Cable cars: back to the future to help combat peak oil?

A plan to run cable cars along High St could be a "small but significant" start to Dunedin preparing for the effects of peak oil, an Australian transport researcher says.

"Cable cars and trams worked wonderfully 100 years ago when we did not have cheap oil," Associate Prof Philip Laird, of Wollongong University, told the Otago Daily Times last week.

"It may be a case of back to the future, but a city like Dunedin has an opportunity to learn from its past to prepare for the challenges ahead."

Dr Laird, a rail development and energy in transport researcher, said oil prices would eventually force Dunedin from the "common obsession" with the motorcar.

If prices returned to the 2008 peak of nearly $US150 a barrel, there would be incentive to look to fuel-efficient cars and energy-efficient means of transport, including cable cars, trams, suburban trains, and buses.

The Dunedin Cable Car Trust's estimated $13 million to $15 million plans to have a cable car run between the Exchange and Mornington looked to be a good start.

The cable car would be made before building and material costs increased too much on the back of the high cost of oil.

It would also demonstrate how an "alternative transport corridor" could work on city roads, he said.

It could encourage similar developments elsewhere in the city, and link to alternative transport elsewhere.

Dunedin's historical development, and its wide main streets, meant there may also be a role for trams or trains, possibly blended as light rail.

"Even a small project can be the start of further planning to include transport alternatives in urban design.

"To start now could have tourism and commuter benefits even before oil prices bite."

There would "no doubt be some talk" about the estimated cost, even if it would not be borne by ratepayers, Dr Laird said.

"But, there is a need for a mindset change.

"Consider this: we are very good at expecting a return from the likes of rail, but not very good at expecting the same return from roads."

Dr Laird said Auckland's rail electrification by 2013, Wellington's new electric trains, and Christchurch's central bus exchange and tourist trams showed the potential to prepare for peak oil.

Government support for the Auckland and Wellington projects suggested Dunedin could seek help for projects that would help ease New Zealand's reliance on imported oil, he said.

Trust chairman Phillip Cole said the trust continued to develop its plans to ensure its benefits outweighed its costs, and would get its money from non-council sources.

He hoped the route would be extended to link with others "once the real benefits are realised".

A meeting for people at the Exchange end of the cable-car route is planned next month.



What about trolleys?

Even trams are too expensive, and really only work on the flat.  I can understand putting in cable cars as a tourist attraction - after all, we already have the grading in place on Hugh St - but the good old electric trolley buses will go everywhere cable cars and trams/light rail and the cost per mile is much lower. I noticed yesterday that the fixture for the wires are still hanging from the Roslyn bridge - waiting for their return.

Nice idea, but...

I don't fault the Dunedin Cable Car Trust and their enthusiasm, but I can't help thinking this would be a rather expensive white elephant. Ask yourself this simple question, as a Dunedin resident, how often would you have need to use this route? Unless you live along or near the route I would suggest no more than once. That means it would rely solely on tourists to turn a profit, which given the nature of the attached article is not a sustainable situation. If we are to bring back an iconic symbol to revitalise public transport in Dunedin, then bring back trams. Any route they followed must fulfil the day to day needs of the modern city. As such it should connect the main shopping area north of the Octagon, the University, the cluster of hotels around the Exchange and the many visitor attractions this covers there within.
As a suggestion, a route might perhaps run from the Exchange and its hotels, through the Octagon with the art galley, cinemas, bars, town hall, library and Regent Theatre, along George St, through the main shopping area and main car parks, as far as Albany St. Then past the Museum and University, and back down the one way system past the Hospital, Cadbury and the main supermarkets. Down Lower Stuart St, along Cumberland St past the Railway Station, the Early Settlers museum and Chinese garden. Finally back up via Queens Gardens to the Exchange. Perhaps a 2nd loop could run from the Museum, down Albany St, passing the FSB stadium, up Union Street passing Logan Park and the Polytechnic and carrying straight on through the heart of the University turning left onto the one way system and joining up with the 1st loop. Just a thought.

Cable cars and trams

Modern trams as used overseas are amazing - clean, quiet, electric, fast, can carry large numbers and a lot easier to install then cable-cars. The infrastructure required for cable-cars is huge. Extensive underground excavation, very expensive underground cable and very limited capacity. The old days of hanging on the outside like fruit bats would never be permitted today. An initial tram service along George street with a loop back along past the Hospital to Frederick Street and back along George. Sydney trams were installed for under 2 million dollars per kilometre. Look ahead - use trams and ban vehicles from George Street ?

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