Gondola With The Wind


How’s this for a crazy scheme.
The Palmerston North council and other local authorities have been presented with an idea for an innovative public transport system for the city’s university students.
It’s an $50m electricity-powered gondola transport system that promises to deliver people between the city and campus in as little time as 9 minutes.

Gondolas would arrive every 30 seconds, and ease congestion on Palmerston North’s Fitzherbert Road.

Dubbed ‘Palmylink,’ it would consist of up to four stations that could link with a modified urban bus network and could move up to 1500 people an hour in both direction.

The idea’s been the subject of several years of private sector research and development by Ryan O’Connor.

Those involved include Landlink, Beca, Common Ground and Toronto-based Creative Urban Projects. James Lunday told the presentation the proposed project would immediately add weight to Palmerston North’s Sustainable City Strategy and reinforce its existing points of difference as a true Student City.
“Systems like this provide a superb opportunity and efficient means of fostering change in the way that we live, work, and travel within our cityspaces.”

Expressions of support are now being sought prior to a feasibility study stage. Project promoters have said that the project, which would cost up to $50 million to construct, will be an infrastructure investor led project. A partnership model which includes key stakeholders will work collaboratively to make the project “investment ready” and attractive to potential investors.




  1. Christopher says:

    This isn’t too different from Vancouver’s Skytrain service (it just uses a different delivery method), or equivalent (think Sydney’s and Seattle’s monorail service, touristy they may be). I hope it’s built!

  2. Scott says:

    This is awesome. I want one :) .

    I can imagine it becoming super popular. Is 1500 people/hour enough?

    What is the upper wind threshold for a typical gondola system?

    This project would position Palmy as a leader in the field of sustainable urban transport.

  3. DanC says:

    Awesome. How much?

  4. Bevan says:

    Yeah, the only worry would be how much wind it could operate in. There’s a reason the Manawatu has the lion’s share of NZ’s windfarms located on the hills surrounding Palmy.

  5. ingolfson says:

    Well, I assume it could be built a little more stable than shown hanging off a single cable each. Two cables running side by side for each direction would make a much more stable travel possible with, I’d assume, much less swaying in stronger winds.

    So yeah, it could be built (it isn’t that new an idea after all), would likely be very beneficient (what system that decongests our roads and provides 30-seconds frequencies wouldn’t be). Let’s hope there’s some money somewhere for it…

    Oh, and how would 30 seconde frequencies work with boarding?

  6. Carl says:

    The have one of these in Portland Oregan in the states, apparently it works really well, there is a dvd series called E2, and in the transport dvd there is a section on what goes on in Portland and there is a 10 minute section on it. its suppose to really awesome.. if i can find the link for that, i’ll post it.

  7. rtc says:

    I think it works like gondolas work on ski areas, they keep arriving every 30s but in the exiting/entry stations the gondola detaches off the main cable and onto a slower one, so speed in the station is decreased. Each gondola fits around 6 people, the problem being that often the wait in middle stations is quite long if all the gondolas arriving are already full.

  8. joust says:

    OK, I don’t want to be a hater, but…It only takes 10min to bicycle to Massey from the south side of town anyway. Excellent bike lanes already, whats the point? Plus the free bus scheme for students should help with congestion, I don’t get it.

    Practical necessity aside it would be an awesome way to travel and link the summerhill drive area with the city across the river.

  9. [...] Crazy Gondola Plan For Palmerston Nth [...]

  10. Brent C says:

    Ryan, the guy who came up with idea took a lot of jokes about this project. He did it for his honours in planning at Massey. He has done a very creditable job. The idea works in with network planning, linking buses at major junctions where students get on buses to get to classes. I believe its projects like this that will give Palmerston North more creditability, giving it more of an image!

    This is something different and I have been looking forward to the media release of this project! Good on you Jon for having this on your Blog!!!

  11. Ryan says:

    Dear all,

    Some excellent points and its great to have such a robust and thought provoking discussion around alternative transport. Nice site Jon.

