Gondola

17
May

2010

The Baden Gondelbahn

Image by PD via Tages Anzeiger.

This is the Baden Gondelbahn in Baden, Switzerland. It is a concept by Stephan Kalt, director of Regional Transport for Baden-Wettingen. Kalt’s concept connects the spa town of Baden with a local train station via Urban Gondola.

Read more



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.

10
Apr

2010

The City Fix

Over at The City Fix, Megan McConville has a great piece on cable transit called Up, Up and Away in a Cable Car.

It’s an excellent analysis of the technology that talks extensively about the management difficulties and poor decision-making behind the Maokong Gondola in Taipei. Well worth the read and very informative for cities thinking of their own urban gondola system.



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.

Gondola / Maokong Taipei / Media & Blogs
Comments Off on The City Fix
Comments Off on The City Fix
08
Apr

2010

Tomorrow’s Urban Gondola

All images courtesy of the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group. Design by Johannes Geisler.



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.

07
Apr

2010

Urban Gondolas in Ogden, Utah

My hunch is that many people stumble onto the topic of Cable Propelled Transit (and this website) by googling the words urban and gondola or urban gondola. If not, go ahead and try it and see what you come up with. I’ll wait . . .

So what did you find? Likely you came upon several references to the city of Ogden, Utah and its mayor, Matthew Godfrey. We can often learn a lot (if not more) from the failures than from the successes and Ogden, Utah is one of those very failures. It’s unfortunate that “urban gondola” and “Ogden Utah” are so inextricably linked (at least where the internet is concerned), but so be it.

Apparently from around 2004 – 2008 the mayor of this small city of 80,000 people had plans to build an urban gondola connecting the downtown core, a local university and a golf course.

The scheme was not well-received. Not well-received at all. And it’s hard not to see why:

  1. Suspicious dealings between mayor Godfrey and the private sector interests of developer Chris Peterson made residents question the public benefit of the system. In one city resolution the project was explicitly called “The Chris Peterson Project.”
  2. No communications and public outreach strategy seemed to exist. Emails were never returned, phone calls ignored and despite being invited to discuss the project in public by the Ogden Sierra Club, mayor Godfrey declined.
  3. It appears that no one with any cable experience whatsoever was involved in the planning process. According to a commenter below, RG Consultants were involved in this project. I cannot confirm nor deny this. Any additional information on this matter would be appreciated.
  4. Mayor Godfrey, for his part, spent taxpayer dollars to visit European ski lifts even though his design didn’t involve any ski resort whatsoever. Meanwhile, it seems he didn’t bother to visit the Medellin Metrocable despite it being (at the time) the single most important urban gondola system in the world. (NOTE: I erroneously said that Mayor Godfrey visited ski lifts. This was a large error on my part. Mayor Godfrey visited streetcar systems. The point is therefore moot. Very sorry.  – Steven Dale)
  5. An initial study called the Urban Gondola/Tram Comparison. This must be one of the most poorly-written and researched planning reports in the history of all public transit. Of the seven systems documented, two were purely theoretical (Baltimore and Camden), one was under contruction (Portland), and one had been dismantled 20 years ago (New Orleans MART). Of the three remaining, one was an aerial tram not a gondola (Roosevelt Aerial Tram). The report had little analysis and relied almost exclusively on Wikipedia and USA Today as sources.
  6. A study called the Ogden Transit Corridor Study Report. This is an ugly little piece of political gamesmanship masquerading as planning. The study concludes that LRT/streetcar transit is a more viable form of transit in Ogden for two reasons: Firstly, more riders would use a LRT/streetcar than a gondola system. Despite providing absolutely zero justification to back this statement up, it is taken as a fact and artificially drives down the cost per new rider for LRT/streetcar and drives up the cost per new rider for a gondola system. Secondly, the study uses an arcane method of decision making developed by the National Forestry Service called Choosing By Advantage. In this method, important factors were weighted more heavily than non-important factors. The most important factor? Ridership levels. This, in essence, allowed the report’s authors to double-count the matter of ridership against cable technology. Again: This, despite offering absolutely no justification for why a LRT/streetcar system would attract more riders than a gondola.

