Posts Tagged: Portland Aerial Tram

02
Nov

2011

Introducing White Cards

Here at the Gondola Project we’ve been busy producing what we’re calling WHITE CARDS — a new learning tool for those interested in Cable Propelled Transit. They’re basically a quick-read version of a white paper:

Sample White Card by CUP Projects.

The series kicks off with cards on Major CPT Systems. Each card provides basic information on the system (with images and stats), our brief analysis of the installation, and other related Gondola Project posts and pages.

The first two WHITE CARDS are now available online. You can find them on the WHITE CARDS Page or in the drop down menu, under “Learn About Cable” in the header.

All White Cards are being released with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 license. For those unaware of what means:

  • You can download, email, print, share and distribute the White Cards as much as you wish so long as:
  • You do not make money from the distribution and sharing of the White Cards.
  • You do not change anything in the White Cards.
  • You do not “cut-and-paste” from the White Cards.

Otherwise, feel free to share them in whatever form you like. Enjoy!



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.

20
Jun

2011

Is Public Transportation 340% More Expensive Than It Needs To Be?

Why is the Koblenz system so cheap compared to public installations?

Cable Propelled Transit systems could prove a boon to public transportation scholars and researchers because the technology’s curious history could open up the ‘black box’ of public transportation funding in the developed world and throw into question our entire model of how we build things that move other things.

Because cable has a long history of being utilized in a variety of other installations, we have an excellent model of how much these systems should – and do – cost. Problem is, this model seems to increasingly run up against the cost estimates prepared by government agencies.

If history is any predictor of the future, then a cable system built in an english-speaking country for the primary purpose of public transportation is likely to cost 300 – 400% more than an equivalent system built for recreational purposes. That’s concerning because whether for recreational or public transportation purposes, both systems are essentially doing the same thing – moving people from Point A to Point B.

Now let’s not make any mistake here: Of course a system built by a public agency for public transportation purposes will be more costly than those built by the private sector for recreational purposes. But should the gulf between these two purposes be so wide?

Consider the Koblenz Rheinseilbahn: It was built for ~$20m USD. It’s state-of-the-art 3S technology and is just under 1 km in length.

Now compare that to the Burnaby Mountain gondola which is estimated to cost $120m CAD (note: at time of writing, USD and CAD were basically equivalent). Now the Burnaby system is 2.7 km long. That additional length should add no more than ~$15m USD to the line costs for the system.

Assuming an alternate universe where the Koblenz Rheinseilbah was the same length as the Burnaby Mountain gondola, the total cost of this alternate reality Rheinseilbahn would therefore be ~$35m USD. That means that the public sector Burnaby gondola is 342% more expensive than the private sector Koblenz gondola.

Granted, there are a few caveats to this analysis which are important:

  • Government is always more expensive than the private sector.
  • The Koblenz Rheinseilbahn doesn’t have any of the air rights or privacy challenges that the Burnaby Mountain gondola has to wrestle with.
  • We have little understanding of the funding mechanism used in Koblenz. It’s possible the system was built at or below cost in exchange for a cut of the gate – a situation that would be all but impossible to replicate in Burnaby.

Nevertheless, a 342% premium is startling. And we don’t have anywhere near enough information to understand why that premium exists.

This isn’t an argument against the Burnaby Mountain gondola. Let me repeat that: This isn’t an argument against the Burnaby Mountain gondola. It is instead a concern about how we build transit in a western, developed city.

After all, we’ve seen equivalent situations with the Portland Aerial Tram, London Cable Car and Oakland Airport Connector. All display similar price points that are simply out of line with what we know and understand about cable technology.

This suggests a problem that is not specific to Burnaby but is systemic to our public transportation model. Either we’re paying a price that’s 3 times higher than is necessary or we could be building 3 times as much transit for the same amount of money. Either situation is unsustainable and should be subject to intense public scrutiny as it undermines our ability to quickly and cost-effectively build transit.

Maybe after we look a bit closer, we’ll conclude that’s just the way the system is. But if so, then shouldn’t we at least be asking why that is?



