Research & Development



5 Top Urban Gondola (and Ropeway Related) Stories in 2017

The last 12 months has been an another eventful year for urban gondola systems and ropeway technology in general. La Paz’s continued expansion of its massive gondola network combined with a flurry of proposals worldwide has made 2017 another incredible year. In this post, we take a moment to review some of the biggest events and stories from the past 12 months.

1. La Paz Leads the Way

Unsurprisingly, the Bolivian capital makes it to the top of our list.

Three years ago, La Paz-El Alto embarked on an incredible journey to revolutionize the city’s urban transport network. The Austrian ropeway giant, Doppelmayr alongside Mi Teleferico, now operates five Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems in the city. In March 2017, one of the world’s largest urban gondola projects (the longest system in La Paz-El Alto), Blue Line (5.0km, 5 stations), was successfully inaugurated. During its first weekend, the system recorded a peak of 41,000 passengers in one day. Today residents fly high above the skies of El Alto before descending into the valley below on the Red Line.

A few months later in September 2017, the 4-station Orange Line (Spanish: Linea Naranja) invited riders to hop aboard with Bolivian President Evo Morales kicking off the celebrations. The Orange Line effectively extends the Red Line eastbound by another 2.6km and will be integrated with the upcoming White Line.

Effectively, the two new urban gondolas not only increased the length of the city’s rapid transit network by 76%, it also added nine more stations (7 if you only count the two transfer stations as one station each).

A post shared by Mi Teleférico (@miteleferico) on

Four other urban gondolas are currently under construction (e.g. Silver Line, Light Blue Line, White Line and Purple Line) with three of these expected to begin commercial service in 2018 (e.g. Purple, White and Light Blue).

And just a few days ago, the system officially recorded its 100th million passenger! Once the cable car masterplan (Spanish: Red de Integración Metropolitana or RIM) is all said and done by ~2019, passengers will be able to ride nearly 34km of aerial lifts spread over 39 stations.

Conceptual design for Toulouse’s “South Urban Gondola” at CHU Rangueil station platform. Image from SMTC-Tisseo.

2. First “True” Urban 3S

At the moment, mass transit cable cars are nearly all built with Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG) technology. However that may soon change as Gothenburg (Sweden) and Toulouse (France) are in a close race to see who will be the first to build a pure transit 3S cable car.

To clarify, while the Koblenz Cable Car and the Rittner Cable Car is often referred to as an “urban gondola”, these systems can’t be considered true “public transit” cable cars since it largely provides a recreational transport function.

Based on current scheduling, Toulouse is set to open its system by 2020. However, in November, the proposal had a slight setback as it had to modify its route and build a new station at US$6 million (€5 million) to avoid travelling over a high school.

Conceptual design for urban gondola in Gothenburg, Sweden by Group A. Image from

Gothenburg on the other hand has also been steadily planning and designing its system for the past few years. It currently is scheduled to inaugurate its cable car by 2021 as part of the City’s 400th year celebrations. However, a recent court challenge by a losing consortium could cause some slight delays.

Other upcoming urban transit 3S proposals that have been publicly announced include the Téléphérique Pont de Sèvres – Vélizy, Wuppertal Seilbahn, Likoni Cable Express and the Réunion Téléphérique (Bellepierre to La Montagne).

Albany hopes to connect its downtown to the nearby Amtrak station in Rensselaer. Image from Capital Gondola.

3. Studies Galore in North America

North America is home to a few public transport ropeways: the Portland Aerial Tram, Roosevelt Island Tram, the Telluride & Mountain View Gondola and Mexicable. All these lines have been successfully implemented and continue to provide reliable, safe and efficient transportation to tens of thousands of passengers daily.

Mexico’s first public transit gondola, the 7-station Mexicable, opened in 2016 and carries an average of 29,000 riders per day. However, within the English-speaking countries of North America, a transit cable car hasn’t been built in 10 years since the Portland Aerial Tram was opened in 2007.

Given the precarious nature of project development, it’s difficult to ascertain how many projects are fully active, but in the last couple of years, the total number of publicly announced urban cable car proposals in North America has exceeded 40.

San Diego alone has already studied 3 alignments!


The IGA 2017 Ropeway provides green, barrier-free and near silent transport across the 100+ hectares of event grounds. Image from LEITNER Ropeways.

4. French and German Developments

As the most populous nations in Western Europe, a number of French and German cities are finally coming to grips with ropeway technology.

