Posts Tagged: Gondolas



No City Wants To Be First . . .

but every city wants to be second.

The competitive drive to be number one just doesn’t seem to permeate City Hall and that’s understandable.  Infrastructure is terribly expensive and no politician or planner wants to embarrass themselves by green-lighting a future white elephant.

Cities are therefore remarkably conservative when it comes to infrastructure.  Cities tend only to adopt ideas and technologies that have already been proven in other locations, but sometimes even that strategy backfires:

The Portland Aerial Tram was the only Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT) system to be built for public transit purposes in North America since New York’s Roosevelt Island Tram was built in 1976.

Portland Aerial Tram

Portland Aerial Tram

Unfortunately, the Portland Tram’s planners took all their cues from New York and decided on using aerial tram technology; the most expensive of cable technologies and the one with the least upside.

Roosevelt Island Tram

Roosevelt Island Tram

There were several other cable technologies Portland could have and should have considered, but didn’t.  Instead of being inquisitive, Portland simply did what New York did, seemingly unaware that New York’s choice of technology was due in part to the limited options the cable technology offered way back in 1976.

Playing Follow the Leader is fine when you’re in kindergarten, but when you’re all grown up you have to ask questions.  Hard ones.  And when you find answers, extrapolate from them and apply them to your own unique situation.

Images by William Beutler and 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.



One Summer In Switzerland . . .

. . . after graduating from planning school, I was visiting my partner’s family when plans arose to go hiking around her local ski resort.

Let me make this clear from the beginning:  I am no skier.  I’ve skied twice in my life with little success and those occurrences were on hills of inconsequential size.

In my humble opinion, nailing oneself to a couple of planks of wood and throwing oneself off of a cliff is not so much sport as it is suicide.  If that’s what you’re into, great.  I’m happy down here.

As such, I was unprepared for the journey up the 2000 meter high Melchsee Frutt.  I was also unprepared for my first gondola trip.

Just to clarify, prior to my experience in Switzerland, my understanding of a gondola was this:


Skiing in Switzerland, apparently.

Wrong, I discovered.  A gondola was also this:

Also Skiing

Also skiing in Switzerland.

What kind of bizarre contraption was this gondola I asked myself.  Is it safe?  How many people can it carry?  How fast is it?  Is it safe?  Really?  But it’s just dangling by that cable?  Again:  Is it safe?

My worries were quickly put to rest.  The gondola was fast, comfortable and calm.  And if it wasn’t safe, no one seemed to care or notice.  I put my faith in the dozens of other Swiss passengers who showed little qualm about the vehicle.

As we ascended the mountain, however, a very curious event occurred.  On the ground beneath our car, about 25 feet below us, a pick-up truck whizzed by along a service road.  It was at that moment I had a realization:

There is no traffic 25 feet in the air!

After the hike I was curious:  Could this gondola technology be used in an urban environment?

I understood how ridiculous the idea was, so I secretly scrambled to uncover as much research as I could without anyone knowing.

Nevertheless, after a few weeks of digging, I’d uncovered enough research to suggest something I thought to be profound:  Gondola (later to be known as Cable-Propelled Transit) technology was not only an attractive option for urban environments, in many ways it was superior to our traditional family of transit technologies.

That experience, just over two years ago, sent me off on a bizarre hunt for information about what must be one of the most misunderstood and most underestimated transit technologies in history.  Sometimes the quest was borderline quixotic but it has always been exhilarating.

The Gondola Project is the culmination of that work.

Creative Commons images by bratha and ben.ramirez.

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.