Public Transit

08
Dec

2015

How to Price Your Urban Cable Car

It’s hard to blame officials in some cities for treating the fare structure of new public transport line as an afterthought. It’s not sexy stuff. However, for urban cable cars, the failure to put the time and energy to develop a proper fare model may ultimately hinder the project’s success.

Generally speaking, the price elasticity for a transit bus is fairly limited. Image by Oran Viriyincy.

Whether your envisioned CPT line is built for transit, recreation or some combination of the two, the fare must reflect your overall goals. Take the Maokong Gondola, which recently announced its intention to raise fares. Owned by the Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC), this recreational gondola transports an incredible 2-3 million riders a year (5 million in its first)!

It’s hard to blame people for thinking these are really great numbers!!

Maokong Gondola. Image by Connie Ma.

And, yes, they are — but the system charges an average roundtrip fare of just US$3.00, among some of the least expensive urban cable cars in the world. Sightseeing cable cars in nearby Hong Kong (Ngong Ping 360) and Korea (Yeosu Cable Car) charge anywhere from US$10-35.

No wonder detractors have lambasted the system for being a perpetual money loser. It bleeds some US$3 million annually. Since fares were scheduled to increase, there were immediate fears that this would cause decreased visitorship and therefore, increase loses. Luckily though, correlation does not mean causation. Let me explain.

During a site visit to the Singapore Cable Car, I learned that they once struggled with a similar situation when management wanted to reorganize priorities. System managers did the math and essentially what happened was this: fares more than doubled in the early 2000s from ~SGD$10 to ~SGD$29 today.

The results were astonishing: ridership decreased considerably — but system profitability actually increased! Why? Simply put, it costs far more to manage millions of low-fare riders than fewer high-fare ones.

They realized their visitors were willing to pay a premium to experience the cable car. Could the same be said of the Maokong Gondola? It’s hard to know without some study but seems to me that a 20-40 minute, 4km US$9.00 cable car ride is still a real bargain. Of course, there will always be that initial challenge to convince the public to pay more for essentially the same service.

Perhaps they should’ve announced the fare raise with a promotion like the Hello Kitty cabins last year, to better justify this cost. Image by travel blogger Jamie (ink+adventure). Click for more photos and original post. 

Moreover, this will likely raise issues of social equity as the Maokong Gondola is owned by TRTC. If your city is considering an urban gondola, this is a story you’d likely want to follow. It may well make you think twice about your fare structure.



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Maokong Taipei / Public Transit / Questions / Singapore Cable Car
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14
Oct

2015

Update: Systems Added to Urban Gondola Map



You know what they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Or in our case, the world’s first and most comprehensive urban gondola map (full map via Google) but that’s harder to rhyme.

We’ve had a few requests the past week so we’ve gone ahead and made a few changes:

  1. Added two Algerian urban gondolas: Skikda Telepherique and Tlemcen Telepherique
  2. Added Argo Ropeway (Batumi, Georgia)
  3. New photos
  4. Website/URL links for proposed gondolas.

The map has been a huge hit and I’m sure there will be more requests so we’ll do our best to keep up. Leave a comment below, Facebook us, Tweet us or email: gondola (at) creativeurbanprojects.com.



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Public Transit / Site Issues and Updates / Updates
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06
Oct

2015

Where to find existing and proposed URBAN GONDOLAS



To further enlighten those interested in urban cable cars systems, the Gondola Project has begun mapping them out (link 1 – Gondola Project; link 2 – Full Map via Google).

First, we’ve organized existing urban systems. You can navigate/locate these two ways:

  1. Visually locate the system and/or
  2. Zoom into system’s location and find the alignment

Once you find your cable car, click on the icon or the alignment to view the relevant stats and links.

And, second, the list of proposed urban gondolas: the icon is merely pinned to a generic location in the proposed city.

Tip: Looking at the whole world, you’ll see fewer systems because they cluster in areas. (Maps, being mere graphic representations of reality, are never perfect.) Zoom into the area you’re interested in to reveal seemingly hidden icons.

This map will be an ongoing project, updated accordingly.

Feel free to help. We’re still learning the intricacies of Google My Maps, so if you have any recommendations on how we can improve this, please leave us a comment below or on any of our social media channels (just Facebook/gondolaproject and Twitter @CUPgondola for now).

Happy navigating!



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13
Jul

2015

Private Gondola Transport: A Sign of Things to Come?

Kadenwood Gondola. Canada’s first exclusive neighbourhood gondola. Image from Kadenwood.

Ropeways are built for many reasons: skiing, sightseeing, amusement, public transport, and private transport. Yes, that’s right private transport. It’s actually more common than you might think.

We’ve reported examples on the Gondola project before – like the Kriens funicular, Terra del Mar funicular, and of course, some of the rich and famous have their own personal systems.

Recently reader Evan J, sent us a video of Canada’s first exclusive neighbourhood aerial cable car, the Kadenwood Gondola.

Built for $3.5 million in 2008/2009, it serves the 60 home-sites in one of Whistler, B.C.’s wealthiest communities (lots start at $1.0 million, home not including).

