s industrial heritage. Riders will likely get incredible panoramic views of the city’s waterfront as the three towers will be 46m to 136m tall.

If built, the middle tower  (136m) will be one of the tallest ropeway towers in the world — only surpassed by approximately three other systems (e.g. Ha Long Bay Queen Cable Car – 188m, Phu Quoc Cable Car – 160m, and Zugspitze Eibsee Cable Car – 127m).

Compared to other Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) lines, the Amsterdam proposal may very well have the world’s tallest urban cable car tower.

For instance, urban gondolas with tall towers, such as the Emirates Air Line Cable Car and Nizhny Novgorod Cable Car have tower heights of just 90m and 82m respectively.

It appears that the proponents have spent considerable time thinking through the proposal as they’ve designed it to expand to a three-station system in the future.

Phase 1 would see the aforementioned 1.5km connection built between NDSM Marina Station and Minerhaven Station by 2025 while Phase 2 would see the system expand southwest for another ~800m to Hemknoop Station.

Proponents have described the cable car as an “air bridge” with the ability to complement Amsterdam’s goals of not only becoming a hub for urban innovation but to build an all electric public transit system. While the system has been estimated to cost US$105mm (€90mm), this will still be less than building a comparable bridge.

If everything goes according to plan, the cable car will be up and running by Amsterdam’s 750th anniversary in 2025. In total, this means that in Europe alone, nearly 70 urban cable cars have now been proposed on the continent.

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IJbaan (Amsterdam Cable Car) / Proposals & Concepts
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