Could Ski Lifts Revolutionize Mass Transit?

A unique idea resurfaced at TEDxAustin: What if we used ski lifts to revolutionize mass transportation?

Where did that idea come from?

The New York City subway moves 5.3 million passengers per day.

Ski lifts in Zillertal carry 298,000 people up the mountain each hour. The ski lifts have the capacity to transport 14 million passengers per day, provided they run 24 hours each day and carried passengers both ways.

Instead of using benches on wires for mass transit, cities can put enclosed gondola lifts in the sky. Unlike ski lifts, these lifts split off from the main line and slow down enough for passengers to board easily.


Always running — Unlike trains and buses, gondola lifts run constantly in a loop. Riders don’t have to schedule their day around their ride.

Personal space — Because gondolas come in constantly, passengers don’t have to cram into the cars. Miss a gondola? Hop on the next one. It’ll be ready for you in seconds.

Cost — Aerial cable cars allegedly cost $3 million – $12 million per mile.

Too pricey? Compare that to $50 million per mile for light rail and $150+ million for subway.

Less disruptive construction — It’s easier to build these without interfering with other things in the area.

More efficient routes — Aerial cables can easily be built over rivers, roads, walls, or greenbelts. This also contributes to a lower cost.

More enjoyable routes — Instead of burying you underground, aerial cable cars can pull you up to a beautiful view of the city.

A new idea?

The idea of aerial cable cars (aka gondola lifts) isn’t brand new. Two years ago Wired covered Rio de Janeiro’s implementation of the gondola lift.

Then again, ideas like cars, buses, trains, and subways are even older.

A number of cities are already running aerial cable cars like this to some extent. Do you expect it to grow? Do you want cable cars to come to your city?

(via TEDxAustin)

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