A testament to the ski-in/ski-out lifestyle promise, the pulsed gondola transports residents from their doorsteps to the Whistler Creekside Village and the base of the Creekside gondola in 6 minutes flat – pretty useful to grab a pint in the village in case you didn’t want to call your chauffeur or get pulled over drinking and driving your Ferrari.

Astute readers will note that private gondolas are common in Europe and nothing to fret over. (You could even argue the people movers in airports and casinos are private ropeway transport.) Still, to us here in frozen old Canada, an exclusive gondola seems pretty special.

Aria Express (aka City Center Tram) is a bottom supported CPT system connecting the Bellagio and Monte Carlo casinos. Image from Wikipedia.

This got me thinking: do private gondolas have a role in society? Absolutely.

What implications could cost-effective private gondolas have for master planned communities around the world? Perhaps the future is one where governments pay for high-speed long distance trunk lines connecting different nodes while local developers pay for the internal circulators within.

Given the burgeoning income divide, great urban migration and increasingly broke governments, ropeways could behave like the entry points do now in privately owned, master-planned neighbourhoods.

We already see this today when it comes to roads.

Governments construct highways and major arterials while local developers pay for local roads in a development. Meanwhile, in dense urban environments, governments pay for transport infrastructure surrounding office and condo towers but don’t pay for internal public transit circulation within buildings.

That is, elevators — arguably the largest private public transit technology in the world, but so common, they’re rarely considered.

Should we be thinking about our public transit systems in a similar fashion? To do so, a low-cost and virtually on-demand system is essential. Subways and LRT are attractive but cost prohibitive to most private groups.

A lightweight and cost-effective gondola could fill this niche.

In fact, this trend seems to be already happening in many communities around the world. Developers in ski towns such as Breckenridge and Beaver Creek have already discovered the immense advantages of building gondolas around master planned communities.

Perhaps then it’s just a matter of time before others in the private sector catch onto the technology as cities did not too long ago.



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30
Jun

2015

Would You Call This An Eye-Sore?

After ugly mobile homes die they could become ACTV vaporetto stations, but no one is calling this transit system an eye-soar. Image by Steve Bochenek.

After ugly mobile homes die they could become ACTV vaporetto stations, but no one is calling this transit system an eye-soar. Image by Steve Bochenek.

If you’ve ever been to Venice, you know that it is always busy and getting around is never easy. There are no roads, just canals and walkways between buildings which can suddenly shrink by 80%, courtesy of the unique and quaint if frustrating urban planning. If you’re in a hurry, learn to say ‘Permesso’ while gently pushing your way through the crowds — or travel by water on the vaporetto.

A vaporetto is a waterbus, part of the ACTV transit system. It boasts 19 lines and is well loved by locals and tourists alike. Venetians carting bags of groceries on vaporetti sit cheek by jowl with international visitors. You are continually reminded that, though this town’s biggest industries are tourism and art, people do live here and Venice is not just some huge wet marble museum.

Great views, mildly interrupted by cheap and practical infrastructure (on the left). Image by Steve Bochenek.

Great views, mildly interrupted by cheap and practical infrastructure (on the left). Image by Steve Bochenek.

Like any public transit system, you have to buy tickets, struggle with complicated route maps and endure advertising. Unlike many systems, this one’s infrastructure is simple with tiny costs, yet is a huge draw for locals and visitors alike.

For travelers on a budget, vaporetti are the best way to see Venice on the cheap. (Gondolas — the kind not typically promoted on this site — may be romantic and famous but they’re slow and instantly impoverishing.) The babble of languages I heard included French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog and of course English in American, Australian, South African, Scots and English varieties.

A rhetorical question: Do you think this highly practical form of public transport is an eye-sore and destroys views of Venice? Probably not, even though those diesel engines spew fumes and blast harsh noises that carry over the water and bounce against the marble palazzo, back in your ears. Imagine titanic bolts rolling around in a massive dryer. The vaporetto stations, squat yellow boxes of Plexiglas and metal, look like what mobile homes become after they die. And heaven knows the advertising for cosmetic dentistry and health insurance can be annoying.

Enjoy the view while waiting for your stop  — or read the ads! Image by Steve Bochenek.

Enjoy the view while waiting for your stop — or read the ads! Image by Steve Bochenek.

Quick, spot the eye-soar! (A vaporetto is on the right.) Image by Steve Bochenek.

Quick, spot the eye-sore! (A vaporetto is on the right.) Image by Steve Bochenek.

None of these annoyances were here hundreds of years ago and they do regularly interrupt a lovely vista — but clearly they’re not harming tourism.

In fact, the ACTV and its vaporetti are a vibrant and living case study of how interesting yet low-cost transit can also become a crowd-pleaser and moneymaker.

A mode of transportation loved by tourists and locals. Image by Steve Bochenek.

A mode of transportation loved by tourists and locals. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The word ‘eye-sore’ is a common complaint we hear in NIMBY meetings when the gondolas we do promote here are proposed — especially in North America. We think they’re practical with simple low-cost infrastructure and, drawing tourists and commuters alike, a boon to the economy. Just like Venice’s vaporetti.



