Never mind light rail, here’s a gondola?

Never mind light rail, here’s a gondola?

The world’s largest ski lift manufacturer wants to build 10 high-frequency gondola runs in New Zealand that it says will be cheaper and faster than light rail. Joel McManus digs deeper in his new report.

Could gondolas be the future of urban transport in New Zealand? Austria-based company Doppelmayr thinks so.

The Spinoff has been given an early copy of the Urban Transport Solutions report, which Doppelmayr will present at a BusinessNZ event tomorrow morning. The report has a forgettable name, but it contains memorable content and settings Get a surreal view of high-frequency gondolas soaring above Aotearoa’s busiest city. It may seem silly at first, but Doppelmeier isn’t kidding.

“We are concerned that New Zealand is missing out on the opportunity to gain a new status that is internationally adopted and could help open up transport networks in our major cities,” the report says seriously.

Doppelymayr claims he can build a new line in two years or less, for about a third of the cost of light rail, while taking up much less space.

The Doppelmayr report identifies 10 roads that it believes could be built effectively in New Zealand. It includes a connection between Auckland Airport and the city center along the proposed light rail route and two in Wellington along mass rapid transit routes from the airport and Bay Island.

There are also some less traditional options that wouldn’t be available to any other mode of transportation, including… An eight-minute shortcut up the steep hills from Wellington CBD to Karori, and a route from Queenstown Airport to the city center over Queenstown Hill.

The full list is at the bottom of this story.

Who is Doppelmayr?

In the world of gondolas and ski lifts, Doppelmeier is king. The multi-billion-dollar company has been making various types of cable-powered transportation systems since 1892. It has built more than 15,000 worldwide, including most of New Zealand’s largest lifts: those at Skyline Queenstown and Rotorua, Christchurch Adventure Park, and Cardrona . The Remarkables and Porters to name a few. It is also an equipment and maintenance supplier for the Wellington Cable Car (a useful reminder that even in New Zealand, not all public transport has to be a boring old bus, train or ferry).

In New Zealand, like the rest of the world, gondolas are mostly used for tourism and entertainment purposes. In the past two decades, Doppelmeier has made great efforts to persuade cities around the world to adopt aerial cable cars as a means of public transportation.

The company has already built urban gondolas in a few cities. Portland, Oregon It has a one-kilometre-long line up a steep hill connecting the university and hospital campuses to the waterfront city centre. Paris France It has a road currently being built to connect outlying suburbs to its metro system.

Gondolas in La Paz, Bolivia (Photo: attached)

peace In Bolivia it is the most comprehensive example. The mountain city has built a 33-kilometre network of 10 cable car lines, which has served 315 million passengers in six years.

In terms of financing, Doppelmeier says he is open to exploring public-private partnerships or equity arrangements in New Zealand, which could mean an entire publicly funded operation, a privately built and operated line, or something in between.

Gondola in Portland (Photo: attached)

Could urban gondolas be a good idea for New Zealand?

The basic context here is that Doppelmayr is a company that makes gondolas and this report is trying to sell gondolas to New Zealand cities. Doppelmeier’s report presents a long list of advantages of gondola transportation, but there are also a lot of questions.

From a construction standpoint, gondolas need much less land than light rail, buses or roads. All you need are towers every 150 meters to 1 kilometer, with an area of ​​5 to 10 square meters per tower. Building one would be far less disruptive than closing a major road for years in order to create a light rail track.

The systems are entirely electric, highly energy efficient per kilometer and do not require drivers, although staff are needed at each station to organize queues.

A slide from Doppelmayr’s report highlights how gondolas connect to other modes of public transportation.

For passengers, gondolas are very reliable because there is no congestion or intersections with other forms of traffic. However, they are weather dependent, and must be closed in high winds, although modern systems are becoming more versatile.

There is virtually no waiting time because a new cable car appears every few seconds. It’s accessible for wheelchair users, but it’s pretty terrible if you’re afraid of heights.

On the downside, Doppelmeier’s proposals have much lower capacity than light rail. It is estimated that the (now dead) Auckland Light Rail route is capable of carrying 8,400 passengers per hour in each direction. The alternative proposed by Doppelmayr for the same route has a capacity of 3,000 per hour, which is more comparable to a bus route. However, the company says it is capable of reaching a capacity of up to 8,000 per hour.

The Doppelmayr report claims that gondolas have benefits for sustainability and passengers

Aerial cable cars are also less flexible than buses or trains; There is no possibility of using cars during peak times, which may be important, especially for airport routes.