Am I claiming conspiracy theories? No. I don’t tend to believe in conspiracy theories. I am, however, calling shenanigans. On everyone’s part.

Whether for altruistic or selfish purposes, Mayor Godfrey wanted this urban gondola bad. It’s likely the whole scheme had more to do with shady golf-land-swap-deals with Chris Peterson than with public transit. Did Ogden need an urban gondola? Who knows, that’s besides the point.

At issue is how mayor Godfrey went about the process. Let’s assume his intentions were genuine, that Chris Peterson and the golf course never existed. Mayor Godfrey still never gathered the necessary community support for the project ahead of time. Because he never took the time to explain the idea, answer questions and create grassroots level support for the idea, he exposed himself to all manner of mistruths, half-truths, faulty planning reports and out-and-out-lies.

I’m not saying that Ogden should’ve built an urban gondola. But if they were to, this was certainly a textbook case of how not to go about it. In fact, it’s probably the textbook case about how not to go about it.

Cable transit and urban gondolas can win the hearts and minds of people with ease. When explained properly, urban gondolas sell themselves. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again.

The concept is so foreign, however, that it is absolutely necessary to engage the community you intend to serve well in advance. If not, you risk needless backlash that is completely, 100 percent preventable. If you take the time to answer the public’s questions openly and honestly they’ll come around, believe me.

Knock on doors, answer questions, hold town hall meetings, answer your emails, be proactive. Do whatever, but don’t do nothing and do it early on in the process.



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.

29
Mar

2010

Tiny Observations & Cable Propelled Transit

The Grindelwald First MDG system.

We can use ski lifts as transit!?!

That’s a Eureka Moment and one that’s been happening to the urban transit community for the last 10 years. It’s big, it’s profound and it’s exciting. It’s also unwieldily and awkward because too much has been left uncovered and left unsaid. There are too many questions, too many details. What about safety? Corners, can we turn corners? Can we have intermediary stations? Etc. Etc. Etc. All these things and more are still not a part of urban transit’s collective, general knowledge base.

Which brings me to a MDG system in the Swiss ski resort of Grindelwald First. The above picture is a piece of infrastructure incorporated into that system. Take a look at it and figure out what it is. If you’re familiar with CPT, you’ll have a few ideas. If not, you’ll have none. What is it? Is it a turning station? Is it an intermediary station? What is it!?!

If you guessed it’s a turning station, you’re halfway right. The other half of the answer is that it’s a high speed, slim-profile turning station. Turning stations are not typically slim, nor are they typically high-speed. This one is both and it was built in 1991.

I didn’t know such a thing as a high-speed, slim-profile turning station even existed until myself and some friends took a hike at Grindelwald last fall. I saw it and asked what’s that!?! This was not a discovery I earned, it was a discovery I fell backwards into purely by chance. It’s nothing more than a Tiny Observation, but one that has dramatic implications for the technology in urban environments. That it was discovered in a rural ski resort only complicates matters.

What if I’d not taken a hike to Grindelwald last fall? What if I hadn’t been lucky? Would we have known about this innovation? Hopefully, but who knows. I’ve read a report that says there are over 10,000 cable propelled systems throughout the world. What Tiny Observations are hidden in those 10,000?

For Cable Propelled Transit to find its way into mass acceptance as urban public transit, we need more Tiny Observations and we need more than just blind luck to find them. The Eureka Moment is all fine and good, but it’s the Tiny Observations that give shape and meaning to the discovery. They enable us to move from asking if we can use ski lifts as transit, to actually building ski lifts as transit.

Discovering we can use ski lifts as transit is only the beginning.



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.

