Could cable cars be a step ahead for Busan’s public transit?

Via Freakenomics*, I  learned that Tom Vanderbilt is asking for ideas to improve public transportation.  In a Slate article describing Nimble Cities, he asks for suggestions “make transportation in and between cities more efficient, safe, and pleasant.”

Here is your chance. Welcome to “Nimble Cities,” the second in Slate‘s Hive series, a project designed to harvest the world’s collective wisdom to solve the world’s most pressing problems. We are asking you, essentially, to become transportation hackers (and we’re talking not simply cars but the whole of urban and interurban movement). We are looking for your best ideas. They may be your own wild brainstorms, or they may be examples, whether grand or mundane, of things you’ve experienced in your own city or while traveling. But we want your best proposals for solving an increasingly relevant problem: how to move the most people around and between cities in the most efficient, safe, and perhaps even pleasurable manner. And then we want you to vote on which of those submissions you think are best.

I read Vanderbilt’s Traffic, a book about why we drive the way we do.  It’s a great book about psychology and the history of safe driving ideas and how they work (or not) in the real world.

Anyway, I need to think further about any ideas to improve public transportation because I am an enthusiast on the subject myself.  My suggestion of cable cars is not entirely crazy: Pusan is chopped up by steep mountains most trips to – are also trips around -.  Cable cars or jet packs would go far in shortening the distance traveled here.

More seriously, better organization for multi-mode transit would help.  “Multi-mode transit” – a phrase I have just coined – refers to using more than one means of transportation, or more than one vehicle, even the same type of vehicle, to get somewhere.  To get to Nampodong, a shopping district in Busan, I need to take two buses or a bus and a subway.  To get to work, I need to take three buses or a bus and a subway with two transfers and another bus.  I could omit the final bus if I chose to walk a kilometre uphill – up a seriously steep hill.  Well, that is, if I used public transit to get to work.

The buses are cheap enough, I feel,  and frequent enough.  Still, they are incredibly crowded, with some riders standing on the steps (inside the doors, but right at the doors).  My car is air conditioned and I can listen to my podcasts and not be crowded and jostled.  I can drink some Coke or iced tea while I drive.  What can buses offer that I don’t have?

Buses are cheaper than driving – at least for my car- gained through family as a sort of offer I couldn’t refuse, but not that good on gas.  If the bus were less crowded, I could read a book, and even prepare for class.  I could talk on the phone.  I could rest and even maybe even sleep.  Is the answer for buses more of the same?

A cable car would be value-added by virtue of the great views offered.  Placed to minimize transportation time, they could be placed away from the main hiking routes, slightly diluting the inevitable complaints from hikers (like me).  It may be that the weight of the gondolas would be carried free because the descending ones would match the ascending ones.

I’m liking this idea more and more.

Tomorrow, I’m riding my bike to work.  Maybe.


* I read but didn’t care for the Freakonomics book and have heard negative reviews of Superfreakonomics, but I do enjoy their blog.  Well, that’s a little harsher than I mean to be about the books.  I did learn a lot about economics from Freakenomics and found the research fascinating.  I just felt they didn’t give other explanations for the phenomena they were investigating enough credit.  Although their work on cheating teachers felt right, their explanation for reduced crime rates seemed a lucky bit of correlation rather than causation – the explanation was legalized abortion starting twenty years ago – the unwanted and high-risk children that would have caused so much crime were aborted.


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