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Old Posted Jun 22, 2008, 1:05 AM
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Gondolas - A new method to solve mass transit in cities?

I was brainstorming the other day on new methods of moving people around cities efficiently, cleanly, and inexpensively. We often hear about light rail, but it is incredibly expensive. Most cities less than a million people or so can't afford it, and if they can afford developing light rail it is only a single line with limited service. It also takes an incredibly long time to plan, fund, and build (probably 7-10 years from the point of serious discussions beginning). I was trying to think of a way to move people that would quicker to develop, cheaper to build, and something that can easily fit into any city.

I remembered back to a few years ago when I travelled out to Telluride, Colorado, for a ski trip. Telluride has a gondola that takes people from an area called Moutain Village to the town of Telluride. The trip is roughly 3 miles and takes 12 minutes to travel to the full length, and you have the option of stopping midway at a transfer station to get to another area of development. The gondolas can comfortably hold four people and are completely enclosed thereby protecting passengers from the elements. These gondolas also slow down to a creeping speed at the stations facilitating easy transfer on/off. I have also heard that there are plans to use a similar (but possible faster) gondola system to connect Breckenridge and Vail.


A system like this in mid-sized cities would be a phenomenal way to travel! Here are some pros to establishing a mass-transit system like this:

1. Much cheaper development costs than light rail. Telluride spent about $16 million on theirs. That's $5-6 million/mile compared to light rail costs of ~$50 million per mile.
2. Land aquisition is much less of an issue since current right-of-way could be used. The gondolas could actually travel directly above traffic with support pillars in the medians or adjacent to the roads.
3. Immediate service. Gondolas come into the station every 30-60 seconds. Missing a bus or train is incredibly annoying when you have to wait another 10 or 15 minutes (at best) for the next one.
4. Increased capacity compared to bus routes or light rail.
5. Quick time-frame for construction. Time-frame of months instead of years.
6. All electric. Could be coupled to solar or wind.
7. Scenic views. The viewpoint from these would be second-to-none.
8. The ability to run these routes over existing right-of-way would enable planners to build routes that are most demanded instead of having to settle for which routes would be most feasible cost-wise.
9. Building an entire system would yield benefits that are more than the sum of the individual parts (5 interconnected lines will bring more passengers than 5 individual lines). This is something that no city has been able to do with light rail.

There may well be plans drawn up for this type of transit, and there may be some factor that is prohibitive. But I thought it was interesting to think about nonetheless. Any ideas on this or reasons why it would or wouldn't work?
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Old Posted Jun 22, 2008, 2:44 AM
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Maybe at Disneyland, but not in the real world.

1. Air space would be taken over, preventing construction of high rises.
2. Unable to branch out.
3. Would require tall buildings just for stations, so costs approach those for elevated rail.
4. NIMBYs would object to the lost privacy (since no one likes to see people floating outside the apartment window).
5. It's proprietary technology: once you build it you're stuck with the same company that's free to raise prices.
6. Capacity: if each car carries 10 and a car comes every 30 seconds, capacity is 1200 pphd, lower than an average bus.
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Old Posted Jun 22, 2008, 3:23 AM
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Evidently there's a little more of this going on than I thought. I found a link to an analysis of several trams and/or gondola lines in the US and one in Colombia. All of these are single lines, so none of them creates a "system" of transportation.