    The wind question is a very relevant one, and yes these systems do have wind thresholds. Generally mono-cable systems can handle between 60 to 90 km/h winds depending on engineering spec. While Palmys winds are known for electricity generation - they are consistent and medium speed winds - perfect for generation.
    We have studied the last 10 years of wind speed records and we are confident this will not be an issue, average wind speeds rarely (if ever) approach cut off points. The cabins could hold up to 10 people, and movement of the cabin due to wind would be very minimal.
    In terms of boarding, ropeway cabins are decelerated, go to a crawl speed or can stop, then are accelerated back on to the cable (which is constantly moving). This results in a 20 second stop over at every station. Capacity is not a great expense and can be added.

    Another good point from the cyclist. Yes well Massey does have cycle lanes and subsidised free bus. Firstly only a fraction of people walk and cycle (60% take a private car, 30% take a bus, the rest is active transport).
    Secondly, the high frequency of the system allows for seamless integration with the bus service and active transport modes. Palmylink makes the perceived ‘trip destination’ much closer. A density analysis around one potential station site puts over 6500 people within walking distance (10 minutes) of a station.
    The underlying characteristics are strong. It is envisioned bus subsides will be transfered to the system. It is worth pointing out, buses will face more and more congestion and time delays in the future. This is a future proof solution as the city continues to grow. The land use opportunities are exciting also, perfect for TOD.

    The technology is proven (even in public transport). Palmerston North has favourable physical, demographic and transport characteristics for ropeway transit.
    The crazy part is not the technology it self, as it is in over 10,000 applications worldwide, just the application in the urban transit market - people are not use to it. But this is changing, the uptake of this technology in the past few years has been exponential, especially in South America. Palmerston North has the opportunity to be the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to have a aerial ropeway as urban transit.



  12. Carl says:

    ^ funny thing is though Brent (not taking away from anything you said) even if its a bit of joke or just a project, other cities use it and it actually works quite well.

    IMO the only thing that is crazy about it is the price tag….

  13. joust says:

    Has the introduction of the free bus service and simulataneous carpark expansion shifted students off their bikes?

    The cost of the ropeway interests me too. @Ryan if you see this could you tell us more about the anticipated build cost and running/maintenance costs?

    It is really fascinating that these systems are being adapted for Public Transport. I’m sure many people traditionally only think of them in terms of the Rotorua Luge etc.

    Extending lines along Main st in both directions and up Rangitikei st in the future if this succeeds would be decent next steps I’m sure, there’s certainly room on Main st in particular.

  14. Brent C says:

    @Carl - Initially it seemed prity crazy, but looking at the idea once developed, it shows real potentail. It will bring something very different to Palmerston North. It takes a visonary person to create an idea like this and carry it this far.

    The building of a second bridge would cost a substantial amount of money as well, which is what the council currently wants to do. This project would have far greater benefits for the city as a whole than another bridge.

  15. Carl says:

    ^Its not crazy at all, ( can’t find the links to that Portland website either sorry guys)

    A question though, the roofs of each gondola, can they not be fitted with Solar panels? and also the stations it pulls into, can the roofs of these things not be covered in Panels? and like wise when the ropeway goes up over the hill. what is stopping them from putting a couple of smaller turbines along the way? Imagine it not only being carbon netural but also being able to generate its own power?

    I really do home people stand up and take not of this… it actually should be built to make a statement that it can be done, and something can be done outside of auckland…

  16. ingolfson says:

    Carl, solar panels are actually not that efficient (still not, after long years of research). They are, in some ways, almost a greenwashing exercise - not comparable with the sustainability of hydro or wind power at all. Where they do work, is either because you have a cost-efficiency for small amounts of power over new cabling (that is why you find them in pay-and-display meters) or on moving vehicles such as boats.

    The amount of power that could be gotten from the roofs of the cabins and stations would be minimal compared with the running energy needed, and you’d need significant backup anyway, because the system can’t just turn off when it gets cloudy or at night.

    Also, division of labour - solving energy issues and solving transport problems are two different things. By mixing the two up together you end up with much biggger problem, so I feel it is best the two are tackled in a compatible, but separated way.

  17. Doloras says:

    I am extremely suspicious of all these wild and wooly “future PT projects” (aka amusement park rides) being promoted by the media. Not only will they never actually be built, they distract attention from the need to improve provision of buses and bicycle access which can happen right now with proven technology. Which is why the media always puff them up - they minimise the chance of real PT being improved.

