07
Jun

2019

Weekly Roundup: A Croatian Cable Car Under Construction and Aerial Cocktails

Post by Gondola Project

Zagreb, Croatia, where they recently began construction on a cable car project.
Image courtesy of the City of Zagreb
  • The Thames Cable Cars are being converted from tourist transportation to stylish mini-restaurants! Two nights a week, a high-end five course meal is served, complete with cocktails. Each cabin holds four people who are served over four consecutive crossings of the Thames.
  • The Dubrovnik cable car has been closed since mid-April and is expected to remain closed until July. The Dubrovnik City walls are benefitting from this as visitors to that attraction have increased by 40 percent.


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31
May

2019

Weekly Roundup: Burnaby Approves Continued Gondola Research, Jerusalem Ignores Project Objections

Post by Gondola Project

Portland’s Aerial Tram, a transit system like the one Burnaby is studying. Photo Credit: Translink
  • A Jerusalem Cable Car Project is moving forward despite the objections of many, including archaeologists, architects, and Palestinians. Roughly 3.5 million tourists visit Jerusalem annually. 


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24
May

2019

Weekly Roundup: Aerial Transport with a Little Disney Magic

Post by Gondola Project

This new gondola is part of the Disney Skyliner aerial transportation system. Photo courtesy of Disney
  • The idea of putting cable cars on Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, is an attractive prospect to Tanzania which wants to boost tourist numbers. About 50,000 people climb the mountain annually and estimates are a gondola system would increase that number by 50%. The idea prompted Gondola Project’s Steven Dale’s to begin writing a 3 part analysis on it- the first of which can be found here.


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23
May

2019

Understanding the Dynamics of the Mount Kilimanjaro Cable Car: Part 1, Environment

Post by Steven Dale

Mount Kilimanjaro. Image via Wikipedia.

The proposed Mount Kilimanjaro Cable Car in Tanzania is controversial to say the least. 

The project envisions some combination of Chinese and Western interests constructing a cable car with an undefined length in an undefined location to the top of the highest mountain in Africa. The tourism board has been quoted in the media claiming that it would increase visitation to the mountain from 50,000 people per year to 75,000. The proposal has caused all sorts of outrage amongst a variety of stakeholders and the concept is currently just in the stage of feasibility analysis. 

This project is quite far from a done deal and will likely take years to be permitted. Given that the project was first mooted in 1968, a betting man would likely wager it will never be built.

Full disclosure: I’ve got no skin in this game. I’m just an interested observer. 

But what an interesting game it is to observe. The Mount Kilimanjaro Cable Car hits so many themes common to other recreational cable cars that I thought it worth the time to wade into the controversy.

Read more

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17
May

2019

Gondola Project To Be Featured on CBS News

Post by Gondola Project

A couple of weeks ago Gondola Project founder, Steven Dale was flown by CBS News to Mexico City to explore and comment on that city’s Mexicable cable-propelled transit system and discuss the current state of cable car technology. That interview and segment will air as a part of CBS News’ primetime special NO EXIT! tonight at 9pm ET/PT.

From the CBS News press release:

“The special, produced by the team at CBS SUNDAY MORNING, features stories that highlight everything from scenic drives to crazy commutes, the promise of cars that can lift off the ground and fly over traffic, and some thoughts from comedian Jim Gaffigan who explains why he enjoys traffic. Anchored by Jane Pauley, NO EXIT! features Lee Cowan’s report on how America’s love of freedom and automobiles created the gridlock the country experiences today and what engineers are doing to help eliminate it.”

As an added bonus, Steven had the chance to explore and document the system as a whole and spoke with several people close to the system’s planning, implementation and operations.

Expect a long-form, multi-post review of the system starting next week exclusively on Gondola Project.



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16
May

2019

Architect’s Vision for Cable Cars in NYC Demonstrates Complete Lack of Understanding of Cable Cars

Post by Steven Dale

CetraRuddy Cable Car New York City
Arndt Baetzner/Eugene Flotteron/CetraRuddy

Business Insider recently reported on CetraRuddy principal architect Eugene Flotteron’s plan for a cable car system blanketing New York City. The plan is the usual mishmash of a “grand vision” without a shred of technical validity. 

The plan envisions 35 person cabins departing every 15-20 seconds to deliver 5,000 pphpd while travelling at 30 mph and costing just $3 million to $12 million per mile. 

Regular readers will know that only two of those five specifications have merit. The other three are fabrications. 

Beyond the plan’s statistical impossibilities, there are a myriad of other technical problems with the design. Conceptual renderings depict massive, unsupported spans across land and water; a vast number of technically impossible on-tower turns; and single section distances that test the current upper limits of the technology’s capabilities. 

At least one of the renderings depicts all of the above.

This one.
Image by Arndt Baetzner/Eugene Flotteron/CetraRuddy

Business Insider never once questions the validity of the concept all the while implying that building a cable car would somehow be preferable than “trying to wade through the red tape of building additional rail lines.” 

If you think the red tape associated with a known and appreciated technology like rail is difficult. Imagine the complexity of dealing with an unknown and unappreciated technology like cable cars. Just ask the people in Portland

I could get into the technical nitty gritty of why the majority of this plan is technically infeasible, but I’d rather use what remains of my time and space here to focus on the purported “$3 million to $12 million per mile” to construct this. 

Nonsense. 

