Cable Cars

08
Jan

2014

LINK Train Operates Trouble-Free at Pearson Airport Despite Extreme Cold

Frosty conditions at Pearson Int’l Airport. Image by Flickr user ddewong1.

In case you didn’t hear, Canada’s largest airport basically shut down for 8 hours yesterday due to extreme frigid conditions (-30 degrees celsius to be exact). This immediately caused a massive backlog at the terminal and utter chaos with flight delays and cancellations.

So while nearly every form of transport was affected in Toronto this past week (from streetcars to buses to the Scarborough RT), I was curious to see how the City’s only CPT system would fare in this weather.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the LINK Train operated smoothly and efficiently when I visited last night. Passengers were hopping on and off without a hitch and everything ran like, well, normal.

Just for proof (and admittedly to kill time while I waited for family/friends to arrive), I personally took some pictures and a video.

LINK Train yesterday. Image by Nicholas Chu.

LINK Train operations during -30 degrees weather. Image by Nicholas Chu.


So once again, let us reiterate: CPT is not a cure-all/best transport solution nor are streetcars, buses, APMs and planes somehow poor/inferior forms of transport.

Rather, I think the fact that the LINK Train — a bottom-supported cable car — was operating problem-free in arctic-like conditions is truly a testament to the robustness and resilience of cable technology.

And for that, we believe its efforts should be worthy of a brief mention and small recognition!



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.

Cable Cars / LINK Train
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14
Jun

2011

Cable Cars Module, Lesson 5: System Capacity & Line Length of Fixed Grip Cable Cars

For our new readers: Despite the fact that systems like the planned London Thames Cable Car are often officially called “Cable Cars,” they are more often than not Gondolas. This can be confusing to cable transit novices. To make it easier: Cable Cars are supported from below (like cars) and Gondolas are supported from the top (like ski lift gondolas). This is an error of nomenclature, nothing more.

For Cable Cars Lesson 1, click here. For Cable Cars Lesson 2, click here. For Cable Cars Lesson 3, click here. For Cable Cars Lesson 4, click here.

Thus far we’ve discussed Single Loop, Dual Loop and Dual By-Pass Cable Cars. Those three configurations together constitute the overwhelming majority of all fixed grip cable car technologies.

If it helps, let’s draw an analogy between cable cars and Aerial Rapid Transit systems: The fixed grip configurations listed above are rough equivalents to Aerial Trams. They are useful in point-to-point (or three station) situations, are fast and involve only one or two vehicles shuttling back-and-forth either on the same loop or on two separate loops.

To take the analogy one step further, a Dual Loop Cable Car would be analogous to a Funifor.

The system capacity of a Fixed Grip Cable Car is a function of four variables:

  • Vehicle Size
  • System Speed
  • Whether Single Loop or Dual Loop
  • Line Length

Arguably, the most important of these four variables is the fourth. As there is a maximum of just one vehicle traveling in either direction at any given time, the length of a line has dramatic implications. Assuming a conceptual situation where all things were equal, you can imagine the relationship between system capacity and line length as being a direct one where capacity drops as line length increases:

[easychart type=”line” height=”300″ width=”350″ title=”Conceptual Relationship Between Line Length and System Capacity” groupnames=”Fixed Grip Cable Car” valuenames=”Very Short, Short, Medium, Long, Very Long” group1values=”8000, 4000, 2000, 1000, 500″]

(Note: The chart above should not be taken literally, it is merely a conceptual representation of the relationship between line length and system capacity.)

Consider this comparison: The Mexico City Airport Aerotren travels at a speed of 45 km/hr whereas the Venice People Mover travels at a lethargic 29 km/hr. And yet despite this clear speed advantage, the Aerotren only offers capacity of 600 pphpd whereas the Venice system offers capacity of ~3,000 pphpd.

Aside from the speed mentioned above, there are three major differences between the Aerotren and the Venice People Mover:

  • The Venice system is a Dual By-Pass system and the Aerotren is a Single Loop system.
  • The Venice trains hold 200 passengers, almost double that of the Aerotren’s 104.
  • The Venice system is 870 meters long and the Aerotren is just over 3 kilometers long.

But these three differences do not affect system capacity equally.

According to company literature, the Aerotren vehicles can be expanded to a capacity of 156 persons, thereby increasing system capacity to 800 pphpd. That means a 50% increase in vehicle capacity causes just a 33.3% increase in system capacity.

