When Other Transit Modes Won't Do, There's Always Sky Gondolas

One Toronto-area man is hoping that cable cars in the sky will one day complete the metro's transit system, but transportation experts see limited use for the technology.
February 29, 2016, 8am PST | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Keanin Loomis, a resident of Hamilton, Ontario has sky-high visions of a cable car system that will whisk commuters around the area's often difficult topography. He’s so enamored with the idea that he's asked system expert Steven Dale to meet with Hamilton’s Mayor and city staff to discuss the idea. Steve Arnold of The Hamilton Spectator reports that although sky gondolas have taken off in other parts of the world, adoption in North America remains limited.

Traditionally, North Americans have seen cable cars as a fixture of ski resorts or tourist areas. Other parts of the world have been more open minded, seeing them as one component of an urban transit system.

La Paz, Bolivia, has built a network of gondola cars into its transit system — a $235 million chain of 11 stations capable of handling 9,000 passengers an hour. The service has been said to cut commuting time for suburban travellers from two hours to 25 minutes.

Support for such systems has been building in areas where the cost of building around topographical barriers has made more traditional transit options difficult. The footprint of the systems is small and they can be built rather quickly. In addition, they can be built cheaply—a feasibility study for a system in San Diego found that a sky gondola system would cost up to $37.5 million per mile versus $200 million per mile for a light rail system. However, as Arnold notes, integrating sky gondolas into existing metro systems can be difficult and versus other systems (light rail, bus, etc.) can be very slow in moving people from one place to the next.

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Published on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 in Hamilton Spectator
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