The world’s largest urban gondola network leaps forward this week with the addition of the Línea Azul (Blue Line) in the Bolivian twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. Since debuting with just one line in May 2014, the state-owned Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) system has now transported more than 75 million passengers on its Green, Yellow, and Red gondolas. In 2015, My Cable Car committed $450 million to build six additional lines through 2020, and it ordered twomore last year. Mi Teleférico has quickly become one of Doppelmayr’s largest customers, exclusively utilizing the Austrian company’s ten-passenger monocable detachable gondola technology.
Construction commenced on Línea Azul in late May 2015 with cable pulling (by drone!) wrapping in September 2016. The first cabin launched later that month with Bolivian President Evo Morales taking the inaugural ride in November. After three more months of terminal buildout and system testing, the Blue line’s five stations are ready for show time. Línea Azul is La Paz’s longest to date, with 208 CWA Omega IV-10-LWI cabins that will cover an impressive 32,700 feet per revolution beginning March 3rd, just 645 days after groundbreaking.
Like the Red, Yellow and Green lines, the Blue line is actually two lifts with two separate haul ropes and two drive systems with cabins transferring between them. Nearly all of the Mi Teleférico network will be built this way, with multiple haul rope loops forming single “lines” with two to five stations each (most have either three or four.) Multi-stage gondolas operating with this principle in North America include WhistlerVillage and Excalibur at Whistler Blackcomb, Panorama at Mammoth and Revelation at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
Soelden, Austria unveiled its record-breaking gondola today called Giggijochbahn, to open next winter with the ability to carry 4,500 passengers per hour. The ropeway will feature Doppelmayr’s next-generation D-Line components and two modern terminal buildings, one featuring panoramic images of the Alps and the other showing off ropeway technology behind real glass. The top terminal will have parking for most of the lift’s 134 CWA Omega IV-10-D cabins. Innsbruck architect Johann Obermoser designed the stations in collaboration with Soelden and Doppelmayr.
This will be an impressive system by any measure with 3,022 feet of vertical rise and an 8,688-foot slope length. Travelling at the record-breaking speed of 6.5 m/s (1,280 fpm) the ride will take just 8.87 minutes. The fastest monocable gondolas in the world currently top out at 1,212 fpm. The Giggijochbahn will have 26 towers and a 62 mm haul rope driven by a ~2,180 HP electric motor. The biggest innovation will be the capacity – reaching 4,500 passengers per hour, per direction. I believe 3,600 is the current capacity record for a monocable gondola, a record shared between many lifts including the 10-passenger Gondola One at Vail and the 15-passenger Village Gondola at Mammoth.
Cesar Dockweiler is the General Manager for Mi Teleferico, the growing state-owned gondola network in Bolivia’s capitol city. This week, he’s in Switzerland visiting suppliers working on the Blue and White lines for La Paz, which are about 75 percent complete. Throughout the trip, Mr. Dockweiler has been tweeting updates from CWA and Fatzer to his more than 3,000 followers.
We now know what the world’s largest tramway cabins look like. One bright yellow and the other red, CWA’s largest Kronos cabins built to date will hold 230 passengers plus one operator each with six sets of doors on two levels. They will soon be hung on the Ha Long Queen cable car, whose track cables already stretch 5,000 feet across Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay at heights up to 617 feet. The Queen will supplant the 200-passenger Vanoise Express as the world’s highest capacity aerial tram when it opens early this summer.
The world’s largest gondola-based public transit network, Mi Teleférico “My Cable,” announced on social media this week it has ordered a 9th gondola from Doppelmayr for delivery in 2019. The Linea Plateada (Silver Line) will connect the existing Yellow/Red and under construction Purple/Blue lines in Bolivia’s capitol city of La Paz. When complete, it will connect nine separate lines and 42 miles of cable together for the first time.
The brainchild of President Evo Morales, Bolivia went all-in on gondolas in 2012, ordering three lines (with 4 haul ropes, 11 stations and 450 cabins) for phase one. The experiment proved wildly successful, offering safe, clean and reliable transport to the masses in La Paz and neighboring El Alto. Less than two months after the first gondola opened, President Morales announced construction of five additional lines on July 1, 2015.
Not many public transit systems are as revered as this one, which has more than 160,000 likes on Facebook (the largest subway system in the world, New York’s MTA, has just 50,000.) Mi Teleférico’s slogan is Uniting Our Lives and it serves more than 100,000 passengers every weekday. For 40 cents a trip, riders even get free wi-fi.
More pictures and details are filtering out from Hochgurgl, Austria where the Kirchenkarbahn opened Dec. 10th. This 10-passenger gondola wouldn’t be particularly notable but for the fact that it’s Doppelmayr’s first production model of the next-generation detachable lift called D-Line.
First a little history. Doppelmayr introduced the Uni-G terminal in 2000, replacing the “Spacejet” model of the 1990s. After the merger of Doppelmayr and Garaventa in 2002, the company continued to offer Stealth III and Uni-G detachable lifts in the US. In 2003, Doppelmayr CTEC added a North American-design called the Uni-GS and built 88 of them before discontinuing the model in 2009. With the Stealth gone since 2004, the Uni-G became the only Doppelmayr detachable product worldwide until now.
German architect Werner Sobek designed the D-Line terminal and he’s apparently well known-enough to have an English Wikipedia page. His enclosure is almost entirely composed of windows with a modern, boxy look that I’m not sold on. Setting appearance aside, Doppelmayr says D-Line can support line speeds of up to 7 m/s or 1,378 feet a minute. This is a big deal; the fastest circulating ropeway I know of today maxes out at 1,212 FPM. The Kirchenkarbahn uses a gearbox from Eisenbeiss and controls from Frey Austria.
Sunshine Village is one of two ski resorts in North America with access provided by gondola rather than road, the other being Silver Mountain in Idaho. Visitors park at the end of Sunshine Road and transfer to a Poma gondola for a 17 minute ride to Sunshine Village. Along the way there are two angle stations, one where doors stay closed and the other with loading/unloading at Goat’s Eye Mountain. All three sections share one haul rope driven by a 2,000 HP electric motor underneath the top terminal. The Goat’s Eye angle station has indoor cabin storage and there are additional maintenance rails at each end.
When opened on November 22, 2001, Poma claimed the Sunshine Village Gondola was the world’s fastest 8-passenger gondola with a max speed of 1,200 feet per minute. I don’t believe this was ever true as Whiteface’s Cloudsplitter Gondola opened two years earlier and can run 1,212 fpm. There are now at least 15 gondolas in North America that can do 1,200 feet a minute or faster. Regardless, Sunshine’s gondola is an impressive machine that moves 2,800 people per hour in each direction 15+ hours per day. It cost $16 million to build.