Posts Tagged: Crawl



Why is Boarding and Alighting an Urban Gondola Seen as a Problem?

Like Escalators and Moving Sidewalks, Urban Gondolas also involve boarding and alighting a moving "vehicle." Image by flickr user JD Lasica.

Perhaps the oddest argument against Urban Gondolas is the boarding and alighting process. Oftentimes, people complain that passengers will be unable to board and alight these systems given the unique process involved:

Generally speaking, urban gondolas move through stations at what is known as “crawl” or “creep” speed. While crawl speed can vary by system, a good back-of-the-envelope rule is 0.25 m/s or 0.9 km/hr.

Some might consider that fast. Others might notice it’s significantly slower than the average speed of escalators (0.30 – 0.61 m/s) or moving sidewalks (0.5 m/s) – two technologies where boarding and alighting also occurs while the method of conveyance is in motion.

It’s also worth pointing-out that these technologies are also used constantly by both the disabled and able-bodied alike?

So what gives?

My gut says there are four things at work here:

Firstly, when boarding and alighting an escalator or moving sidewalk, one is moving in the same parallel direction as the method of conveyance. In a gondola situation, one is moving perpedicular to the method of conveyance. Whether this has an impact on one’s ability to board or alight is unclear, but it likely causes a difference in perception.

Secondly, the wheelchair-bound are not often (if ever) be seen riding escalators and moving sidewalks. This may create the impression that any method of conveyance that moves during the act of boarding and alighting is therefore inappropriate for the disabled or elderly.

(Note: Boarding and alighting for the wheelchair-bound is common and simple. Please see moments 1:10 – 1:30 of the Rostock Gondola video for evidence.)

Thirdly, it is not commonly known that most gondola systems are equipped with a manual override mechanism that allows a station attendant to routinely stop the vehicle mid-station to ease boarding and alighting where necessary. Furthermore, systems such as the Bolzano 3S come to a complete stop in stations while the Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff is moved through stations by hand thereby allowing for full-stop boarding and alighting.

Lastly, for reasons only a cognitive psychologist could explain, new ideas are always held to a higher standard than older ones. It’s the same reason people question how well a gondola performs in the snow yet never ask that same question about light rail or streetcars.

People are funny that way.

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