Gondolas, Not User Freindly

As the regional mayors are gung-ho on the $200 million SFU gondola, I went back to my files and found some more interesting information on using gondolas or aerial tamways.
I see one very big problem, the aerial tramway is a transit system and must adhere to Transport Canada’s rules and one big problem is the gondolas never fully stop in stations.
This means a minimum of two operators must be on duty at the stations during operation and as wages are a large percentage of operating costs, there is no real economic advantage for an aerial tramway, especially on a route where the vast majority of customers will use the $1.00 a day U-Pass.
Another heavily subsidized transit vanity project from TransLink!
$200 million seems to be a lot of money because TransLink does not want to properly chain buses during the few weeks of snowy weather at SFU.
From May 14, 2013……….

> Here is a TV clip explaining how a local Austin system of elevated
> cable transit cars is being pitched on the basis of much lower cost
> than light rail.
I think the main weak points are low capacity and
> the difficulty of operating on both ground level and elevated.

Capacity: A fraction of what light rail/streetcars can haul.

The “peak 2 peak” gondola system at Whistler is currently pretty much
the one with the highest capacity worldwide:


Capacity is listed as 4100 passengers per hour, with 22 out of 28
passengers per cabin seated, that’s ~3200 seats phpd.

Calgary offers ~12,000 seats phpd, with the possibility to extend it to
15,000 seats phpd by adding a fourth car per trainset.

The ropeway with the highest capacity ever built was (is?) at Koblenz,
Germany, passing over the Rhine for the “Federal Horticultural Show”
in 2011. It can carry 7,600 passengers phpd. The ropeway was chosen
because it doesn’t require a bridge over the river and one end is on a
fortress high above the river.

Speed: At most 10 m/s (= 36 km/h = 22.5 mph). Light rail/streetcars
achieve twice that when running in the street, and up to three times as
much, when running on private right-of-way, for station distances over
~1 mile.

The “peak 2 peak” gondola runs at 7.5 m/s (=17 mph, that’s *top* speed).

Accessibility: The gondolas never fully stop in stations, they keep
moving. Try to board such a thing if you have difficulties walking,
with a wheelchair, a baby buggy or significant amounts of luggage.

Besides, such a system can’t be integrated as well into a city as
low-floor light rail/streetcars, from the perspective of the feet of the
passengers. Just like anything that requires full grade separation,
such as e.g. “Skytrain”.




7 Responses to “Gondolas, Not User Freindly”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Growing up in Toronto, the C.N.E. (Canadian National Exhibition) had a roughly 0.7 km long, 31 metre high Alpine Way Cable Car ride across what was mostly the midway area from the area of Exhibition Stadium towards the area of the Princes’s Gates (not across all of the Exhibition Grounds). Each enclosed “car” held 4 people and it was a fan favorite. It was taken down in 1994. The reason I remember so much was one time my family and I went to the “Ex” and we couldn’t ride it because the wind was too high. There was a wind speed at which you were not allowed to ride. What is the maximum wind speed the planned S.F.U. Gondola can operate in?

    Zwei replies: Good question! I blows hard at the university, a lot more than it snows.

  2. Rico says:

    Sustained wind of 70km/hr

    Zwei replies, that is 43.5 mph. it probably that windy about the same length of time snowy. Those November and March gales!

  3. Haveacow says:

    How often is the wind around S.F.U.at or above 70 km/h? Does the gondola have a slow speed when winds are still significant but not above 70 km/h?

    Zwei replies: A lot more than it snows! I had a good friend stuck on the Grouse Mountain aerial tramway in a windstorm and he said it was the most disturbing thing ever to happen. With gusts exceeding 60 kph, the girl next to him threw up. Grouse is just a 2 car counterbalance affair and he said the swing from the wind was not good at all.

  4. zweisystem says:

    I just had a email from a chap in Burnaby and TransLink told him, it will run like SkyTrain and have fewer employees than what a bus service would. I just said bullshit to that. If the aerial tramway does not stop, it needs attendants, one to help and one to stop the system, they there would be shifts and relief at both ends. at best i think the system would need a minimum of 25 people to ensure safe operation.

    I wonder what Transport Canada would have to say?

  5. Haveacow says:

    I have no doubt about the need for more maintenance staff than say a comparable number of buses. I’m not against the project if they can make it cover its operating expenses to the same degree as a standard to heavy use bus line here in Ottawa. Which is anywhere from 52% – 67% of its operating expenses covered by fares. The issue is that, I do know that these things (cable car systems) are maintenance cost heavy and if you loose too much revenue because of heavy winds, I worry about its long term viability. One other thing everyone has mentioned in this group. If the wind is high enough to force the gondola to close for safety reasons, it’s probably snowing heavily at the same time. So, just when the roads are at their worst due to snow fall, there is a better than average chance that the Gondola will need to shutdown as well. I know this is a transit supportive website and I have built a career around developing transit but why not just spend the $200 Million on the road network around the University, if the busses and road network are going to be sidelined by the same conditions that will shutdown the Gondola.

    Zwei replies: The region has a very bad habit of not maintaining roads during snow. A few centimetres of snow paralyzes the entire Metro Vancouver and even SkyTrain does not run well!

    TransLink has no snow plan and chaos rules.

    The bus route to SFU is not onerous, its gradients not severe, yet TransLink does not dedicate their “hill climber” buses with chains to use the route. As always, to solve a management problem, a $200 million+ fix is planned.

  6. zweisystem says:

    Just a note, the following is the current cost to use the 300 metre long Hell’s Gate aerial tramway is $16.00 per adult.
    The cost of the 3.03 km Peak to peak aerial Tramway is $75 per adult weekdays and $80 per adult weekends
    The cost of the 885 metre Sea to Sky aerial tramway ranges from 53.95 to 59.95 for adults.

    The fare using the proposed approximately 2.5 km SFU aerial tramway will be the $1 a day U-Pass, allowing for unlimited daily travel.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Slightly off topic but this is a true story.

    A gentleman who goes to the same hobby shop that I do told me this one. The gentleman in question, just arrived back in Ottawa to live here fulltime after spending years in Vancouver. I was telling him about a single record breaking snowstorm we had a year ago in which we had almost 45 cm in a 8 hour period.

    “Wow” he said, “I am going to have to get use to helping other drivers push their stuck and or stalled cars out of intersections like I use to.”

    I replied, “I guess you don’t have to that very often in Vancouver”?

    His reply was fantastic, “No we don’t because in Vancouver we have a real high-tech way of doing that, we honk are car horns continuously and hope the sound waves move the stuck car out of the intersection on their own!”

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