Aerial Cable Transportation, or simply Cable Cars, are better known for their use at Alpine Ski resorts and in mountainous areas. However, their ability to transport thousands of people per hour has seen them emerge as an efficient, effective and reliable means of mass urban transport.

The idea of using Cable Cars in the urban setup may not make sense to many, however, with the current intensive land use, increased populations and corridor variations in todays urban centers there is need for alternative modes of urban transportation. These alternatives may require us to go underground (such as metro-rails) or above the ground ( cable cars).

Linea Roja. Image by Photobucket user ZPLAQ.

Cable cars have several immediate benefits not the least of which is minimal interference with current land uses. This is in contrast with other modes that may require land acquisition as well as interfere with current land uses during construction ( A recent illustration of this is what was seen on Thika Road and now Outering Road), Cable Car construction does not interfere with city operations. They can also be built through informal settlements without displacing people, over barriers such as rivers, parks, valleys and other physical barriers.

Two major advantages of Cable Cars are their relatively lower cost of installation and operation as compared to other modes of mass transit as well as their high capacities. They can transport up to 10,000 people per hour ( 5,000 people in each direction). When compared to other modes of transport, cable cars are able to move more people than buses and cars though less than rail systems. However, the installation and operational costs are much lower for the Cable Car system than rail based systems. Cable Cars can be run without the necessity of government subsidies or “transit taxes as happens with Metro Rails and Light Rail systems.

Often underestimated: cable car systems do have a high capacity: 5.000 people per hour per direction!

There are several other benefits directly to the users such as the

  • minimum waiting time due to cabins being continuously on the move with or without passengers.
  • Use of designated routes
  • Movement is independent of traffic situations.
  • Passengers can travel in relative comfort and security
  • Paying standardized reasonable fares.

Cable cars allow for relatively easy  integration with transportation modes and trade centres , for instance metro or bus stations and shopping malls . They are easily able to fill the gaps between facilities, provide connectivity between amenities, cross barriers, create new networks as well as extend existing public transit routes.

In many places where cable transit is new, a major concern is safety and security. Cable Cars are known to be the safest mode of transit as they can withstand winds of up to 100 Km/h. They are also installed with CCTV cameras to ensure passenger security.  Cabin space allows for wheelchairs, bicycles and baby strollers to be transported.

There are several cities that have embraced  Cable Cars as an alternative means of urban transport. It is highly popular in South America  with the city of Medellin pioneering operations in 2004.One of their lines has 90 cabins that each have a capacity of 10 passengers every 12 seconds. Covering a length of 2 Km it takes 9 minutes for a one way trip (18Kph) thus resulting in a two way capacity of 6000 people. The line operates for 19 hours daily.

Image by Flickr user Prensa Palacio Bolivia.

The metro cable San Agustin in Caracas, Venezuela began operations in 2010 and consists of 50 cabins that collect passengers at 24 second intervals while Metro cable Mariche in Caracas covers 4km with a capacity of 2000 persons per direction and takes 17 minutes to cover a one way journey. The latter passes right through an area of high population that experiences high levels of traffic congestion thus diversifying neighborhoods. Lapaz, Bolivia, currently has three lines covering almost 10 km The city now plans to put up 5 more interconnected lines.

On the African Continent, Algeria has adopted Cable Cars with lines currently operating in the cities of Algiers, Tlemcen, Skikda and Constantine. Work on Lagos cable car is also under way.

More recent developments in Europe have seen the emergence of the Emirates Air Line in London and Coblenz Gondola Lift in Germany.

Cable Cars can be effectively used to transport people (mass urban transit) and goods (in industrial areas). They are an energy efficient means of transportation and though they require electricity to function they have lower energy requirements than buses or streetcars.

Cable cars provide an alternative option in urban transportation. As universal solutions to urban congestion are not readily available, cable cars provide one of the best alternatives that African Cities can adopt as a sustainable means of urban transport.

Credits: Images thanks to Doppelmayr Cable Car and Data linked to sources

8 thoughts on “Moving Urban Dwellers through the Air to alleviate Traffic Congestion

  1. This is a fantastic alternative and even cheaper that the trains I long thought were the panacea. for traffic in urban centres.

    However, how do we deal with the erratic power generation (i assume they are electricity driven) which plagues many African cities

    1. Power generation is indeed a challenge. Standby generators would be one option – considering that the power consumption would still be less than that sued by buses/motorized vehicles.

  2. It is true all cities need elevated transport systems. However elevated solutions that are currently available now will give relief in a restricted area to a small segment of commuters and does not mitigate the congestion on the roads below. Any transport system needs to have the capability to grow into a Network which will give commuters the freedom to travel from any location in the city to any other location. The only way a commuter can have this freedom is by having a personally owned vehicle but with the increase in the number of vehicles the inevitable traffic congestion and the hard to find parking space has made personally owned cars a difficult option.
    Cable cars are an excellent means of transport however they are suitable only from one specific location to another specific destination provided that there are enough commuters to constantly use the system and rich enough to provide the minimum ridership to generate revenues to make the system profitable.
    The most unfortunate thing about public transport is that planning for public transport is done by government bureaucrats who travel by chauffeur driven cars and the decisions are taken by politicians who fly by helicopters, and all the costs of these luxuries are borne by the common man who has to sweat it out in overcrowded, uncomfortable, inefficient & unreliable transport system.
    The government will not do anything to improve the transport system. It is the citizens who can do something about it. We need a new Magna Carta with respect to citizens rights for efficient transportation. The Magna Carta was signed in England on June 15, 2015, and is 800 years old. In this long time citizens rights have eroded and the new Magna Carta needs to restore the foundation of the freedom of the individual to efficient and comfortable travel against the arbitrary authority of the despotic bureaucrats and politicians whose only objective is to make contractors rich. Magna Carta (Latin for “the Great Charter”), also called Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties. Let us create the Liberty for Efficient Transport at an International Level.

    1. Thank you Ravinder.
      One thing that is clear is that only the personal car (any maybe bicycle and motorcycle) can provide that last mile benefit. But as you say, roads will not sufficiently handle cars if everyone had them.
      One thing about transportation is that there is no ‘ultimate formula’ and in growing cities, each channel has to be analyzed critically so as the select which mode of transportation suits the people there best – it may be cable, metro, lrt, busways etc it may even be NMT, who knows, based on the land use, terrain, weather and culture of a place.

      1. This is fantastic proposal to ease congested transportation problems for mega cities in developing countries without mass transit system. It’s also suitable for control of climate change due to low emission of carbon dioxide that result in global warming. Transportation in the air using cable cars will also promote tourism income for the municipal authorities.

        1. Funny enough, research indicates that you either use it for urban transport or tourism. Attempts to combine the two have proven to be a failure. however, the positives with regard to public transportation are immense.

  3. This is an incredible way to go for esp along Msa and Jogoo rd.In addition the decongestion will create space for the government to build tunnels where the internet fibre cables will run without experiencing frequent fibre cuts and interruptions as opposed to what we experience now due to improper civil works done along different paths.

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