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27
May

2015

Gondolas for Mass Transit in a Rural Environment

Guest post by Ross Edgar.

Lake District in North West England. Image by Ross Edgar.

Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) is well established as the mode of transport of preference in ski resorts, and the use of CPT is becoming increasingly common in a mountainous setting for summer tourist activities (as discussed here and here). In addition, the profile of CPT is ever increasing as a means of mass transit within an urban environment. But what about the use of CPT for mass transit within a rural environment?

The concept in itself is not original. There are numerous examples in the Alps of small villages high up in the mountains, connected to larger towns in the valley below by a gondola or an aerial tram. But such cable systems are usually located in an area which combines a high tourist volume, access to winter and/or summer activities and a mountain environment. If any of these facets are removed, the number of examples of existing cable systems soon dwindles.

There has been very little consideration of CPT outside the two core areas described in the opening paragraph: access to tourist activities and urban transit. There are numerous scenarios outside of such applications where CPT could be of enormous benefit. For example, connecting towns and villages in a rural setting, whether tourists or mountains are involved or not, or reducing congestion on rural roads that experience high volumes of tourist traffic.

Lake District Cable Car Concept. Image by BBC.

Interestingly, just such a proposal found its way into the news late last year (reported here and here). The proposal was for a gondola system in the Lake District in the north of England. The Lake District is England’s most mountainous region, is home to England’s highest mountain and is an exceptionally popular tourist destination. At present, the Lake District is not home to any cable systems; in fact, there is only one Alpine-style cable system in the entire country (the Heights of Abraham pulsed gondola in Matlock Bath, described here).

The obvious application of gondola technology in the Lake District would be to provide access to a mountain peak with the promise of a number of summer tourist activities, as tried and tested in the Alps. However, this proposal in fact suggested connecting a number of villages, which are popular tourist destinations. While the terrain along the route in question is rugged and hilly, it is not mountainous. In addition, the proposed gondola connects a number of villages rather than providing access to a specific tourist activity. The primary function of the proposal seems to be to relieve the narrow, winding rural roads in the area of the cripplingly high volumes of tourist traffic that are experienced throughout the year, while also reducing pollutant emissions.

Unfortunately, the proposal stands little chance of success. The Lake District is subject to some of the most stringent planning regulations in the country and environmental groups generally take an anti-development stance. The area faces an unenviable balancing act between protecting one of the most beautiful regions in the country and attracting the tourists that the local economy depends upon. This is particularly challenging with the prospect of losing tourism to neighbouring Scotland, which seems to enjoy less stringent planning rules in its mountainous regions and has therefore developed further as a destination for outdoor pursuits (as described here).

The problem remains for the Lake District and for other, similar areas: how to develop the area’s infrastructure to cope with the high numbers of tourists, while not over-developing the region and destroying that which attracts tourists in the first instance. CPT certainly offers a number of benefits under such circumstances over alternative transportation infrastructure, including a small land area footprint, very low noise pollution, zero local pollutant emissions (zero total if renewable energy is used) and a high hourly passenger capacity, while being unaffected by road congestion and complex scheduling, and offering an enjoyable and relaxing journey with the potential for stunning views.

Whether or not this proposal sees the light of day ever again, the underlying principle highlighted is sound: CPT is a viable means of mass transit, whether in an urban environment or a rural environment.



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29
Apr

2015

Why Commute When You Could Be Transported?

IMG_0962

The Passo Salati, nearly 3,000m above sea level in Italy’s beautiful val d’Aosta, made easily accessible by Leitner’s uplifting cable car technology. Image by Steven Bochenek.

Oddly, one of the simplest but greatest joys I’ve experienced as a parent were Saturday morning subway rides with my daughter when she was between 3 and 6 years old. She loved the whole experience, from giving a ticket to the attendant in the booth, to looking out the window as the tunnel lights rushed by. “Thank you, daddy!” she’d openly gush, unaware how workaday the experience should be. Later, she took the same view of chairlifts and gondolas when she began skiing lessons at 7. “Look at the view! What a ride!” She found the actual skiing a fairly enjoyable bonus but, in those early days, looked far more forward to each exciting ride into the sky.

All kids are enthralled with all forms of transportation, be they buses, trams, cable cars or subways. The ride itself is the destination and we grownup commuters could learn a lot from our kids’ simple untainted wisdom. Luckily, when we ride with these tiny newcomers, we get to experience it anew through their eyes.

These days, a subway ride in any city in the world but my own can awaken some of the vicarious enthusiasm I felt on those Saturday mornings. But a ride in a cable car can immediately put me in her tiny ski boots! A subway ride is a commute. A gondola ride is transporting.

This past winter I was fortunate enough to spend a few days skiing in the Italian Alps, a top-ten bucket lister (now I just have to walk the Great Wall of China, run an ultra-marathon, and invent a time machine, then I’m done). The thrill of being dragged into the air and spoiled with gobsmacking views for the next 10 minutes practically pays for the cost of the lift ticket. Like my daughter during her first ski lessons, I almost found the ride down the slopes a pleasant bonus.

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