Victoria Urban Gondola



Urban Gondola Transit in Victoria, British Columbia?

Adding to the Western Canadian surge in interest in urban gondola transit (see here and here), frequent commenter Sean Turvey sends along the following link:

Is it a good idea? Unlikely.

There are clear problems with the concept – not the least of which is the 15 km long distance Colwood Councillor Brian Tucknott imagines. Mr. Tucknott never explicitly stated such a distance, but it can be extrapolated from the reporter’s comments about $150 m line at $5 – $10 m per kilometer.

15 kilometers also happens to be almost the exact distance from Colwood to downtown Victoria:

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The distance itself isn’t much of an issue, as you can see here. The problem instead lies with a fundamental misunderstanding of the technologies, economics and maths involved in such a distance. Let me explain:

At the purported $5 – $10 m per kilometer (which is questionable), you’re talking about an MDG system. Regular readers of The Gondola Project will know that an MDG system is the slowest of the major gondola technologies, capping out at around 22 km/hr.

That would make a 15 kilometer long journey arduous at best. Without intermediary stations, you’re looking at a 40 minutes journey. With intermediary stations, you’d be looking at something in the order of one hour (assuming 6 – 12 intermediary stations).

60 minutes might be pleasant enough for the tourists, but this doesn’t solve the problem for commuters for whom this system is purportedly being built for.

Furthermore, as the route imagined would have numerous turns and intermediary stations, there’s little chance of hitting the $5 – $10 m per kilometer price point.

To get within a (relatively) more reasonable distance of ~10 km, one would need to:

  • Cross the bay directly. This has been proven to be  a viable option in Vinpearl Land, Vietnam. One could even alleviate some of the car/ferry needs, should someone be courageous enough to adapt the car transport technology the industry has already developed.
  • Use a higher end technology. The reality is that for such a system to make any logical sense, it would have to utilize either a 3S or Funitel technology. These systems are much faster than the MDG and, if coupled with a shorter, more direct route alignment across the bay, would result in drastically reduced travel times. But using either technology could increase costs two or threefold. Add in the additional engineering for something like a bay crossing, and this becomes more complex than simply stringing a few cables.

It’s important that when people trot out an idea or technology they have some degree of understanding about it.  Councillor Tucknott should be commended for the ambition behind his vision, but his fundamental misunderstanding of the technology makes this an idea destined for the scrap heap.

Solving transit-problems is about using the right tool for the right job in the right way. Councillor Tucknott’s idea does none of those things.

Also, on an other unrelated note: Is it too much to ask for these reporters to include a photo of an actual, real-world urban gondola?  We’ve got, like, thousands here. 

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