http://www.ogdencity.com/img/citycou...comparison.pdf

Telluride seems to be a bargain as well. Portland's cost is $57 million, most of that, however, came from design requests from the city and neighborhoods for aesthetic purposes. The others seem to fall somewhere in the middle.
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Old Posted Jun 22, 2008, 7:24 AM
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1. Air space would be taken over, preventing construction of high rises.
>Couldn't you just build the gondolas over existing roads? Besides, these systems would be built in cities with under a million people - which don't really have huge demand for high-rises.
2. Unable to branch out.
>I'm sure some sort of transfer station can be built to change lines. With 30-second headways, a transfer is really not a big deal.
3. Would require tall buildings just for stations, so costs approach those for elevated rail.
>The cable can drop to ground-level for a station. But assuming we're talking high-level stations... I imagine the structure for a station would be similar to a water tower, or the observation towers in National Parks - a simple steel truss, with lightweight paneling for a windscreen. Anyway, it's the guideway that costs major dollars, and in this case that guideway cost is apparently pretty low.
4. NIMBYs would object to the lost privacy (since no one likes to see people floating outside the apartment window).
>Again, this is being pitched to small cities, which most likely do not have residential high-rises.
5. It's proprietary technology: once you build it you're stuck with the same company that's free to raise prices.
>This is the case with every new transit idea that comes around. Monorails, PRT systems, etc. Doesn't make them bad ideas - if government or some other organization can dictate mandatory standards for development and construction.
6. Capacity: if each car carries 10 and a car comes every 30 seconds, capacity is 1200 pphd, lower than an average bus.
>Again, depends on the frequency of the bus. Assume the bus holds 60 people (50 seated and 10 standing), running every 10 minutes. That's only 360 people per hour. I'm sure that beyond a 10-minute interval, the energy costs of additional bus service begin to be prohibitive compared to the gondola.

Gondolas aren't a perfect solution, but they are an interesting concept. They definitely have some drawbacks - strong winds or storms could put them out of commission, they would attract lightning strikes, the difficulty of rescue if the system fails, riders get a sense of vertigo, etc.
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Old Posted Jun 22, 2008, 9:20 AM
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Some politician in Malmö proposed gondolas between the Central Station area and the waterfront as a tourist and transit line instead of LRT, but it was shot down immediately due to its low capacity.
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Old Posted Jun 22, 2008, 4:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
1. Air space would be taken over, preventing construction of high rises.
>Couldn't you just build the gondolas over existing roads? Besides, these systems would be built in cities with under a million people - which don't really have huge demand for high-rises.
I envisioned this type of transporation to be built in a city like Toledo (where I currently live). There is a need for easy, efficient transit, but we don't have the demand or resources to built light rail. Somewhat similarly sized cities also find themselves in the same situation: Louisville, Memphis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Birmingham, etc. I don't see this working in places like New York/Chicago/Atlanta/DC because their downtowns are already so dense that the number of riders would swamp the gondolas/trams. Smaller cities, however, wouldn't have the demand to swamp the system to the point of making it useless.

The argument about preventing the construction of high rises is more pertinent with rail transit because in addition to stations taking up space, the rail itself takes up land. With gondolas/trams the right-of-way over the road would be used which would mean only the stations really use real estate. Of course, high rise building in Toledo isn't exactly going gangbusters now.
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Old Posted Jun 22, 2008, 7:12 PM
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Wow, this is actually an interesting idea. They work really well in Ski resorts (some of the densest and highest traffic areas around) and some are actually building them across large swaths of the town allowing people on the far side of town to be quickly wisked to the mountain top.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
Gondolas aren't a perfect solution, but they are an interesting concept. They definitely have some drawbacks - strong winds or storms could put them out of commission, they would attract lightning strikes, the difficulty of rescue if the system fails, riders get a sense of vertigo, etc.
Lightening strikes aren't really an issue assuming the supports and wheels the wire runs on are grounded. Rescue on the gondola isn't that difficult since there are always backup systems that can manually reverse the whole system (granted at a much slower speed than normal). I think the biggest challenge would be the sense of vertigo and bounciness that seems to turn lots of people off from them at ski resorts.
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Old Posted Jun 23, 2008, 12:54 AM
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new york city has a gondola (roosevelt island tram)


source


flickr

have you ever heard of the highway in the sky? a guy was thinking about using old boeing jets as air trams...


source
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  #9  
Old Posted Jun 23, 2008, 4:47 PM
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In the Great Flood of 1883 in London, gondolas became a common feature to move around the capital.









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Old Posted Jun 23, 2008, 10:33 PM
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I'd love to see one of these connecting Miami Beach and Downtown Miami. Even as only a tourist line, I'm sure it'd do well.
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2008, 12:34 AM
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Quote:
In the Great Flood of 1883 in London, gondolas became a common feature to move around the capital.
WTF?
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  #12  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2008, 12:57 AM
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There was a guy in Austin a few years ago that was trying to get a business going of running gondolas on Town Lake around downtown. That was about 5 years ago though, and I haven't heard any other news about it, and I haven't seen any gondolas on the lake either.