  18. Nick R says:

    They have three of these cable lines as part of the Medellin metro, they integrate directly with the underground metro rail stations. Conceptually it is not so crazy and it works very well in Medellin, but there the use of cable cars was the best way to overcome the extremely hilly terrain… in Palmy it sounds a bit gimmicky.

  19. ingolfson says:

    They are hardly unproven technology - in fact they have shown themselves as effective mass people movers in thousands of places worldwide. In commercial usage, too - built by skifield and tourism corporations. So don’t knock them - I like the idea.

    The only issue such “wild and wooly” schemes have is that they aren’t as easily extensible, but that is primarily because every time they get extended, they have to justify themselves over and over again as they fall outside of the standard schemes, rather than just being part of your standard budget like an extension to the road network - but in many places of the world, “crazy” schemes have done just what they were supposed to - the floating trams of Wuppertal still do exactly what they were built for, for example.

  20. Paul says:

    It’s a very interesting idea, taking what is consisdered to be tourist application and putting it into general public transport mode.

    Q. Security for the rider, does each gondola have a camera, panic button etc?

  21. anthony says:

    I don’t think having at least three station would help the congestion issues if more cars are needed on the cables.

  22. Ryan says:

    Great points guys and good discussion.

    Cost is a fundamental consideration for us. To put things in perspective, ropeways are around 1/5 to 1/3 to cost of LRT and are on par with BRT systems. Generally around $NZ 10 to 17 million per kilometre. Interestingly, some studies have found that while the capital costs or ropeways are higher, the ongoing costs are less than buses (providing the same capacity); hence the net cost is less of the lifecycle of the investment. Maintenance and operation is generally around 10% the cost of the system. The Palmylink team is confident we can build a business case around the system, mainly through ‘internalisng’ some of the external benefits associated with efficient PT in line with TOD principles.

    Dolorus, lighten up m8. It is hard the grasp the fact these systems can be applied in the urban environment. But they can, and are proven, and are a cost effective solution to urban transportation, particularly when there is a large flow of people between two activity centres and it is not possible to add road-based transport capacity. BRT and LRT require road space. They are not the end all, but in some instances they do actually provide benefits over other systems. In the last few years these systems have taken off in South America (in third world cities) because of there cost effectiveness. A number of cities are now looking seriously at the technology.

    Ropeways work fine on the flat as well as hilly terrain, check out the Lisbon system. The proposed Palmylink system goes over a river, farmland and native bush. This is made possible by a very small land footprint and adds to the passenger experience.

    Security is something that has been taken seriously. All cabins are fitted with CCTV and communication equipment, all stations are attended by staff which can stop the system and direct passengers to separate cars at night etc.

    The system is detachable and cabins continuously circulate around the route. They detach at each station for boarding. We anticipate about 40 cabins, more can easily be added to cater for growth in passenger demand.

    Keep up the thought provoking discussions and keep an open mind to the possibilities of the technology. I will keep an eye out on the blog and will be happy to answer any questions (there may be a wait sorry :) )


    Ryan O’Connor

  23. ingolfson says:

    How is your local political support? Got Council keen on it already?

  24. Scott says:


    Any plans for lighting or heating inside the cabins? I know its difficult to implement but would be a desirable feature on icy mornings.

    Would such a system be capable of being run without staff presence at stations 24/7?

    I’m think substantial advertiser revenue could be attracted to sign write the cabins…

  25. Ryan says:

    Hi again,

    Great to see interest in Palmylink…
    Our response from many stakeholders has been positive, with the dominating issue obviously being cost. We are currently compiling supplementary information for stakeholders so they can make an informed decision how to move forward.

    In regard to heating and lighting, yes this is possible on modern aerial ropeways - this will be a consideration in the Stage 2 investigations. While Stage 2 will look into operating hours, it likely to be from early morning to late at night. There is a daily preemptive maintenance period that that can be up to 4 hours in duration (outside operating hours of course).

    Keep up the good questions and discussion….



  26. Simon says:

    That’s not the updated animation. ugh, the line on the mountain.. here’s the better version:


    - Simon (animator)


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>