Posts Tagged: London Cable Car

23
Apr

2011

Weekly Roundup

A few highlights from around the world of Urban Gondola Transit and Cable Propelled Transit:
  • Simon Fraser University’s The Peak is reporting that Burnaby city council gives the go-ahead to the Burnaby Mountain gondola transit system in suburban Vancouver. Advocates are quick to point out that this does not ensure the construction of the system – that will be based upon a new financial feasibility report due soon.

Lastly lastly, in other transportation-related news, if you live in Canada/US and can access Comedy Network, here is a hilarious parody by Stephen Colbert on the dilemmas of Unicycling in New York.



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20
Apr

2011

Is Gondola Transit Crossing The Rubicon?

Right now, there are two groups looking at urban gondola transit solutions: Developing World cities and Developed World cities. Pretty broad classification, I know, but bear with me.

Curiously, in the Developed World the technology gets little attention from the public sector. Typically it’s the private sector that pushes these systems as little more than touristic attractions. Sure there are exceptions like the Burnaby Mountain proposal in Vancouver, but the proposed Hamburg and St. Louis gondolas are more typical examples.

And yet in the Developing World, governments are all over the technology. This is where the technology’s major growth is coming from. As we’ve said before, the growth in South America is awe-inspiring.

Then there are the hybrids; those systems like the London Cable Car (Gondola) that have been spearheaded by the government but will be paid for by the private sector (presumably).

As I’ve argued before, the London Cable Car (Gondola) isn’t going to be a watershed moment for cable transit. But it may very well be the system that allows cable to cross from being seen in the eyes of western governments as nothing more than a Toy for Tourists and being viewed as fully-integrated parts of their local transit network.

This could very likely be the system that allows cable to cross the Rubicon into respectability and allow the industry to fully realize its first Medellin-esque “silver-bullet” system in the Developed World.

We’ll soon find out; the London Cable Car (Gondola) will be open in just over a year’s time.



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18
Apr

2011

John Biggs Responds to London Cable Car Questions

 

Artists Rendition of the London Thames Cable Car

Last week I wrote about London Assembly member John Biggs and his problems with the London Cable Car (Gondola). In that post, I questioned three central assumptions that underlined Mr. Biggs’ concerns.

Rather than leave it there, I thought it would be interesting to solicit a response from Mr. Biggs as per those questions.

I therefore emailed him those very questions and was pleasantly surprised when he (or his staff) responded promptly thereafter.

The original questions (in bold) and his (unedited) responses follow:

Dale: Why could it never be a part of the transport network? Why can a city that blends subways, double-decker buses and light rail not also incorporate a gondola or cable car system? Is London incapable of accomplishing what CaracasMedellin and several Algerian cities have already done?

John Biggs: We already have quite a good public transport network, based on subway and light rail, in this part of London. The shortage is of a road crossing or two.

I do agree that a cable car could form a part of the infrastructure but the mixture of topography/costs/demand plus perhaps some institutional prejudice counts, I think, against it. Volumes in london mitigate perhaps against cable cars.

Second reason is that the Mayor says it would operate without subsidy, which I think excludes it from our heavily subsidised system unless he didn’t mean it.

Dale: There is a massive shortage of river crossings in East London. Adding the cable car (gondola) increases the number of East London river crossings from zero to one. How then is this a bad thing?

John Biggs: There are about 6 rail crossings, all underground. It is a road that we need.

Dale: There’s no argument that East London requires at least one road crossing over the Thames. But such a crossing was estimated to cost £500m and could never have been completed in time for the Olympics – a prime impetus behind the cable car (gondola).

John Biggs: I agree with most of this except that we have 6 rail crossings already, with another on the way. Certainly not mutually exclusive.

I should add that there has never been a published transport analysis of the cable car proposal which attempts to justify it in terms of transport policy and demand.

I’m incredibly grateful to Mr. Biggs for his response and he does make some valid arguments. The most valid being his final point that there’s never been a “published transport analysis of the cable car proposal which attempts to justify it in terms of transport policy and demand.”

That’s important – now more than then.

Were the system to be funded entirely by the private sector as had originally been planned, then such a study would be unnecessary. If the private sector wants to risk its own money, they should do a study or not – their choice.

However as it seems that more and more of the system may be funded by the public sector, Mr. Biggs’ concern does seem justified.

Nevertheless, it seems like a case of closing the barn door after the horses have fled. Study or not, this thing is going to be built.

And while Mr. Biggs can agree that the Cable Car and a road crossing of the Thames are “certainly not mutually exclusive,” most of his arguments hinge on the idea that what East London really needs is a road crossing of the Thames.

His main argument against the Cable Car rests on the idea that because East London needs a road crossing, it must therefore not need and/or want a gondola crossing. That’s a logical fallacy – the two have very, very little to do with one another and one is not dependent upon the other.

