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Ski Lifts Can Could Help Get Cargo Traffic Off the Road

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the you-either-like-this-or-have-no-soul dept.

Transportation 225

An anonymous reader writes with this except from a beautifully illustrated, thought-provoking article: "These days, we use them almost exclusively to transport skiers and snowboarders up snow slopes, but before the 1940s, aerial ropeways were a common means of cargo transport, not only in mountainous regions but also on flat terrain. An electrically powered aerial ropeway is one of the cheapest and most efficient means of transportation available. Some generate excess energy that can be used to power nearby factories or data centers. An innovative system called RopeCon (not to be confused with a role-playing convention held annually in Finland) can move up to 10,000 tonnes of freight per hour."

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"Ski Lifts CAN COULD Help?" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054092)

Ski lifts, however, are of no utility when conducting a simple once-over of one's grammar.

Re:"Ski Lifts CAN COULD Help?" (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054252)

timothy had a couple of drinks, so what

Re:"Ski Lifts CAN COULD Help?" (2)

skirmish666 (1287122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054486)

An anonymous reader writes with this except

Aww, I was looking forward to reading the article...

Re:"Ski Lifts CAN COULD Help?" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054514)

Also uses except insteas of excerpt.
A story this stupid can could at least have correct english.

Re:"Ski Lifts CAN COULD Help?" (5, Funny)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054838)

Your ignorance is astounding. You should learn more about Ski Lifts Cans [wikipedia.org] before making such comments.

overhead wires or third rails (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054118)

what advantage does this technology hold over trains?

Re:overhead wires or third rails (5, Informative)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054128)

what advantage does this technology hold over trains?

Simple, with a ski lift, you don't have to haul the engine everywhere you go. While a railroad involves massive engines which travel back and forth with each route, the motive force in a ropeway is provided by fixed elements and used to pull the cable around a cycle.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054204)

Electric motors can be pretty small. Also, moving your entire ropeway doesn't exactly strike me as the most efficient.

I guess the fact that engineers are actually building these things speaks to their feasibility, but the places these technologies are deployed appear to be temporary where the capital investment of rails would put them out of consideration.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054378)

If you ever get a chance, I'd suggest checking out the motor room of a high speed ski chair lift if you can. The motors are definitely not small and generally have massive diesel backups as well.

And their temporary usage isn't that big of a deal. I'm sure there's a pretty solid market for used machines as well. Ski areas buy used lifts all the time.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054424)

I see this as replacement to medium-short haul heavy weight transfers, not exactly as a train substitute.

I'd imagine that hops between the major cities could help removing the load on railways and roads. After all, there is a lot of packages that are travelling from one interchange warehouse to another and then delivered via local transit.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054206)

Of course, trains can be more autonomous than ropes, and it is more straightforward for trains to provide longer distance transport than rope setups.

Now, do a comparison of rope transport against something that also transports over similar distances: a catapult and/or a trebuchet.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054222)

The weight of the locomotives can account for less than 5% of the weight of the entire train.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

toetagger (642315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054708)

Now you are getting closer: Trains are good for transporting heavy goods. But they do have drawbacks when you want to ship light goods or need a very fast tact rate.

I could see a setup like this work to connect the world's two biggest harbors: Rotterdam & Antwerp. The distance would be about 70km (ca 50 miles). If it were set up to carry standard sea containers bidirectionally, this could effectively make one harbor what used to be two.

A truck today can carry one container one way in 90 minutes + loading/unloading - dependent on traffic. You don't want to make a container ship waiting on a truck because of traffic, and a container ship could get hundreds of containers from the other harbor.

Also, this infrastructure can be build with limited impact on the environment, and can go over land or low water with little difference.

Another benefit is the lower tact rate. If you need a container to get to the other harbor within the next 3 hours, its unlikely you can do that by train (trains don't go with just one container). With this system, you just "cut the line" to get there faster.

In short: Use rail/train to move the bulk goods that have time, and use this new system to move containers in under 60 minutes.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (0)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054326)

There is almost certainly gravity working in your favour with a ski lift as your lowering and lifting at the same time. That essentially means you move the difference between the load being lowered by the load being raised. I would imagine its possible to gear the system so you could raise heavier loads while lowering lighter ones too. It does say in the summary about excess energy being used for other purposes. Which makes the ski lift a source of energy rather than a sink

   

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054336)

Plus, a train requires relatively flat terrain. This requires some significant terrain altering (embankment, tunneling, buildup, etc) around some places.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

lars_stefan_axelsson (236283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054410)

Simple, with a ski lift, you don't have to haul the engine everywhere you go. While a railroad involves massive engines which travel back and forth with each route, the motive force in a ropeway is provided by fixed elements and used to pull the cable around a cycle.

And a drawback is that you take the friction loss everywhere the wire rope travels. In a train you only need one bearing per wheel. Here you need one bearing per every unit length of wire. You can either move the engine on a rail, or move the the whole rail with a fixed engine.

That's not to say that this couldn't work, only that you make different trade-offs. TANSTAAFL.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (2)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054720)

How long can this ropeway be if you are pulling the entire length of the cable around. Ski lift is one thing but they are talking about transporting goods between cities. I thought the idea is that each little cart has its own motor and the cable is fixed but I guess I might be wrong. If you are pulling the entire miles long cable around at some point presumably that outweighs the advantage of not having to take the engine with you, which is only a small percentage of the train weight. Also, this seems like a high maintenance system with tons of moving parts and prone to outages due to weather etc. It's ugly too. Funny how every time you hear some centuries old technology being resurrected (modern steam engines, airships, wind powered ships etc) it doesn't really catch on, probably because there were pretty good reasons it was abandoned in the first place.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054138)

Price? Rails are expensive.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055138)

*coff* Uhh, ever looked at a ski lift? I'll bet the cable alone costs more than the same distance of rail, levelled for equal weight capacity.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (3, Interesting)

TamCaP (900777) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054194)

I think it's more of a metropolitan range mid-distance transport. It might be the new pneumatic tubes - if you need to move goods from one of your warehouses to the other, you simply move it to the Rope transport. Something like public transport for cargo. Will it work... time will tell.
In my humble opinion however, despite the relative ingenuity of the idea it involves a bit too much complication, and this will be a big barrier for adoption. Plus, someone show me the detailed ROI figures too...

