Much time has passed since the first notion of a cable car was voiced. At that time it was a wild idea proposed by the people of Gothenburg as part of the city’s anniversary discussions. After several investigations and some research, the dream of being transported over the river may be about to become a reality. Yet not merely as a tourist attraction, but also as a smart public transport solution to connect the city.
“There are many cities around the world that have invested in cable cars, not only because they require so little space, but also because they’re easy to operate, are energy-efficient, silent and emission free. But above all it’s a great way for people to travel short distances in dense urban environments. Most are actually being built in developing countries in Africa and South America, which often lack basic public transport infrastructure,” explains Per Bergström Jonsson, project manager and cable car analyst at the Gothenburg Traffic & Public Transport Authority.
The world’s highest
A good example of a successful venture, both socially and logistically, is in La Paz, Bolivia. Here in the middle of the Andes mountains is the world’s longest and highest urban cable car system linking La Paz with the suburb of El Alto from an altitude of 4,000 metres down to 3,640 metres. It consists of three different lines, which together cover a distance of over 10 kilometres and can carry 18,000 passengers per hour.
“The city’s investment is largely thanks to President Evo Morales, who has made this one of his social passions. Riding the cable car instead of walking for hours or taking the bus down the winding slopes of the Andes has made life much easier for many of the city’s poorer residents,” Per explains.
The latest addition in Eurasia*
“Ankara’s cable car is currently closest to Gothenburg’s vision – largely because it’s operated as public transport, but also because it features stations that are of architectural interest.”
Ankara’s cable car is the latest in Eurasia*. It opened in March 2014 after a record-breaking construction period of just ten months. The gondolas seat ten people and carry them over a distance of 3,288 metres to link the neighbourhoods of Şentepe and Yenimahalle with the metro system. The 106 gondolas (and two VIP gondolas) stop at four stations and can carry 2,400 people per hour in each direction.
London’s cable car – a tourist hotspot
Another cable car that many might be aware of is the Emirates Air Line over the Thames in London. It was opened in time for the 2012 Olympics and offers a spectacular trip over the Thames past Olympic Park and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, before setting down in North Greenwich. New statistics show that around 25,000 tourists per week use the cable car versus only ten Londoners.
“London isn’t exactly a successful venture from a public transport perspective, perhaps,” says Per. “It’s more of a tourist attraction. The route has its own payment system, only operates during the day and has poor links for commuters. It’s also often out of service due to bad weather. In Gothenburg, the main idea is that the cable car will be included in Västtrafik’s payment system. One of several alternative ideas is that it should be free, just like the Älvsnabbare (boat 187).”
Bolzano and Koblenz – an effective technical solution
Bolzano in Italy and Koblenz in Germany are home to more reliable and powerful cable car systems.
“Both of these feature technical solutions that we’re looking at closely,” says Per. “The system in Bolzano allows the gondolas to remain stationary in the stations for a short while, which we feel is essential for the cable cars to be accessible to wheelchair users, cyclists or parents with prams. The valley station in Bolzano is also nicely integrated in its neighbourhood. It makes us think about how our stations could look. The cable car in Koblenz is well designed for pedestrians as you can essentially board the large gondolas straight from the pavement. The interior of the gondolas is also worth looking at in more detail.”
Large airborne trams
Our final stop takes us over the Atlantic once again, but to North America this time. If you’ve not already done so, you can ride the Roosevelt Island Tramway in New York City. Over 26 million people have used “the flying tram” since it opened in 1976.
The two large cabins accommodate 110 people and make 115 trips per day linking East River and Roosevelt Island with Upper East Side in Manhattan. The trip across the East River takes around 15 minutes and offers a great view across the Big Apple.
“New York is fun in the sense that it’s called a ‘tram’. It’s also frequently used by New Yorkers, largely thanks to the fact that it’s free if you have a metro card.”
“There are over 15,000 cable car systems around the world – most of them ski systems – but more and more are being built in big cities. It’s an exciting development. With all the facts and background information we’ve gathered, I feel that there aren’t many projects as well planned as this one. We intend to do things significantly better. This is something I can guarantee,” Per promises.
/Helen Stommel Olsson
*Most of Turkey (95%) belongs to Western Asia, but the country identifies itself as European.