Oakland Athletics Unveil 3S Gondola Concept

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One of the Bay Area’s two Major League Baseball teams is looking at building the first 3S gondola in the United States.  The $123 million system would transport up to 6,000 passengers per hour and direction between downtown Oakland and a new waterfront ballpark, becoming one of the highest capacity lift systems in the world in 2023.  Thirteen or so 35 passenger cabins would depart approximately every 21 seconds at full speed, yielding a three minute trip from the BART regional train network to the stadium near Jack London Square.  The gondola would be feature just one tower between stations thanks to tricable technology, which can traverse large spans while achieving high throughput.

A’s President Dave Kaval noted at a Saturday press conference, “I think anyone’s who’s sat in traffic in the Bay Area, which is everybody, realizes there’s a need for new, innovative transportation options.”  He continued, “In terms of transportation systems, we feel [a gondola] is a great investment and a great way to open up this part of the city and remove that original barrier of the 880 that cut off the waterfront from downtown Oakland.”  Over the first ten years of operation, the gondola could generate $685 million in economic benefits through construction work, new jobs, increased taxable sales and time savings for commuters according to a study completed by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.  The lift would service an estimated on million riders a year with an operating cost of $4.6 million.

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Oakland is already home to two cable-driven transportation systems, both built by Doppelmayr.  A monocable detachable gondola links new and old sections of the Oakland Zoo and a $484 million ropeway people mover links the Oakland Airport to a nearby BART station.  The Athletics’ 3S would be the first installation of its kind in America, unless the Los Angeles Dodgers beat them to the punch.  “We are in discussion with a few companies and plan to select our partner soon,” says Kaval.

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News Roundup: Bahn

  • Bretton Woods’ upcoming gondola gets a great name: Presidential Bahn.
  • Copper updates the public on its big new American Eagle and American Flyer lifts.
  • For the third time in six years, Soldier Mountain, Idaho hits the market.  “The current owners have experienced the typical start up challenges that come with operating a ski area that has been under capitalized, under managed and under marketed for many years,” writes Mike Krongel of Mirus Resort Advisors.
  • The BC Supreme Court orders the province to reconsider its 2015 decision to pull  Jumbo Glacier Resort’s construction permit over lack of progress.
  • Mont Cascades scores a $1.2 million grant from the Government of Quebec to help build the resort’s longest chairlift yet.
  • The criminal case of a former employee who may or may not have been stuck on a Gore Mountain chairlift overnight last winter heads to trial.
  • Snow King’s possible gondola gains two new alignment options.  GM Ryan Stanley tells the Jackson Hole community “After struggling for so many years to keep the lifts spinning, it is sad to see the negativity associated with proposed improvements to the mountain.”
  • The 380 acre Cold Springs Canyon expansion and detachable quad are officially a go for next summer at Sun Valley.
  • Doppelmayr nears commissioning of a very cool gondola with spherical cabins, loopy towers and whimsical stations in Moscow.
  • Stratton says goodbye to the SMS Poma, leaving just seven detachable surface lifts in the country by my count.
  • 36 days before opening, go inside the eye-catching Matterhorn 3S gondola by Leitner Ropeways.
  • Thanks to Everett and Will for these shots of Big Sky’s trailblazing Ramcharger 8 project.

 

Mayor, Dodgers Back a 3S Gondola in Los Angeles

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One of the last remaining Major League Baseball stadiums not serviced by permanent public transportation could be reached by gondola in 2022, says a group with early support from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Mayor Eric Garcetti.  Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC presented the idea to the Metro regional transit authority this morning as part of its Extraordinary Innovation unsolicited proposals program.  The tricable system would link Dodgers Stadium to Union Station, the busiest rail hub in the Western United States.

The 3S would be capable of transporting 5,000 passengers per hour and direction along a 1.25 mile route before, during and after Dodgers Stadium events.  It would cross over Chinatown and Interstate 110 with a terminus on the southeastern side of the ballpark with an unknown number of towers in between.  Utilizing 30 to 40 passenger cabins, the lift would be the largest gauge gondola in the western hemisphere and was selected for its optimal capacity and ease of accessibility.  “This is a major investment in the future of Los Angeles, with a zero-emission, sustainable technology that is increasingly popular for urban areas throughout the world,” noted Martha Welborne, project director for ARTT in a press release. “We look forward to working with Metro to make it a reality.”  Welborne is a former Senior Vice President of Corporate Real Estate at Disney and also served as Chief Planning Officer at LA Metro.

Mayor Garcetti commented on the project too, saying, “Dodger fans know better than anyone: making history means swinging for the fences and never stopping until you get home.  Our team has been at the center of so many landmark moments for Los Angeles, and this bold idea to ease congestion could transform how Angelenos — and millions of visitors — experience our city on their way to and from the ballpark.”  Lakers legend Magic Johnson also tweeted his support.

The estimated $125 million project would be funded privately but require the blessing of various public entities, especially to secure a lease at or near Union Station.  The founding principal of ARTT is McCourt Global, whose Chairman and CEO Frank McCourt formerly owned the Dodgers.  Much work lies ahead for the group including specific route selection and public outreach.  Operations are eyed for 2022, six years before Los Angeles hosts the Olympics for a third time.