There was also a guy on the news recently that takes his boat to work every day. He owns a law firm in downtown and takes his canoe to work every day from his house and ties up at a landing.

EDIT: It looks like nick_taylor and I were on the same page, but not the same as everyone else!
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2008, 10:11 PM
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I pitched this idea (not formally) once with the city of Clearwater, Florida... The Sky Gondola concept, that is (I also formally chased the ferry idea but didn't get much support from those I talked to). In the case of Clearwater, this would be a downtown-to-beach means of transit for the tourists (and residents). There is a crunch on parking on Clearwater beach and instead of encouraging more people to drive (which they did by building a new span of the Memorial Causeway Bridge) they need to encourage people to park downtown and take another means to the beach.

Though downtown lacks hotels, much as Clearwater Beach of current does as well. The point is the Sky Gondola concept can work but it has to be done in the right location, under the correct circumstances.
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Old Posted Jun 25, 2008, 4:40 AM
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Skylink International proposed an aerial gondola (termed "Freedom Gondola") across the Detroit river connecting downtown Detroit and downtown Windsor. The plan died when Windsor made it quite clear that they weren't interested by not picking a site for their tower.

















As you can see, this was an actual proposal.
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Old Posted Jun 25, 2008, 5:42 AM
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wow its not like windsor couldn't have given up a parking lot - lol
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Old Posted Jun 26, 2008, 10:01 PM
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when i saw the title of this thread i thought you were talking about venetian type gondolas
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Old Posted Jun 28, 2008, 4:26 PM
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Such cable cars rarely work in urban area's as public transport. There are a few examples such as the one in New York shown above, though they are limited by many of the things discussed here. I doubt they would be popular in small/medium cities especially as such intruding forms of transport will not go down well with people living along the route. They would also be a terrible eye sore along streets.

But there are a few more urban examples, though interesting enough, in most cases despite being useful for public transport, mainly tourists tend to use them for the views. You may want to research some of these existing ones a bit.
Cologne, Germany:
The Cologne Aerial tramway crosses the river Rhein and was built in 1957. It has a capacity of 2000 people per hour.
(photos from wikipedia)



http://www.koelner-seilbahn.de/english/index.html

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona actually has three aerial cable cars that are integrated into the cities public transport map. Unfortunately, not in the standard tickets from what I understand.
You can see them on the lower part of this transport map (the Grey lines) http://www.tmb.net/img/genplano.pdf

The main one is the Telerifico de Montjuic, which was constructed around 1928. It has three stations, one on the park of Montjuic, one in the harbour and the final station at the beach. It is useful for some trips to the beach from Montjuic, but costs much more than normal transport and less frequent.
photos from http://www.pbase.com/causerie/profile




The other two cable car lines are shown in the photos below:
photos from http://www.flickr.com/photos/wjt13/




Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon has one that follows the river in the Parque das Nações. You can see where it is located on this map (look on the river and then for the cable car symbols): http://www.parquedasnacoes.pt/mapa.jpg

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/86231630@N00/
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Old Posted Jun 29, 2008, 1:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpongeG View Post
new york city has a gondola (roosevelt island tram)


source


flickr

Yes, but if I remember correctly, not much people live on Roosevelt Island.
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Old Posted Jun 29, 2008, 2:20 AM
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it's a gondola or tram being used in an urban city is all

which shows the original op's idea that it is already being done and has the potential that he seems to feel there could be for it...

there was a story in the news recently though that they have to shut the tram down and island residents are being forced to use the subway and they hate it

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/14/ny...3e2&ei=5087%0A

Quote:
They waited at the island’s single subway stop as jam-packed cars — two, three, four of them — clacked by without a seat to spare. Then the grumbling began. “The tram is always on time,” said Sally Jenkyn Jones as she forced herself aboard an already brimming F train. “This is always too packed.”

The roughly 14,000 residents of Roosevelt Island, an improbably peaceful sliver of pseudo-suburbia between Queens and Manhattan, are getting a brief taste of what is to come next year: life without their beloved tram. From Monday this week through Wednesday next week, the service is shut down to permit inspection of the cables.

