March 24, 2014

“Transit Planners Look to the Sky with Cable Cars, Gondolas”

ULI’s UrbanLand has a well-balanced piece on gondolas, many of which have been adopted in South America:

Gondola systems can cost as much as two-thirds less to build than traditional rail systems, industry advocates say. No bridges or tunnels are necessary, there are fewer land costs, and a well-designed system can be up and running within two to three years from funding.

Gondolas also address one of the most vexing issues of urban transit systems—wait times. No one wants to get off a train just to spend 30 minutes waiting to catch a bus for the final leg of a commute. Gondola system capacities are lower than those for rail or buses, but they offer a steady flow of seats.  …


On a social and cultural level, the gondolas were a big success, says Julio Dávila, director of the Bartlett Development Planning Unit at the University College London.  …  However, the gondolas did little to alleviate the neighborhood’s traffic woes, and there are often long lines to ride the gondolas. “Doubts remain as to the wider effects of greater mobility brought about by cable cars,” Dávila concluded in his report.


With a Vancouver angle:

In Vancouver, a much-discussed plan to use a gondola system to connect the city’s Skytrain line to a university campus atop Burnaby Mountain was tabled after planners deemed it too expensive.

“On pure financial terms, the [gondola] is more expensive to operate than the bus service,” Jeffrey Busby, manager of infrastructure for Translink, the local transportation agency, told reporters.

Full article here.


Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. The best argument against the SFU gondola would appear to the highly uneven demand for service. Gondolas excel with steady crowds, but don’t deal well with demand spikes. As for cost effectiveness I’d love to see the details. The quote is: “On pure financial terms, the [gondola] is more expensive to operate than the bus service.” I’m left wondering whether the comparison is to the current bus service or a theoretical bus service providing equivalent service to the gondola.

  2. The Rossevelt Island Tramwayaerial cable car system has been operating since July 1976 as a commuter route crossing the East River and connecting the housing developments on Roosevelt Island to Manhattan in New York City.