In fact, France is one of the world leaders in rope-propelled solutions as the country is estimated to have over 3,600 ropeways while Germany ranks ~5th globally with over 1,800 lifts. Last year, Brest became the first French city to build an urban transit cable car (albeit with limited success due to malfunctions and an accident) while Berlin saw its first recreational cable car in over 50 years at IGA 2017.

At the time of writing, more than 20 proposals were located in France while Germany has seen more than 10 proposals. Within the Parisian Region alone, more than 12 proposals have been identified. Perhaps the most geographically distant and remote location to integrate urban gondolas into its public transit network is the proposals happening in Reunion, a small French island commune in the Indian Ocean.

The Metrocable over top the Santo Domingo barrio. Image by Steven Dale.

5. Latin America Remains on Top

The success of Medellin’s Metrocable Line K (2004) has catapulted urban gondolas to forefront of modern city building unlike anything that transit planning has seen in decades.

While interest has been growing around the world, Latin America continues to dominates the urban transit gondola market. Cultural affinity, geographical proximity and similar socioeconomic conditions perhaps has facilitated this process whereby six Latin American countries operate a total of 17 aerial transit cable cars. This represents about 50% of all the urban transit cable cars in the world.

Barring some sort of global economic recession, as the urban ropeways mature and expertise is developed, more and more cities around the world will likely find inspiration from the continued success of the urban gondolas in Latin America and beyond.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.



Reaction: Cable Cars Are Changing the World

Image by Darren Garrett.

Image by Darren Garrett.

It’s no secret that with the rise of the 24-hour news cycle and the collapse of advertising revenues, journalistic standards and intellectual rigour have been on the decline across the publishing spectrum.

As such, when journalist Duncan Geere of How We Get to Next requested an interview of me on the subject of urban cable cars, I presumed it would be nothing more than a 300-word puff piece on the subject written in the time it to takes to write . . . well, a 300-word puff piece.

It was much to my surprise, then, that Greene’s piece “Cable Cars Are Changing The World” is nothing of the sort.

It is an exhaustive, engaging and otherwise top-notch article on the subject of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) and how they are rapidly being deployed throughout the world. For anyone new to the subject matter, I’d suggest starting with Greene’s article. It is comprehensive with a view into the history of the technology that few reporters bother to delve into.

He even takes the time to highlight one of the central complexities of the technology — nomenclature. Green perfectly encapsulates one of our industry’s constant problems:

“Researching the topic can be difficult, primarily because there are seemingly hundreds of different ways to refer to slight variations on the same basic principle. Spend 10 minutes looking into the subject and you’ll find people talking about gondolas, aerial tramways, ropeways, cableways, téléphériques, funiculars, funitels, inclined lifts, and many more.” 

As I read the article, there were at least a handful of moments I had to pause and think to myself “wow, I didn’t know that.”

If you’re new to the subject of urban cable cars, read this article. And if you’re an industry veteran who thinks postures to know everything there is to know about the topic — read this article. I can assure you there are things in there that will surprise and delight you.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

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Urban Gondolas Take Centre Stage in American Media (Again)

Bloomberg and Wall Street Journey explores the urban cable car industry.

Bloomberg and Wall Street Journey explores the urban cable car industry.

This past week, urban gondolas once again took the centre stage as two major US media outlets — Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal — each wrote a piece on the rapid growth of cable transport systems.

As more than a dozen proposals are now active in the US (from San Diego to Baton Rouge), city-builders from across the world are now starting to pay serious attention to ropeway technology.

There are many reasons why this is happening but it is due in part to the internet and the many successful urban gondolas now being built worldwide. Sooner or later, even the toughest anti-gondola cynics may have no choice but to hop onboard the cable car bandwagon.

For the doubters, they should understand that for most parts, ropeways are not here as some sort of “silver bullet” that solves all urban transport woes — rather, as we’ve discussed many times in the past, they are often designed as complementary transit modes to enhance existing transport lines.

However with that said, given the right context, cable transit can undoubtedly function as the backbone of a city’s entire rapid transit network.

For instance, look no further to the recent triumphs aboard the Mi Teleférico in La Paz-El Alto, Bolivia.

  • ~50 million passengers in ~2 years of operations
  • time savings of 652 million minutes
  • >100% farebox recovery

Transportation practitioners are often amazed at how the Bolivian city added 10km of cable cars in just 2 years time and is now scheduled to add another 7 lines!

The achievements made by cable technology in these few years in incredible to say the least. Six years ago, skeptics would have likely laughed a proponent out of a room when a gondola was proposed. Nowadays, ropeways are met with fascination and intrigue.

Given the speed of change in the urban transport industry, perhaps it won’t be too long before gondolas, like other transit technologies, are met with a casual shrug.


Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

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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.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

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