And while we could imagine an alternate universe Aerotren built – like the Venice system – as a Dual By-Pass, that would theoretically only double its capacity up to a maximum of ~1,600 pphpd – around half of that offered by the Venice APM despite operating at a speed that’s 50% faster.

Most of the capacity disparity here is therefore caused by system length.

So remember: If you’re contemplating a Fixed Grip Cable Car, and you want high capacity, you either need a pretty short line or you’re going to have to opt for another technology.



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.

24
May

2011

Cable Cars, Lesson 4: Dual By-Pass Shuttles

For our new readers: Despite the fact that systems like the planned London Thames Cable Car are often officially called “Cable Cars,” they are more often than not Gondolas. This can be confusing to cable transit novices. To make it easier: Cable Cars are supported from below (like cars) and Gondolas are supported from the top (like ski lift gondolas). This is an error of nomenclature, nothing more.

For Cable Cars Lesson 1, click here. For Cable Cars Lesson 2, click here. For Cable Cars Lesson 3, click here.

At it’s core, a Dual By-Pass Shuttle is nothing more than a fusion of a Single Loop Shuttle and a Dual Loop Shuttle.

The basic concept here is of a multi-station, two vehicle line where both vehicles run on the same set of guide rails – except at the intermediary station(s), whereby the tracks split in order for the vehicles to by-pass one another at a central platform.

A simplified diagram describing how a Dual By-Pass Shuttle operates. The above image depicts a theoretical line with one intermediary station, but it is theoretically possible to have several intermediary stations. Image by CUP Projects.

The advantage of this set-up is to have a similar capacity level as the Dual Loop Shuttle, but with the lower costs and reduced geographic footprint associated with having a drastic reduction in the amount of elevated guideway required.

This cost advantage does, however, come with one major trade-off: Whereas the Dual Loop Shuttle can offer near 24/7 service as it’s two vehicles move independently, Dual By-Pass vehicles operate in tandem with one another. This means if one vehicle is out of operation, both vehicles are out of operation.

Similarly, in times of maintenance and cleaning, the entire system needs to be shut down.

Currently, the only known Cable Propelled Transit system in the world that uses a Dual By-Pass configuration is the new automated people mover in Venice, Italy:

The intermediary station of the Venice APM. Note the track split. Image by Luca Fascia

Notice how when not in the central intermediary station, vehicles operate on a single length of track. Image by Luca Fascia

 

 



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.

17
May

2011

Cable Cars, Lesson 3: Dual Loop Cable Shuttles

The Pearson Airport Tram in Toronto is an example of a Dual Cable Shuttle LIner. Two tracks and two rope loops allow two separate vehicles to operate independently. Image by flickr user Gustavo Oliveira.

For our new readers: Despite the fact that systems like the planned London Thames Cable Car are often officially called “Cable Cars,” they are more often than not Gondolas. This can be confusing to cable transit novices. To make it easier: Cable Cars are supported from below (like cars) and Gondolas are supported from the top (like ski lift gondolas). This is an error of nomenclature, nothing more.

For Cable Cars Lesson 1, click here.

For Cable Cars Lesson 2, click here.

The Dual Loop Cable Shuttle is a modest upgrade to the Single loop Cable Shuttle. And yet that modest upgrade carriers with it extremely enhanced performance characteristics.

The easiest way to contemplate the performance difference between the two technologies is to imagine the Single Loop Cable Shuttle as an Aerial Tram and a Dual Loop Cable Shuttle as a Funifor.

Like the Funifor-style technologies, the two vehicles in a Dual Loop Cable Shuttle configuration operate independently of one another. This means decreased wait times, increased reliability and the potential for 24 hour service.

For example, the Pearson Airport Tram in Toronto, Canada operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in some of the harshest weather any major city on the planet has to experience. And – typical of most Dual Loop systems – it boasts availability levels in excess of 99.5%.

In layman’s’ terms, that means that out of 24 hours a day, 365 days a year the system will operate as expected 99.5% of the time.

The reason for this is rather straightforward: During off-peak hours, there is no reason to have both independent loops running. As such, system operators will take one loop out of service for maintenance, cleaning, etc. while the other loop continues in service.

Similarly, if either of the loops experience an emergency and/or technical problem, the second loop is still available for service. In all but the rarest of circumstances, there will always be one loop available for operation. The vary nature of the system implies built-in operational redundancy.

This redundancy does come with a higher price point than the Single Loop systems (assume for argument’s sake that a Dual Loop system will cost roughly ~150% of the price of a Single Loop system), but the increased reliability it affords makes opting for a Dual Loop over a Single Loop a no-brainer.