Maybe if we were talking about a basic monocable system with off-the-shelf components and slim profile stations built in a rural setting that requires only a single landowner’s consent. But we’re not. 

We’re talking about what appears to be a 3S system using custom towers and cabins, crossing one of the busiest urban harbors in the world, in one of (if not the) most complicated bureaucratic environment in North America. 

The lawyers alone are going to cost you $3 million per mile.

By way of comparison — to rebuild the Roosevelt Island Tram (RIT) cost approximately $25 million. I want to reinforce the point that this was for a rebuild. Much of the existing tower and station infrastructure was repurposed. As it was not a new system, permitting was less complicated than it would’ve been had it been a new build. Lastly, the RIT utilizes Aerial Tram technology which is much less complex and therefore much cheaper than the state-of-the-art 3S technology depicted in the CetraRuddy plan. 

The RIT came in at a per-mile cost of over $40 million. And that was a decade ago. 

How then can the CetraRuddy plan cost $3 million to $12 million per mile? It can’t. Full stop. 

Notwithstanding the fact that per-mile cost estimates are a terrible way to estimate cable car prices, there’s no way to build this for seven to thirty percent of the cost of a simpler system built ten years ago in the same jurisdiction. 

Would it be cheaper than the alternatives? Almost definitely, but let’s not set people’s expectations so high that there’s no choice but to disappoint when the rubber hits the road. 

Some might be inclined to discount all of these issues as mere detailsand not to sweat them right now. It’s more important that this thing is visionary. It’s grand. It’s innovative

Except that it’s not. The details matter. If they don’t, what we’re talking about isn’t city building but fiction. As I see it, for something to be grand, visionary and innovative, it’s gotta’ be realistic enough, technically achievable enough and honest enough to warrant further contemplation and consideration. This is none of those things. 

We run into these kinds of situations all the time right now. Someone latches onto the idea of urban gondolas and cable cars in a city and instead of doing the necessary research to develop an idea properly, they learn just enough to get themselves into trouble. 

Meanwhile the salespeople and biz dev departments of the major cable car suppliers look at this and say something to the effect of “yeah there’s no way this can ever get built but at least we’re getting the message out.” 

But what precisely is that message? Is false advertising and empty promises really what we need in this industry?

Cable cars connecting the various boroughs of New York City is about the most logical application of the technology in all of North America. The city is massive, has throngs of tourists and commuters alike and is absolutely strangled by a laughably limited (and constantly congested) number of bottlenecks and chokepoints to get people onto and off of Manhattan island. 

This is a winner of an idea but let’s not present it as a plan to the public before major technical matters are addressed first.

There’s never been more interest in urban gondolas and transit-oriented cable cars in the history of the business. Now’s the time for the industry to strike. But every half-baked idea that comes along promising something the industry simply cannot deliver works at cross-purposes to the goal of implementing cable cars and gondolas as complementary pieces of a multi-modal public transportation system. 



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09
Feb

2019

Mexico City Wants to Build 34km (21mi) of Urban Gondolas

Post by Gondola Project

Indio Verdes Station. Image from CDMX.

This week Mexico City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, released details of a massive urban gondola project which is comprised of four lines and 34 kilometres (21 miles). Yes, that’s 34km of ropeways!

Officials estimate that this network, known as the Cablebús, could transport a staggering 117 million passenger trips per year when it is complete. If built, Mexico City may one day be home to the world’s largest network of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems and steal the coveted title away from La Paz’s Mi Teleférico network (estimated to be 32.7km when fully built).

Today, some readers might recall that the region is already home to the 4.7km (2.9mi) Mexicable which opened in 2016.

Route alignment. Image from CDMX.

IPN Station. Image from CDMX.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, the government is taking it step by step. It appears that it has proposed a phase one plan that is split into two lines.

  1. Line 1: Cuautepec – Indios Verdes (7.7km, 5 stations)
  2. Line 2: Santa Catarina – Ermita (Iztapalapa) (1.7km, 2 stations)

Combined, the two urban gondolas will represent a total investment of US$157.2 million (3 billion pesos) resulting in 9.4km (5.8mi) of ropeways and seven stations. Line 1 and Line 2 will be designed with a capacity of 4,000 pphpd and 1,000 pphpd respectively.

La Pastora Station. Image by CDMX.

Campos Revolucion Station. Image by CDMX.

Reports suggest that this new transit system will benefit over 305,000 residents in some of the City’s poorest neighbourhoods where 75% of the local population lives below the poverty line. Ridership is estimated to be 50,000 riders per day for Line 1 and 4,400 riders per day for Line 2.

Officials have also promised to sync the cable car’s operational hours to the subway. In fact, they propose that the ropeways will be opened 30 minutes longer than the subway (6:30am – 12:00am) so that all passengers can safely return home after a day of work.

Cuautepec Station. Image by CDMX.

By soaring over topographical barriers, project proponents hope to not only lower travel times from 80 minutes to 46 minutes but to also shift user demand from polluting modalities and reduce 3,100 tons of carbon dioxide. From a social perspective, officials hope to recreate the positive results seen in other Latin American cable car cities where improved transit connectivity reduces crime rates.

In terms of its timeline, the government is wasting no time to implement this project. The City will partner with the United Nations Office for Project Services to assist with tender work. Contracting is scheduled to start next month and should be complete by May/June. Afterwards, construction will immediately start and the cable car lines will be operational by July 2020.




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Cablebús / Installations
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