Next spring, the gliding red cars, a part of life on the island since 1976, will be taken out of service for at least six months as the system undergoes a $25 million overhaul.

The sky trolley has become the island’s emblem, and to some, it’s a monument on par with one of the city’s storied bridges. The prospect of months without it has unsettled many residents who worry that its temporary disappearance will overflow the subway station and leave many of the island’s elderly and disabled residents without an easy way to get to Manhattan — much as it did in 2006, when the tram was out of service for more than four months.

In a place where swing sets dot the shore and the buzz of raucous neighborhoods is a safe distance across the river, the underground bustle of subway transportation seemed almost foreign this week.

Janet Shea, a 26-year resident of the island, waited impatiently Wednesday morning for the F train. Like many other passengers, she said, she had budgeted the delays into her commuting schedule.

“I don’t see how the island is going to function next year,” said Ms. Shea, who works in finance. “It’s already a nightmare.”

That is a common complaint heard by Stephen H. Shane, president and chief executive of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the state agency that manages the island and the tram. But the overhaul is crucial to keeping the tram running for the next 30 years, Mr. Shane said, and residents will just have to live with the hassle.

“We know how significant an inconvenience it’s going to be,” he said. “But you have to understand that the prospect of a major complicated system having breakdowns and really putting people in a complete discombobulation is imminent.”

The 2006 service disruption came after an equipment malfunction stranded tram passengers in midair, some for as long as 11 hours. Yet residents still adore the four-minute journey, which carries them as much as 250 feet above the East River.

Transportation officials estimate that about 3,000 people ride it each day, compared with the roughly 5,900 who take the subway from the island on an average weekday. Even for those who prefer the subway, the tram is considered an essential part of the island’s transportation system.

The tram will be out of service so the old system can be replaced with technology that will allow operators to perform maintenance and run a tram car at the same time.

The inconvenience comes at a time when the number of residents is increasing. In 2000, the population of the 147-acre island was 9,520, according to census figures. Mr. Shane said he expected it to reach 16,000 to 18,000 over the next few years.

The tram is not only the “symbol of Roosevelt Island,” but an essential means of transportation in light of the population rise, said Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner, a Democrat whose district includes the island.

“It’s no longer a luxury,” Mr. Kellner said. “It’s a necessity.”

Mr. Kellner said residents live in fear of the “trifecta”— losing the use of the tram, the subway and the Roosevelt Island Bridge at the same time.

“When you’re in an area as isolated as Roosevelt Island, you always want to have another means to get out,” he said.

With an influx of new residents expected, community advocates said they had focused their efforts, with little success, on finding alternative means of transportation.

They have asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for some help, including extending the Q line, reserving a special car on the F line for Roosevelt Island residents, and adding more bus shuttle service.

“You can’t just walk two blocks and take another subway,” said Matthew Katz, president of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association. “Here, you walk two blocks and you’re in the water.”

Peter G. Cafiero, chief of operations planning for New York City Transit, said the authority had received several complaints from island residents about service at the station.

Mr. Cafiero said the authority could not add more trains, but he said additional staff members would be at platforms next spring to assist riders.

Roosevelt Island has played an important role in New York for centuries. It was once called Welfare Island because it housed the city’s prisons and poor houses, and later was the site of several hospitals.

Today, it is a socioeconomic and ethnic melting pot, home to a mix of low- and middle-income and luxury apartments and a racially mixed population. Thirty-seven percent of residents earned less than $35,000, according to the 2000 census, and 23 percent earned more than $100,000.

Residents say they like the small-town feel, though new high-rises on the south end might seem more at home in a small city.

Restricted transit or not, Roosevelt Island is popular in New York, and on Saturday, visitors are expected to come to help observe the annual Roosevelt Island Day. Residents will be handing out bagels and trowels, and they and the visitors will work to plant hundreds of flowers across the island by day’s end.
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Old Posted Jul 1, 2008, 3:49 PM
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Only rich tourists use Gondolas in Venice. Most use the speedier and cheaper Vaparettos (water busses).
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