Image by CUP Projects



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.

23
Mar

2011

Cable Cars, Lesson 2: Single Loop Cable Shuttles

Mexico City Airport's Aerotén. Image via Sobre Mexico.

For our new readers: Despite the fact that systems like the planned London Thames Cable Car are often officially called “Cable Cars,” they are more often than not Gondolas. This can be confusing to cable transit novices. To make it easier: Cable Cars are supported from below (like cars) and Gondolas are supported from the top (like ski lift gondolas). This is an error of nomenclature, nothing more.

As I described a long time ago here, Cable Cars operate in a similar way to Gondolas. That is, they come in either continuously-circulating or shuttle-based configurations. For all intents and purposes, you can imagine shuttle configurations as being the ground-based equivalent to an Aerial Tram – the only difference being that Cable Cars can navigate turns easily whereas Aerial Trams cannot.

As such, shuttle based systems are – generally speaking – the simplest and cheapest Cable Cars to install. They suffer, however, from having relatively low system capacities (as measured in pphpd).

Like an Aerial Tram, a basic Cable Shuttle has only one rope loop. That means there can only be a maximum of two vehicles plying the line in question. Those two vehicles are also bound by each other. They operate in tandem; one vehicle cannot move without the other.

So while there may be a variety of different ways to apply a Single Loop Cable Shuttle (see image below), the system will always be characterized by low capacities; an inability to offer 24 hour service; longer wait times and; severe restrictions on intermediary stations.

In the event of a single track, single vehicle configuration, intermediary stations can be placed at whatever interval is desired.

Like all transit systems, the exact capacity of a Single Loop Cable Shuttle is a product of many factors. System speed, dwell times, number of stations, vehicle size and system length all factor into the equation and it is therefore impossible to provide any reliable benchmark for what such a system can carry. Each system would be unique unto itself.

Nevertheless remember: A single loop system is at the low-end of the Cable Car spectrum and it’s capabilities are limited in comparison to other Cable Car technologies. For example, Mexico City’s Aerotrén is a single loop, single track system with only one vehicle. Though it travels at a maximum speed of 45 km/hr, it currently only provides a system capacity of 540 pphpd.

Like an Aerial Tram, a Single Loop Cable Shuttle is therefore only appropriate in low-capacity situations where complexity is at a minimum.

Image by CUP Projects.



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.

09
Jul

2010

Cable Cars, Lesson 1: Introduction

The Las Vegas City Center Cable Car. Image by joanna8555.

The first and most important thing necessary to understand about Cable Cars as opposed to aerial cable technologies is this: The two technologies are not fundamentally different. Knowing your way around Gondolas and Aerial Trams will help your knowledge about Cable Cars immensely.

Both are characterized by passive vehicles being propelled along guideways for support. Both can provide detachability and both are characterized by a large variety of sub-technologies. Furthermore, like all aerial technologies, you can easily sub-divide Cable Cars into those that operate in a shuttle-based configuration and those that operate in a continuously-circulating configuration:

(Top) Continuously Circulating Configuration. (Bottom) Shuttle-Based Configuration.

Those familiar with aerial technologies will instantly notice the parallels: Shuttle-Based Cable Cars are equivalent to Aerial Trams and Funifors, whereas Continuously Circulating Cable Cars are equivalent to Monocable Detachable Gondolas (MDGs), Bi-Cable Detachable Gondolas (BDGs), Funitels and 3S systems.

The main difference between aerial and terrestrial technologies is this:

Whereas aerial technologies hang from steel cable guideways, Cable Cars are always supported from below by various supporting media, typically steel rails, I-beams, concrete and modular steel trusses.

This gives Cable Cars one distinct advantage over aerial technologies: The ability to maneuver around corners without need of angle stations.



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.

03
Jul

2010

Cable Cars

Now that we’ve wrapped our discussion of the eight major Aerial Technologies that exist in the cable transit world, we’re going to shift our focus next week to Cable Cars.

The technologies – most familiar as San Francisco’s rickety old vehicles – have made dramatic advances in the last 15 years. But like aerial systems, Cable Cars have a wide range of shapes, styles and models; each with specific strengths and weaknesses in any given application or environment.

And if you thought aerials were complicated, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Below are the six major technologies:

  • Historical Cable Cars
  • MiniMetros
  • Cable Shuttle Liners
  • Dual Cable Shuttle Liners
  • By-Pass Shuttle Liners
  • Pinched Loop Cable Liners (with Turntables, Loops or Switches)


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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