Cable Car

A cable car is mostly used as a detachable gondola, funicular or aerial tram in the urban environment.

Aerial Tram

Cable cars can serve as an economic and reliable sub-system of the local public passenger transport network which can be implemented very fast. In the urban environment it offers a special travelling experience since passengers feel as if they would be floating over the city. Ropeway systems are very robust because of the experience of operating in winter.

They are mostly associated with reaching a mountain in winter (for skiing) or summer (for hiking) in touristic areas. However, in some parts of the world, such as North- and South America, North Africa, and Asia there are some successful urban cable car systems with a considerable diversity of use implemented.


The Tri-cable Gondola Detachable (TGD) used in urban environments nowadays has two carrying ropes and one pulling haul rope and is designed as a continuous feeder (frequency of cabins of about 30 s) and can cope with transport capacities of up to 6,000 pphpd. The cabins are designed for 35 passengers and offer every imaginable comfort. In the stations the cabins are decoupled from the haul rope and decelerated by tire conveyers and after passenger transfer re-accelerated to the constant rope speed. The systems are very resistant to wind (operation possible at up to 100 km/h wind speed) thanks to the two carrying ropes. Adapting capacities or headways is possible at any time and fully automated.

Cable cars are the quietest public means of transport that exist. An insignificant rolling noise emission is only perceived at the sparely existing columns. Studies proof that cable cars have the best CO2-balance of all the local public transport systems. The only infrastructures necessary are columns, ropes, and stations. The project execution time can be quite short compared to other local public passenger transport systems. The operating costs are relatively low, because the power consumption is low, station platforms can be monitored from central control rooms and hence the workforce requirements can be kept at a low level.


Urban cable cars are usually used in city areas whenever high relief energy or topographical, constructional, or traffic-related obstacles need to be overcome. To do so cable cars often follow the construction along the hillsides like in Algiers or Caracas or they bridge a river or port areas like in Koblenz or Lisbon.

Although the ropeway systems have a rather low operation speed of 30 km/h they are acceptable regarding the total travel time, since they float over traffic jams and crossroads and thus can make short cuts. Compared to the tram the average speed is about 20 % lower. It also needs to be considered that ropeways as continuous feeder systems constantly have one cabin available. Therefore, there are hardly any waiting times at the stations, which is the case with other local public passenger transport systems. However, trams have a higher density of stations.

Because of the low acceleration and deceleration rates in the stations the tire conveyors must be quite long. Hence the space allocations and costs for station buildings are significant. The use of Tri-cable Gondola Detachable (TGD) cable cars in urban environments is limited when they must cope with narrow streets or corridors due to the needed clearance of 20 m. In historical old city centers architectural design may also be a reason for not using the ropeway. Moreover, Mono-cable Gondola Detachable (MGD) cable cars have problems with horizontal curves. The design only allows straight alignments. To make a curve the cabins need to be decoupled from the rope. Since the decoupling can only take place in buildings, stations for the transfer of passengers are rather built where bends are necessary or vice versa. In contrast, horizontal curves may be possible with the Tri-cable Gondola Detachable (TGD) technology.

The low investment costs of a cable car per kilometer cannot be undercut by any other local public passenger transport system. One of the biggest concern for urban cable cars are no technical or economical, but social reasons. The prejudices a cable car must face in the urban environment reside in the fact that citizens feel limited in their privacy or generally observed and fear a loss of the value of their properties as soon as a cable car leads over their roofs.

To increase the acceptance of ropeways in cities they should be introduced slowly starting in peripherical areas close to an urban area. In this way people can get used to this new means of transport step by step and the inhibition threshold of using the ropeway in urban areas can be reduced successively, especially in Western Europe.

Legal notice: The pictures were taken by Chris Pan and enguany. All rights reserved by them.