The Rise of Cable Cars in Urban Transportation

Austrian company Doppelmayr, renowned for its expertise in building gondolas for ski resorts, has ventured into an unexpected market: congested cities. Climate change has played a significant role in opening up new opportunities for Doppelmayr in the urban mobility sector. With a growing number of cities adopting cleaner and space-saving modes of transportation, cable cars have become an attractive solution. Doppelmayr’s cable cars can now be found gliding above the bustling streets of London, Mexico City, La Paz, and many other urban areas worldwide. This shift towards urban mobility now accounts for 20 percent of the company’s sales as cities aim to decarbonize their public transport systems.

Reinhard Fitz, Doppelmayr’s head of international business development, emphasizes how the company has evolved alongside its customers. Despite embracing new markets in urban transportation, the demand for cable cars in mountain resorts continues to thrive. With climate change influencing consumer preferences, the demand for cable cars is expected to shift gradually. Doppelmayr’s urban business began gaining momentum approximately 15 years ago, and their most notable project so far is the Guinness World Record-holding cable-car system in La Paz. This network spans over 33 kilometers and features 10 ropeway lines connecting Bolivia’s capital with the metropolis of El Alto. While Latin America remains their strongest market for urban mobility, Doppelmayr is actively seeking to expand into Asia.

Aerial tramways, including cable cars, have been adopted by more than 80 cities and towns worldwide, according to urban engineering expert Hanane Bengualou. Costing significantly less than tramways, cable cars provide a cost-effective alternative, with each kilometer amounting to less than seven million euros. Bengualou highlights that cable cars are an innovative solution that requires minimal land usage and can be quickly deployed without extensive on-site construction work. Laurent Probst, director-general at Ile-de-France Mobilites, supports this notion by mentioning that cable transport is clean, quiet, and reliable. The associated costs of cable cars are notably lower, making them an ideal solution for traffic-congested regions. Moreover, they can traverse obstacles such as roads and train tracks, offering commuters a transportation option that is free from traffic jams.

While cable cars present numerous advantages, their development in urban settings faces certain obstacles. In France, for example, opposition from residents and complex administrative procedures have hindered their implementation. Lyon, the country’s third-largest city, was forced to abandon its cable car project in 2022 due to such challenges. However, lighter single-cable technology, suited for urban areas with lower wind exposure compared to open mountain areas, is often sufficient. Nevertheless, challenges such as population density and other obstacles need to be carefully considered.

The association between cable cars and ski resorts has often overshadowed their potential in urban transportation. With climate change driving the need for sustainable and efficient public transport solutions, cable cars are gradually emerging as an attractive choice. Doppelmayr, with its extensive experience in building gondolas, has successfully tapped into this urban mobility market. As more cities become aware of the benefits of cable cars, their presence in urban landscapes will likely continue to grow. By offering cleaner and space-saving alternatives, cable cars pave the way for a future where cities can decarbonize their public transport systems, providing commuters with efficient and environmentally friendly options.


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