25
Mar

2010

Medellin/Caracas, Part 7

Two weeks ago I travelled to Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela to tour five of the most important CPT systems in the world. This is Part 7 where I discuss the social mandate that underlies the Caracas Metocable. Image by Steven Dale.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed something problematic about the Caracas Metrocable: The stations are enormous. We’re not talking about just “big” here. We’re talking about “big enough for Cirque du Soleil to perform in.”

This is because the stations themselves are not really stations at all. Whut? Exactly.

In actuality, the Caracas Metrocable stations are full-service community centres with multiple neighborhood facilities all under one roof including a Cable Propelled Transit line. Most of these facilities are not yet complete and as such the stations have an eery empty quality thus far. The plan, however, is to have gymnasiums, markets, dental offices, police stations, medical clinics, theatres, libraries and all other manner of social services located within the 5 stations united by the Metrocable.

The idea is to have each station host one or two such facilities. As each station is linked to the other via Metrocable, those within the poor barrios can travel quickly and cheaply between those services in a way that simply would not have been possible before the Metrocable. When you consider this component of the plan, the Metrocable is less a transit line and more the connective tissue that holds together a network of social services.

Whether or not you agree with the political ideology behind Hugo Chavez’s plan, you have to admit it’s bold and unique. It’s also costly. The price of the Metrocable including stations/community centres has been reported as $265 million USD and I’ve heard numbers as high as $300 million USD. Considering the system is only 1.8 kilometers long, you could practically build a subway for that price.

The price of the gondola system, however, was modest. Everything necessary for the gondola system (the “electro-mechanical” cost in industry-speak) was only $18 million USD.

Consider that for a moment: Only 6-7 % of the total cost of the Metrocable went to the transit system and infrastructure itself. The rest was spent on the stations/community centres and land expropriation costs.

I want to state this plainly so that no one opposed to the concept of cable transit can use Caracas as an example of how expensive the technology is: The Caracas Metrocable did not cost $300 million. It cost $18 million. The additional monies spent were on community centre facilities and land expropriation costs that were separate from the transit system itself.

Once again (because the internet is great at taking people out of context): The Caracas Metrocable did not cost $300 million. It cost $18 million. The additional monies spent were on community centre facilities and land expropriation costs that were separate from the transit system itself.

Should some of those additional monies be allocated to station costs? Yes, but not the vast majority of it. The Medellin Metrocable (which uses similar MDG technology) Linea K cost $26 million USD in 2006; that included 1.8 kms of length and 4 stations. Linea J cost $50 million USD in 2008; that included 2.7 km and 4 stations. Linea L cost $25 million USD in 2010; that included 4.8 km and 2 stations. It would be fair to allocate an additional $10 – $20 million dollars to the cost of the Metrocable itself, but no more than that.

Perched high atop hills, the Caracas Metrocable stations are one small component of a much bigger network of community centres and social services. Image by Steven Dale

As a social experiment, it will be interesting to see how the Caracas Metrocable pans out. I, for one, am hopeful. Caracas needs these kinds of services, particularly in the barrios. One thing, however, I’m not certain of is the overt social message of the Metrocable. Many cabins are adorned with single word imperatives suggesting qualities which those in the barrio should aspire to and exemplify:

Sacrificio . . . Moral . . . Libertad . . . Equidad . . . Humanismo . . . Amor . . .

It’s an odd design choice that has nothing to do with the technology itself. But as one rides the Metrocable or sees them glide overhead, one can’t escape this blatant messaging. Granted, it’s hard to argue with the message: Sacrifice, Morals, Liberty, Equality, Humanity, Love. But at the same time, is it a transit agencies job to suggest how to behave? Maybe, maybe not.

In the western world we’re used to being told how to ride our transit. Hold the handrail. Exit by the rear doors. Don’t spit. Don’t litter. Give up your seat for the elderly. Mind the gap. These instructions transit agencies force upon us are nothing more than the practical application of the emotional instructions the Caracas Metrocable forces upon its riders.