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Poma to Build World’s First 3S Dedicated to Public Transportation

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A new 3S gondola will open in Toulouse, France in 2020, becoming the first dedicated tri-cable gondola system for public transport.

In its home country of France, Poma Ropeways has won a $56 million tender to realize the first 3S gondola designed entirely for public transport. Téléphérique Urbain Sud (South Urban Cable Car) will link two hospitals to Paul Sabatier University in the city of Toulouse. You may know France’s fourth largest city, with 1.2 million inhabitants, as the global headquarters of the Airbus Group.

The gondola’s 1.9 mile route will ascend a 300-foot hill called Pech David before crossing the Garonne waterway.  Factors leading to the selection of a 3S over a MGD were the need for long spans between towers (just 5 required instead of 20), the ability to more easily transport wheelchairs/bicycles as well as wind tolerance.  Fourteen 35-passenger Sigma Symphony cabins will circulate between three stations with an hourly capacity of 1,500 passengers per direction.  At 5 m/s, the system will achieve headways of just 90 seconds and a trip will take ten minutes each way, a 20-minute improvement from today in a car.  Like other successful urban gondola projects, riders of the 3S will be able to use existing fare media and easily transfer to and from metro trains or buses.  Additional stages are likely to be added to the ends of the new gondola in the future.

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News Roundup: Signs of Life

Revisiting a Burnaby Mountain Gondola

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Burnaby Mountain in Metro Vancouver seems like a textbook site to test cable-propelled transit in a major North American city.  Simon Fraser University, with 30,000 students and staff, occupies 200 acres on the western crest of the mountain.  A growing neighborhood called UniverCity occupies the eastern hilltop with 5,000 residents.  Both are surrounded by parks and conservation lands but are only 1.7 miles from a SkyTrain rail station.  The mountain is 985 feet tall and served by a fleet of 48 diesel buses providing more than four million annual transit trips with poor levels of service.  Snow cripples transit ten an average of days per year on a hill that 39,000 people will live on by 2030.

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Burnaby Mountain. Photo credit: Simon Fraser University

In 2010, TransLink commissioned one of the first comprehensive studies pitting ropeway technologies against the status quo and other alternatives in a North American context. One of the world’s largest engineering firms, CH2M Hill, led the team with financial analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers and technical consulting by Gmuender Engineering and the lift manufacturers.  Commercially sensitive sections of the report were never released to the public in order to safeguard a future competitive procurement process, but what was published is a fascinating read for anyone interested in transit or ropeways.

The SkyTrain Millenium Line, opened in 2002, passes 1.7 miles south of SFU at a station called Production Way-University in Burnaby.  Commuters wait an average of seven minutes for a bus here, which takes 13-16 minutes to go the less than four miles to SFU. Increased frequencies of already articulated buses would result in proportionally greater emissions, traffic impacts, staffing needs, required layover space and capital costs.

The study looked at a wide range of alternatives – from bus rapid transit (BRT) to light rail, funicular, subway, trolleybus, reversible aerial tramway, monocable gondola, 2S gondola, 3S gondola and funitel.  These were narrowed down to three major categories for further study – diesel bus, monocable/2S gondola and 3S gondola/funitel.  Other surface alternatives proved too expensive, had significant neighborhood impacts, or both.

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Comparison of three modes that made it to secondary study.  3S/funitel won on nearly every count except cost.

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East River Skyway Envisions 3S Gondolas for New York

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This week’s New Yorker features real estate website CEO Daniel Levy, who hatched a plan to bring gondolas to the Big Apple while on vacation in Chamonix in 2014.  His private venture, dubbed East River Skyway, envisions a trio of 3S gondolas with up to 12 stations connecting points along the East River with landmarks in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.  Levy has retained the Canadian firm behind The Gondola Project, Creative Urban Projects Inc., as consultants for the proposal.

Working in East River Skyway’s favor is the fact that New York’s M.T.A. is finalizing plans to shut down a section of the L train subway for a year and a half or drastically reduce service for twice as long. The L train’s tunnel that shuttles 225,000 daily commuters under the East River sustained damaged during Hurricane Sandy and needs up to a billion dollars in repairs.

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The Case for a 3S Gondola to Timberline

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Timberline Lodge & Ski Area is perhaps America’s most unique snowsports destination with year-round skiing on one of the Lower 48’s largest volcanoes. Operated for the last fifty years by RLK & Company on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, Timberline offers lift-served skiing twelve months a year on 1,400 acres of Mt. Hood.  Two million people visit the Lodge and ski area annually which are under 60 miles from Portland, the tenth fastest-growing city in America.  Timberline’s ski operation expanded in 2007 to accommodate growing numbers of visitors by adding the Jeff Flood Express in Still Creek Basin.  The ski area now has seven lifts with a vertical rise of 3,690 feet, the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

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On the left of Timberline’s trail map you can see the old Skyway lift line headed towards Government Camp.

Timberline is also unique in that much of its terrain lies below the Lodge and access road. Visitors drive halfway up the mountain just to leave their car and ski below. Although the mountain offers more alternative transportation options than ever, Timberline’s two-lane access road and relatively small parking lots remain woefully inadequate.  Building more parking at 6,000 feet within a National Historic Landmark is not consistent with RLK’s sustainability goals nor those of the Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service to minimize development around the historic lodge.

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News Roundup: Big Lifts