Monday, August 8, 2011

Gondola Line for Ventspils

Ventspils is a mayor port town in Latvia known for its developed infrastructure, good public landscaping and ambitious projects. Though many things has been done to attract both tourists and industry and to raise the life standards for citizens, one problem is still evident. River mouth of Venta not only provides a natural harbor but also splits the town into two. Historic centre and all mayor tourist attractions are on the left bank while port facilities and a large residential district (Pārventa) on the right bank. There are two bridges upstream from the centre yet the detour is about 4 km so travel from Pārventa to the centre can be done only by car, bus or bike. Gondola line is the most reasonable technology for connecting the banks directly, ferry would be alternative but there is no place for terminal on right bank and the catchment area of such station would be significantly smaller compared to one located further inland.

So how would town life change is such gondola crossing is built? First of all – Pārventa would become as easily reachable district as any other neighborhood on the left bank and would finally start to enjoy all services the town centre offer. Secondly – the road traffic connecting the banks will decrease. Bus network could be substantially simplified and focused on feeding the gondola line on both sides of the river. Lot more O&D pairs would become walkable and cyclable (if gondola is bicycle-friendly). And finally – gondola would be a popular attraction among tourists searching for interesting perspectives above the old town.
There is currently similar project called Thames Cable Car under construction in London with estimated costs of €60m but expenses for Ventspils gondola line most probably would be lower. Depending on technology (monocable, bicable or 3S) the line could operate in winds up to 14-27m/s. In practice the system could not be used during strong storms but usually no more than one or two storms happen in a year. Anyway I believe that such gondola line would finally unite the town, strongly encourage people using eco-friendly modes of transport and – as importantly – make a distinct feature in town’s urban landscape to be proud of.

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