Maybe we wouldn’t need so many rules and instructions in our transit systems if we simply had signs that read “Love” or “Equality.” Or not, I don’t know. It’s something I’ve wrestled with a lot since seeing it. Is it propaganda? No. But it veers pretty close to it and that’s what makes me uncomfortable. The message plays so blatantly upon emotions and that’s problematic. But at the same time, the sweet naiveté of the gesture is charming enough, innocent enough to catch even the most cynical observer off-guard.

I honestly don’t know. I’d love to know what everyone else thinks about this matter. Take a look at the images below and form your own opinion: Are the messages on the Caracas Metrocable propaganda? Are they amusing and pleasant? Are they harmless? Are they dangerous? What do you think?

Libertad. Image by Steven Dale.

Moral. Image by Steven Dale.

Sacrificio. Image by Steven Dale.

Amor & Humanismo. Image by Steven Dale.

Equidad. Image by Steven Dale.

Return to Part 6.



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

2010

Medellin/Caracas, Part 6

Two weeks ago I travelled to Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela to tour five of the most important CPT systems in the world. This is Part 6 where I discuss the technological innovations of the Caracas Metocable. Image by Steven Dale.

Like the Medellin Metrocable, the Caracas Metrocable is a MDG system, the most basic of aerial Cable Propelled Transit technologies. It is fully-integrated into the local Metro system, has a maximum operating speed of 18 km/hr, a capacity of 3,000 pphpd and is 1.8 km long. Vehicles can carry 8 sitters and 2 standees. The system has 2 terminals and 3 intermediary stations; a total of 5 stations. Unlike the Medellin systems, which were built by the French-Italian consortium of Poma-Leitner, the Caracas Metrocable was built by the Austrian-Swiss partnership of Doppelmayr/Garaventa.

The most important aspect of the Caracas Metrocable is its alignment. The Caracas Metrocable’s alignment includes two extreme 90 degree turns. That this was the first aerial cable system in known history to implement a 90 degree turn is impressive, that the designers had the guts to attempt two 90 degree turns is all the more so. With this single act, the cable transit industry has demonstrated their ability to adapt, innovate and improve upon their technology within the public transit market.

What’s more, engineers did not utilize a separate drive wheel at each angle station as is common in most corner-turning applications. Instead, engineers used a single, passive deflection bullwheel at the two 90 degree stations, dramatically reducing complexity, size and cost of the system. Only at the middle station is a second drive wheel utilized. This, in essence, means that the Caracas Metrocable is made up of two separate lines where vehicles switch automatically from one line to the second at the middle station.

A graphical representation of the Caracas Metrocable system. Notice how the system is made up of two separate lines (represented by two different shades of blue). If one line fails, vehicles can be re-routed back onto the original line. Image by Steven Dale.

Additionally, a mechanism was designed into the middle station that allows operators to divert vehicles such that they do not automatically switch onto the new line, returning instead from whence they came. This configuration creates enormous additional benefit from an operations perspective. In the even that either of the two lines were to experience mechanical difficulties, the second of the two lines would be able to continue operations.

This simple feature debunks the common (but provably misinformed) opinion that with cable technology when one part of the system goes down, the whole system goes down.

A passive deflection wheel at angle stations allow vehicles to make sharp, 90 degree turns. Image by Steven Dale.

Vehicles enter and depart one of two 90 degree turning stations. Image by Steven Dale.

Image by Steven Dale.

Further features add to the Metrocable's appeal: Two way intercoms are located in each vehicle to assist with safety and emergency situations. Image by Steven Dale.

Sylish wooden benches in each vehicle are a charmingly casual (though somewhat Spartan) method of dealing with seating. Image by Steven Dale.

8 spots on the floor cue passengers where to stand and how to cue up. It's a unique and incredibly cost-effective design feature that speeds loading and disembarking times. Image by Steven Dale.

Return to Part 5.

Move on to Part 7.



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.

Caracas Metrocable / Gondola / Urban Planning & Design
Comments Off on Medellin/Caracas, Part 6
Comments Off on Medellin/Caracas, Part 6