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A Cable Car Comeback

Sophie Landrin looks at the global rise in the use of cable cars - the kind you find on a ski lift and not on the streets of San Francisco - as a transportation alternative. Several French cities are developing plans to become "wired".
November 9, 2012, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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It turns out that cable cars, also known as gondola lifts, aren't just for floating serenely over a snow covered mountain. In projects developed over the last decade in Medellin, Colombia, and Caracas, Venezuela cable cars were successfully rethought as a means of mass transportation serving some of those cities' poorest neighbourhoods.

"Cable transport is cost-effective, environmentally friendly, safe and requires little infrastructure," writes Landrin. "It is particularly suitable for crossing natural obstacles such as rivers or scaling hills, there being no need for expensive engineering work. Over an equivalent distance a cable link costs half as much as a tram line, and though no rival for underground railways in terms of capacity, some models can carry up to 8,000 passengers an hour."

Now France, one of the first countries to test the use of urban cable cars, is once again hopping on board. Brest and Toulouse are due to complete lines in the next five years. The Parisian suburbs and Grenoble, where a cable car system "connecting the city centre to a hilltop fort across the river Isère" was completed in 1934, are developing cable car plans.

"'This is neither a gadget nor a tourist attraction; it is all about transport,' says Joël Carreiras, a member of Toulouse town council and vice-president of the metropolitan council tasked with transport. 'We either had to dig a tunnel, or go over the top, and we didn't have the necessary finance.' The cable-car system, including three stops, is slated to cost €45m ($58m)."

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Published on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 in The Guardian
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