The real area where gondolas stand out above any other mode of transportation is their ability to get around things, whether that’s city congestion, highways or natural terrain like hills and harbors. A short route over a difficult hill, such as the route to Karori or an alternative crossing via Waitemata Harbour, is probably a better use case than a 40-minute journey from Auckland Airport.

Inevitably, some people will complain that it is an eyesore and that there will be complexity in building in protected natural areas, although these arguments can apply to any transportation project.

Perhaps the biggest thing holding this scheme back is just plain old doubts. Gondolas seem kind of silly – we know them as a novelty holiday experience, but we don’t take them seriously as suitable ideas for transportation. Politicians are afraid to give their best effort to something they could be ridiculed, and that will make an invitation to the gondola a very difficult prospect. I will admit that I am no exception. When this report arrived in my inbox, I was mostly excited because I thought it was funny and a bit silly. Now, I’m kind of convinced.

The ten suggested roads for New Zealand

Auckland airport to botany

  • An alternative to bus rapid transit
  • The aerial cable car departs every 36 seconds
  • Capacity: 2000 people per hour per direction
  • Travel time is 41 minutes
  • Stations: Airport, Puhinui Railway Station, Manukau CBD, Botany

Auckland Airport to Onehunga

  • An alternative to light rail
  • The aerial cable car departs every 24 seconds
  • Capacity: 3000 people per hour
  • Travel time is 26 minutes
  • You will transit Manukau Harbour
  • It will require the construction of a tunnel under the airport runway
  • Stations: Airport, Mangere Town Centre, Mangere Bridge, and Wanhunga

Northwest Busway Security

  • Extension of rapid transit buses
  • The aerial cable car departs every 36 seconds
  • Capacity: 1000 passengers per hour
  • Travel time 10 minutes
  • Direct connection to the Busway North Junction
  • Stations: Te Atatu, Te Atatu South, North West Busway, Henderson

Wellington Airport to CBD

  • An alternative to bus rapid transit
  • The aerial cable car departs every 36 seconds
  • The capacity is up to 2,000 passengers per hour in each direction
  • Travel time 22 minutes
  • You will need to pass under the Wellington Airport runway via a tunnel or run a shuttle bus to the cable car station
  • Much cheaper than bus rapid transit, if the cost of the second tunnel is included.
  • It can be built on top of Mount Victoria
  • Stations: Airport, Mount Victoria, Central Business District, Wellington Railway Station

Bay Island to Wellington CBD

  • An alternative to light rail
  • The aerial cable car departs every 15 seconds
  • Capacity: 3,000 passengers per hour
  • Travel time 20 minutes
  • Construction period of up to 2 years compared to 5-8 years for LRT
  • Stations: Wellington Trains, Wellington Hospital, Newtown, Island Bay

Visit Wellington CBD

  • A new road to relieve congestion
  • The aerial cable car departs every 36 seconds
  • Capacity of up to 2,000 passengers per hour per direction
  • Travel time is eight minutes
  • A new road to ease congestion through the hillside suburb
  • Mountainous terrain can be navigated faster than by bus or car
  • Stations: Karori West, Karori East, Wellington Railway Station

Wainuiomata to Hutt City Center

  • Extension of the existing railway line
  • The aerial cable car departs every 72 seconds
  • Carry up to 1,000 passengers per hour per direction
  • Connect Wainuiomata directly to Waterloo Railway Station
  • It will provide a second route over Wainuiomata Hill, which currently has only one access road.
  • Stations: Wainuiomata, Waterloo Railway Station, Rail Connection

Christchurch Airport to CBD

  • The aerial cable car departs every 36 seconds
  • The capacity is up to 1,000 passengers per hour
  • Travel time 25 minutes
  • Crossing Hagley Park was identified as a challenge
  • Stations: Airport, University of Canterbury, City Centre

Belfast to Christchurch CBD

  • An alternative to mass rapid transit
  • The aerial cable car departs every 36 seconds
  • Capacity: 1000 passengers per hour
  • Travel time 23 minutes
  • Stations: Belfast, Northlands, Papanui, City Centre, Bus Interchange

Queenstown Airport to City Centre

  • A new road to relieve congestion
  • The aerial cable car departs every 48 seconds
  • It carries up to 1,500 passengers per hour in each direction
  • It can be built on a hillside
  • You will need to go under the airport runway through a tunnel
  • Stations: Airport, Frankton Corner SH6/SH6A, Queenstown City Centre

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