Putting the fun back into hybrid funiculars

24 02 2010

Yes, yes, yes I’m a bit of a public transport nerd and there’s a fellow traveller out there at the Gondola Project. And I can’t believe I am linking to something that features a video from the world’s worst current affairs television show, Australia’s Today Tonight advocating free public transport.

I love a good public elevator, cable car or gondola myself, even the ones where it costs an arm and a leg to pay to get on like the Skyrail just north of Cairns.

But then again I had just walked from Cairns to Kuranda and I did smell like a tramp so they gave me a whole gondola to myself. The Skyrail is or course stupidly named, seeing it doesn’t have a rail and from the Gondola Project I’ve learnt it is an MDG system, a Monocable Detachable Gondola.

Here’s another I rode, the Teleferico in Santiago de Chile.

This is the Ascensor Mariposa, one of the 16 or so extant ascensors in Valparaiso, Chile. I spent a day once visiting them all, and riding the ones that were still operating.

Cable technologies, or CPT, as the Gondola Project labels it is fun, and no two systems are ever the same as another system. I’ve been thinking about public transport needs in Wellington, since the road system and the train system are both congested and riddled with faults. I am convinced that just like everywhere the bicycle is a part of the solution, and cars are a large part of the problem, but Wellington has big hills, and a crazy topography. It’d be great to see what a comprehensive integrated public transport and separated bike infrastructure system is like that goes beyond thinking in terms of the current rail system plus light rail to the airport. I might even do some thunkung myself.

Meanwhile look at an old cable technology for getting light rail up a hill – Cincinatti funiculars and look at some new cable technology for getting up a hill, called a hybrid funicular – the Hungerburgbahn in Innsbruck, also at it’s official site and the video on youtube. The cabins are fixed at a point above their ceiling attached to the chassis, so the stations can be on any angle and the cabins are always perpendicular.

The Gondola Project suggests that cable should be a part of a city’s transport mix, and that it is cheaper than light rail, has shorter waiting times, and higher capacities per hour, and that they should be seamlessly integrated into the rest of the city’s transit system. He seems like a nut til you read his blog, and then he doesn’t sound silly at all. I like the way he thinks.

Now take the idea of an electrically driven autonomous PRT pod (which can take a bicycle) that travels along narrow paths on the ground and on elevated rights of way and put a  detachable grip on its roof that attaches itself to cables to go from one hill to the next, or across a gorge, or up a steep hillside, and maybe there is a fun hybrid technology suitable for a town like Wellington. Then yes I’d like to ride it for free, and it can be funded by a congestion charge on motor vehicles, for anyone heading into Wellington going south of Ngauranga Gorge.

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