AERIAL ROPEWAY TRANSIT AND ITS POTENTIAL IN URBAN ENVIRONMENTS
Mass transit systems present cities with significant potential advantages for economic, social, and environmental improvement.However, geographical and topographical barriers and infrastructure costs may not permit the implementation of conventional public transportation systems such as light rail and buses.In these instances, city planners may look at unconventional modes of transportation to serve the needs of the residents. Aerial cable systems or urban gondolas, a type of aerial transportation mode in which passengers are transported in a cabin that is suspended and pulled by cables, is one of the solutions to such cases. The gondola lines are cheaper than light rail, can navigate more topographically challenging terrains than buses, and could offer an efficient solution as part of a policy of reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Using aerial ropeways in urban environments has gained more attention worldwide, and some cities have incorporated gondolas and aerial tramways into their public transport networks creating effective urban transport solutions.
Cable-propelled transit(CPT), in particular detachable aerial ropeways are widely employed as transportation systems in alpine areas. In recent years, these transport systems have also been increasingly used in urban areas and are no longer a niche public transportation technology. Cable cars systems compete with performance characteristics of other more common urban transport technologies and have the potential to enhance the existing transport provision in cities. While many applications can be found as transportation systems in airport facilities, and to provide access to tourist attractions, several metropolitan areas have even incorporated gondolas and aerial tramways into their public transport networks.
A ropeway is an eco-friendly type of transportation mode in which passengers and shipment are transported in cabins that are propelled by steel cables. The principle of the cable-drawn transport scheme is not a new concept and has been applied mostly in terrain-challenged recreational contexts to transport skiers and tourists to mountain resorts and leisure parks. Technology and operational concepts, however, have evolved overtime to make them a reasonable and attractive alternative for mainstream urban public transport where conventional transit service was deemed very difficult or infeasible to implement. Top supported systems, also known as aerial cable systems, are supported from above via a cable (which may or may not be the same cable that propels the cabins — this varies by technology). Bottom supported systems are supported by tracks or rails underneath, yet are still propelled by a cable. There are two types of aerial ropeways: the “aerial tramway” with two large cabins permanently attached to each leg of the pulling cable - the cable turns in one direction and stops when the reaching the stations; it then turns to the other direction; and the “gondolas”, with a constantly revolving unidirectional pulling cable, to which smaller gondolas are attached and detached when entering and traveling through a station. The industry has made significant advances in the performance and capabilities of the technology, including the tricable configuration, faster line speeds and standardized intermediate and turning stations. Monocable technology is a term is used when a single cable is used to pull and support the cars. This type of technology means using small cars and limiting the distances between pylons. Bicable or tricable technology terms are used when one cable is used to pull the cars whilst one or two others support their weight. This type of system allows longer distances between pylons (up to several kilometres) and larger cars. Both monocable and bicable aerial ropeways offer several advantages when compared to traditional mass transit modes: high safety, high carrying capacity, long routes can be implemented (up to approx. 6 km/section), continuous passenger flows thanks to the constant movement, low space requirement along the route, no overlap with other forms of transportation. Further advantages of the bicable and tricable aerial ropeway are that very long rope spans are feasible, and high wind stability.
Ropeways are extremely adaptable to the terrain and represent an optimal transport solution for challenging topographical landscapes such as hilly terrains. However, even on flat land, ropeways have the capacity to overcome many other types of natural and manmade obstacles, for instance rivers, lagoons and estuaries, harbours, railways and motorways. Depending on the possibility to place intermediate pylons, even city traffic be overcome without the construction of surface or underground infrastructures. In some areas, these cable car systems have emerged as an optimal way to connect informal settlements that got established over the past decades along steep slopes and hilly terrains and where public transport supply is largely underdeveloped. The major potential of aerial ropeway systems is seen in the significant increase in accessibility between these settlements and other locations within the urban fabric, supporting social inclusion and access to work and education opportunities.
Additionally, integrating a cable car system into the existing transport infrastructure is relatively inexpensive compared to light rail or bus transit costs and it can be constructed quickly.
In terms of capacity, an aerial tramway service is comparable to that of a standard bus, while the gondola systems provide capacities comparable to small tramways. The capacity of cable car systems is strictly limited by the maximal weight the cars and the cables can carry. Cable supports and other civil engineering components are sized for a predetermined weight; thus transport capacity cannot be adapted to demand.
More and more of these transit systems are appearing in cities all over the world. While these experiments are encouraging, it is worth considering the challenges of developing an aerial ropeway transportation system.However, carefully planned ropeway systems fully integrated with the public transit network, providing passengers with the ability to transfer seamlessly to local metro lines.