February 15, 2010

BECAUSE THE WORKERS AND TOURISTS NEED A WAY TO GET AROUND THE PARK:

The Compelling Case For The Cable Car (Steven Dale, 02/14/2010 , New Geography)

San Francisco cable cars are not so much cable transit as they are a living history of cable transit’s past. So why, then, is cable re-emerging as a technology of choice — preferred to buses, streetcars and light rail — to many public transit agencies around the world? Cities are discovering that cable’s inherent flexibility and adaptability gives it capabilities that no other transit technology shares. Adaptability, safety, reliability, price, environmental impact, speed, capacity, and a successful track record all contribute to these newfound positive impressions.

Yet despite cable’s growth in the last 10 years, the US transit industry is still largely ignorant about the technology. Ironic, considering the technology has a uniquely American history.
Around 1890 there were roughly 500 miles of US cable car lines. While cable had been invented primarily as a means to ascend steep hills, the simple technology spread. Chicago, for instance, moved 27 million passengers per year. The system was a tremendous money-maker and the poster-boy for cable because - against all conventional wisdom - engineers had the chutzpah to install lines in one of the coldest, flattest cities in the country. A line in St. Paul, Minnesota was soon to follow.

But by the turn-of-the-century, virtually all cable car systems had been converted to electrified streetcars, which at the time were more cost-effective and safer. Perhaps as a result of that legacy, more often than not today’s planners assume cable is a slow, expensive and dangerous technology, only useful in mountain regions for carrying a few skiers from one chalet to another. A 1989 study from the University of West Virginia confirmed this perspective, and it seems that perceptions haven’t changed much in the last 20 years.

Here’s the real record...

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 15, 2010 6:41 AM
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