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Report finds public support for urban cable cars

30 Jul 19 A new report by German consultant Drees & Sommer has found public support for urban cable cars, particularly for links to outlying districts.

In Latin America, Cable cars are a standard feature in local transit systems in Latin America, the report points out. Cities such as La Paz, Medellin and Mexico City alleviate gridlock by 'leveraging their advantages', including a virtual absence of emissions, low noise and relatively low costs.

However, public opposition is still a common reason why cable car plans in Germany founder. Drees & Sommer carried out research into the reasons for objections and how acceptance of cable cars might be increased. The company is also working on feasibility studies for cable cars in towns including Leonberg in Germany, as well as for large industrial sites of major manufacturing companies.

Researchers surveyed a sample of 180 people aged between 18 and 80 in the Stuttgart region. The majority – 83% – said they viewed the deployment of cable cars positively, particularly when it comes to linking outlying city districts. There was also widespread recognition of the advantages: 42% are convinced that cable cars improve public transport overall. More than half consider them uncomplicated to use when correspondingly integrated in the fare system. An equal number believe that cable cars relieve heavily congested traffic routes and 44% are convinced that their use reduces CO2 emissions.

Attitudes to the concept have changed in the last few years as the traffic situation has become increasingly severe in many places, said Drees & Sommer partner Claus Bürkle. “Cable cars save commuters a lot of time they would otherwise be stuck in traffic; they are extremely environmentally friendly; they can be constructed in a short time and are much less expensive to build than subways or suburban railways. A cable car link can also enhance development of districts that have not previously been connected to public transport.”

Bürkle said that cable cars are not suitable for distances up to 8km. At 20km to 25km per hour, they are not exactly speedy but they nonetheless get users to their destination more quickly than a personal vehicle during peak traffic hours, he said.

However, respondents still had reservations about the safety of cable cars: only 31% trust them completely. Additionally, only one in 10 believes that operators will respond appropriately in unexpected situations such as an accident or a technical failure.

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A complication is the area of transit rights: many homeowners object to the idea of cable cars passing over their homes. The survey found that 44% considered a cable car passing their home to be an invasion of their private sphere.

“Many people recognise the advantages of urban cable car systems but nobody wants to see them gliding by their bedroom window in their own neighbourhood,” said Drees & Sommer senior project partner Sebastian Beck. “So the lines are planned to traverse public property as much as possible.”

According to the survey, the actual car height is decisive: three out of four respondents stated that they could accept a cable car line in close proximity to their homes if it was high enough. Privacy glass that darkens temporarily at strategic points could also protect residents’ privacy, Beck said.

Another obstacle is that, to date, there is no ‘lighthouse’ project in Germany for a cable car integrated in local transport that can offer guidance and inspiration to cities, towns and municipalities. The situation is completely different in Latin America: there, cable cars have become a staple of urban transportation, particularly in La Paz, Bolivia, which boasts the largest urban cable car network in the world. The currently 10 cable car lines will be joined by an eleventh in 2020, bringing the total length of the system to 34km.

Drees & Sommer is conducting a feasibility study for the town of Leonberg, near Stuttgart. It is studying the town’s needs, integration of the cable car in the existing urban transport system and routes options. The results are expected to be released by the end of the year.

The survey is a part of the thesis ‘Akzeptanzprobleme und Lösungsansätze im Hinblick auf den Einsatz urbaner Seilbahnen im öffentlichen Personennahverkehr’ (Acceptance problems and solution approaches with regard to the deployment of urban cable cars in public transport). Drees & Sommer project manager Olivia Franz submitted the study to the University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart this month for the degree programme in infrastructure management.

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