It’s like arguing against buying a bike because what you really need is a car.



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10
Dec

2010

London Thames Cable Car Design Review: Now Available

Proposed London Cable Car. Image via Building Design Online.

CABE is the UK government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. And they’ve just now released their opinion on the London Thames Cable Car.

Generally-speaking, CABE is quite positive on the project. They “welcome” the project and are utterly effusive when it comes to the tower design:

  • “The selection of a cable car over a bridge or a tunnel seems to be a realistic decision, given the time constraints and impact on the surrounding area.”
  • “The towers . . . are well considered and could make an iconic contribution to this stretch of the river Thames . . . (they) are an exciting addition to the river.”

CABE is less excited when it comes to the station architecture. CABE calls the stations “modest structures” which aren’t as “inspiring as the towers.” There is also concern that because the “trip may become very popular” stations should be able to accommodate “large numbers of visitors in their passage into and through the station.” This concern is made more pronounced when CABE states the system will need to “cope with large surges of travellers generated from O2 concerts or Excel event.”

This surge problem is a legitimate one, but no more so than with any other technology. All modes of transit suffer in surge conditions. However, CABE’s comments do lead me to ask why the system is only being designed to offer capacity of 2,500 persons per hour per direction (PPHPD)?

Increasing capacity to 4,000 would be only marginally more expensive and wouldn’t require any major technology changes. That, of course, assumes MDG technology, rather than the more robust 3S. Were system designers to opt for 3S technology, stations would necessarily increase in size (thereby alleviating some of CABE’s concerns), while providing up to 8,000 pphpd. Using the 3S would also eliminate most stoppages due to inclement weather.

It seems bizarre that a system designed conceived because of the upcoming summer Olympics should opt for such a low capacity system. After all, the Rheinseilbahn in Koblenz is built for 3,700 pphpd – and that’s just to transport a couple of million Germans during a flower show over a period of 3-4 months.

For more, read Building Design Online and Greenwich.co.uk.



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08
Nov

2010

London Cable Car (Gondola): A Watershed Moment for Urban Gondolas? Unlikely

The London Cable Car (Gondola) via Docklands24.

With the possible exception of New York, there is arguably no more important city in the English-speaking world than London, England. During the summer of 2012 when the British capital hosts the Olympic Games, that city’s profile will be even higher.

That’s why those of us interested in Cable Propelled Transit are watching the proposed London Cable Car with such interest. If built – and with last week’s submission of the project’s formal planning application, that seems likely – there is the chance that the attention the system would receive from London and the Olympics could popularize the idea of cable transit and spread it throughout the developed world.

That belief, however, needs to be tempered. Optimism is great but optimism bias is not. While I’m hopeful about this system, I doubt it will be the watershed moment for CPT that some imagine. Here’s why:

  1. While the system will be integrated with London’s pay-as-you-go Oyster farecard, access to the system will require an additional £2.50 fare. All others (read: tourists) will pay £3.50. It seems unreasonable to expect London commuters to pay an additional £2.50 for what is, in essence a 5 minute connection. The vast majority of system users are likely to be tourists.
  2. The system lacks physical integration with the rest of the London transit network. Transfers between modes will be mildly challenging
  3. Unlike more advanced Urban Gondola systems, the London Cable Car (Gondola) has only two stations. This only reinforces the idea that cable is meant for short-haul, point-to-point travel.
  4. The Thames crossing is both blessing and a curse. Let’s be honest, without the Thames this system would never be built (that’s the blessing part). This situation does, however, just confirm what people already believe about cable – that it’s only useful for traversing topographically challenging terrain (that’s the curse part).
  5. The system is an MDG, not the more advanced 3S. As we’ve discussed before, the 3S Urban Concept vehicles could be a key to selling this technology to the world. An MDG probably won’t cut it. (Update: I’ve said the system is an MDG based upon the images provided – it looks like an MDG – however a colleague has informed that the system may be a 3S. We’ll explore further and update as more info becomes available.)

This isn’t to say the London Cable Car (Gondola) isn’t a step in the right direction. It is. But it isn’t likely to change people’s perception overnight. People won’t immediately start thinking of cable as a bona fide member of the public transit family. This system just doesn’t hit all the right buttons and touchstones to do that.

Instead, the attention the system receives will cause some to question the idea, give others pause and change people’s perception in an incremental, rather than sudden way.



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10
Aug

2010

One Empty Path (London Cable Car)

Alex Dziuk (LX to comment readers) is a reader of The Gondola Project and a Masters student at the University of Stuttgart. Last week he sent me these images he prepared for his thesis on a potential London Cable Propelled Transit system.

They’re witty, inspired and beautiful. And just to prevent any confusion they may raise, they have nothing to do with the proposed Olympic Cable Car/Gondola for the 2012 Olympics.

Take a look:

Read more



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