The Rise of Cable Cars in Urban Transportation: A Sustainable Solution for Congested Cities

As climate change continues to reshape our world, innovative solutions for urban transportation have become increasingly important. One such solution that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of cable cars in congested cities. Austrian company Doppelmayr, renowned for its gondolas in ski resorts, has successfully transitioned to building cable cars for urban areas. With a growing demand for cleaner and more sustainable public transport options, Doppelmayr’s cable cars can now be seen gliding over cities like London, Mexico City, and La Paz.

With urban mobility accounting for 20 percent of Doppelmayr’s sales, it is clear that cities are actively seeking to decarbonize their public transport systems. While the demand for cable cars in mountain resorts remains steady, the company recognizes that climate change will undoubtedly shift the demand towards urban areas. This shift began around 15 years ago, and Doppelmayr’s biggest urban project to date has been the creation of a 33-kilometer network connecting La Paz with El Alto in Bolivia. As a result, Doppelmayr now holds the Guinness World Record for the largest public-transit cable-car system.

Cable cars offer numerous advantages over traditional modes of transport, such as tramways. Not only are they significantly cheaper to build, with a cost of less than seven million euros per kilometer, but they also require minimal land usage and can be deployed quickly. Hanane Bengualou, an urban engineering expert, highlights the speed and cost-effectiveness of cable cars, making them an attractive option for cities looking to alleviate traffic congestion. Furthermore, cable cars can easily “cross obstacles” like roads or train tracks, providing commuters with a hassle-free journey, free from traffic jams.

Although cable cars present a promising solution for urban transportation, they are not without their challenges. Complex administrative procedures and opposition from residents have hindered their development in some areas. For instance, Lyon, France’s third-largest city, had to abandon its cable car project in 2022 due to opposition. Nonetheless, cities like Paris are recognizing the benefits of cable cars and are moving forward with infrastructure plans. The Paris region, for example, has commissioned a 4.5-kilometer ropeway project that will connect suburbs and grant 20,000 residents access to the capital’s subway system by 2025.

The environmental benefits of cable cars cannot be overlooked. Transportation accounts for 35 percent of CO2 emissions in France, making it essential to find cleaner alternatives. Cable cars offer a more sustainable option, with lower associated costs and minimal emissions. Notably, the Paris region’s adoption of cable cars signifies a shift towards greener transportation solutions. Laurent Probst, the director-general at Ile-de-France Mobilites, highlights the cleanliness, regularity, and quietness of cable transport, making it an ideal choice for heavily congested regions.

One of the key challenges faced by cable car manufacturers is the lack of awareness among policymakers. The association of cable cars with ski resorts often prevents it from being considered as a viable option for urban transport. However, examples like the Paris region’s cable car project serve as a powerful tool to raise awareness and promote the adoption of cable cars in other cities. Doppelmayr’s head of international business development, Reinhard Fitz, expresses hope that these examples will encourage a broader acceptance of cable cars as a sustainable alternative to traditional transport systems.

In a rapidly urbanizing world, finding sustainable and efficient solutions for transportation is critical. Cable cars have emerged as a promising option for congested cities, providing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, and efficient transportation. With Doppelmayr leading the way in cable car manufacturing, an increasing number of cities worldwide are recognizing the benefits and embracing this innovative form of urban mobility. As the demand for cleaner public transport systems continues to grow, cable cars are poised to play a significant role in shaping the cities of the future.


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