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26
Apr

2010

6 Iconic (and Important) Aerial Trams

The other day I was pretty hard on Aerial Trams for being obsolete, expensive and inefficient members of the cable transit family. Because of their place in history, however, many of the most iconic and important cable transit systems ever built were Aerial Trams, a point I failed to mention. Here are 6 of them:

6. The Vanoise Express

The Vanoise Express in France. Image by hchalkley at flickr.

One of the world’s only double-decker Aerial Trams, this Dual Shuttle system in France can carry a whopping 200 people in each cabin! Opened in 2003, the system was shut down in 2007 for repairs after a vehicle operator failed to slow the vehicle down upon entering the station. The accident caused no injuries and the system was reopened the following season. Read more



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24
Apr

2010

Aerial Technologies, Lesson 5: Aerial Trams

The Portland Aerial Tram. Image by functoruser at flickr.

Aerial Trams are the granddaddies of cable transit. They’re big, they’re aggressive and what they do, they do really well. Problem is, they can’t do much. They’re a completely antiquated technology due to their lack of detachability.

Like BDG or 3S systems, Aerial Trams use one or two stationary ropes for support while a second or third moving rope provides the propulsion. But unlike BDG and 3S systems the Aerial Tram’s grip is fixed and cannot be decoupled from the propulsion rope during operations. This means that corners are all but impossible in an Aerial Tram configuration and intermediary stations are limited to single mid-points along the line. These mid-stations are incredibly rare. Read more



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21
Mar

2010

One time . . .

One time, it’s a fluke . . . The Roosevelt Island Tram.

Two times, it’s a fad . . . Medellin.

Three times, it’s a trend . . . Portland.

Four times, it’s a movement . . . Caracas.

Five times, it’s a force . . . Next?



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04
Feb

2010

Roosevelt Island Tram

New York’s famous Roosevelt Island Tram will be closing this spring for a complete overhaul. The system, built in the late 70’s is one of the few public CPT systems in North America and recently became fully-integrated into that city’s transit system. So if any of you are in NY in the next month, take the time to check out what is a truly unique system. It’s well worth it.

If you don’t have the chance, the wonderful video below should give you an idea of what it’s like.



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15
Nov

2009

Not Over My Back Yard

Here’s an example of how not to implement Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT) in an urban area.

The Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) desired a direct connection between their two campuses in Portland, Oregon; one at the bottom of a mountain, another at the top. A CPT system was a logical choice. I won’t discuss what I see as a poor decision regarding the technology chosen (you can find that here), instead I wish to comment upon the route alignment.

Much to the consternation of local residents, the planners, civil engineers and politicians decided that the most logical route alignment for the Tram was overtop of a neighborhood en route to the campus. Planners failed to notice that while such alignments had worked in other locations, those locations did not fly overtop of people’s backyards.

View From The Portland Aerial Tram

View From The Portland Aerial Tram

If every there was a justifiable (and practically literal) case of NIMBYism, this was one.

Flying overtop of someone’s backyard is an invasion of someone’s private space and that presumed right to privacy is deeply ingrained in the North American psyche.  Before Portland, CPT had typically be installed overtop of low-rise apartment neighborhoods without backyards.  The two situations just weren’t equivalents.

Not surprisingly, the public did not react well.  One resident went so far as to protest in the following way:

Simple, yes.  Effective?  Also, yes.

Simple? Yes. Effective? Also, yes.

Listen, I’m a strong advocate of CPT, but I am in complete and 100% agreement with the owner of the above house. I also think his tactic is a fantastic example of using Portals of Entry to one’s advantage.

The beauty of CPT is that if aligned properly, it needn’t impose itself upon the urban or natural environment. Designers, engineers, planners and politicians ignored that fact and now they all have a black eye which will live on in perpetuity.

Sometimes HOW? and the WHERE? a technology is used is equally (if not more) important than WHAT? technology is used.

Creative Commons images by William Beutler and Misserion



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