Re:overhead wires or third rails (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054244)

You don't have to displace a ton of land with an overhead system, a ski-lift kind of thing would involve far less massive support pillars and also a less noise for the surrounding area (although more of a constant noise than a train would have).

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054400)

Until the haul rope snaps and anyone underneath it gets sliced in half.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054282)

what advantage does this technology hold over trains?

What the sibling comments said, plus it does not impede other traffic, you can easily cross under it.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

TafBang (1971954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054314)

I don't know, but they forgot to think about tornadoes ripping apart the lines. This is just a idea that wasn't well thought out.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054466)

what advantage does this technology hold over trains?

Is recently [faqs.org] patented [faqs.org] ?

Many advantages over trains! (5, Interesting)

Terje Mathisen (128806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054494)

I grew up in Porsgrunn, Norway, a city which had two such cable transport systems:

Both of them were used to transport limestone, the largest one moved the output north from the Kjørholt mines to the Hydro fertilizer factory on Herøya. It passed over several ravines and steep cliff faces and ran for decades with very little maintenance, although the amount of limestone rock underneath it, as well as the occasional lost carrier wagon laying on the ground showed that it would probably not be safe to climb up and hitch a ride in one of the (empty) returning wagons.

(I do remember being very tempted though, despite the warning signs and barbed wire wrapped around the supporting pylons!)

On this sat image [google.com] you can easily see the remains of the system, in the form of the totally straight road "Gravavegen" and the four concrete supports which held a pylon where the system crossed the small bay "Versvika".

The other cable system ran more or less in parallel with the first, starting from an open quarry about 5 km east of the fertilizer factory and going south to the Norcem cement factory which also needed limestone as a raw material.

This one is much harder to locate on sat images, the most obvious sign is this wide stripe in the forest:

Norcem [google.com]

Terje

Re:overhead wires or third rails (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054592)

Knee shrink.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054718)

Use to have this near the place I lived. It was used to move rock from the quarry to the processing center, cement plant IIRC.
Benefit was no trucks on the road, the buckets went over houses and land as needed and they were fairly quiet. Since it was just rock and dirt they could go at a slow speed which provides sound reduction.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (2)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054946)

From the fine article

"One calculation showed that a ropeway only 1 mile (1,630 metres) long with a difference in altitude of 0.4 miles (645 meters), would require a railway of 15 miles (24 km) to reach the same point. "

In other words you need to cut up a mountain and rise at a shallow angle that wont spill your tea in a train. In a ropeway you simply put up towers with a tiny footprint and on the way down you produce energy !!!

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054974)

what advantage does this technology hold over trains?

Just traveled on this one [bondinho.com.br] last week in Rio. Pretty amazing. Advantages and disadvantages over trains though. Can travel over irregular terrain, water, up/down mountains, no rails/roadways to build, so no interference on the ground is needed, no wheels, suspension, power train to carry, quite efficient. Electric power only to the stations. So for short distances and moderate cargo it's great, like moving people and light cargo between buildings all over a business area perhaps. For cargo perhaps pneumatic [wikipedia.org] is better in some cases though, it can make curves and go faster I think. However you can't span huge distances without multiple stations and relaying, or achieve the unbeatable speed and cargo capacity of trains. Trains can be over a mile long and their top speeds are continually increasing.

Re:overhead wires or third rails (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055032)

They used to use this in Hawaii for transferring sugar from a coastal mill to the boats along the north-eastern coast of Hawaii where there are no harbors. They would carry a rope out to the boat on a little skiff and then set up the aerial lift.

GOOD IDEA! (2)

TafBang (1971954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054132)

I already thought up 4 ways to Rob it thinking of the hardest circumstances.

Re:GOOD IDEA! (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054166)

Call the United States Marines. [cnn.com] They're not known for their aircrew, but their hot-dog pilots are among the best in the land.

They'll cut the cable for you so you can pick your loot up on a flatbed and...

(5) Profit!

Re:GOOD IDEA! (1)

Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054200)

Gosh, I hope you brought a couple big rigs to take the loot home with you. Do you rob open-topped freight trains full of gravel too?

Re:GOOD IDEA! (0)

TafBang (1971954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054208)

I'm going to start writing a script on the movie.

A Fashion Thing Maybe? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054144)

There used to be an aerial tramway for moving mining ore in Zeehan in Tasmania. It was the neatest thing I have ever seen. Never did figure why they stopped using it. High maintenance costs maybe. Locally we have some big mining conveyors of 40km+ (Google Maps - Del park, Western Australia). The RopeCon system seems a great combo of these that has potentially less impact than building a road. V Interesting.

Re:A Fashion Thing Maybe? (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054904)

That one (Hercules mine) was easier though because the ore travelled down the mountain, tipped at the bottom, and the empty buckets came back up. I expect it was largely gravity driven. Still cool though.

I always felt uneasy driving under it, despite the mesh and the fact it wasn't working.

Re:A Fashion Thing Maybe? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055016)

There's still one in NYC for getting tourists to Roosevelt Island. But most of the residents use the subway stop: aerial tramways aren't fast, and that particular one isn't very convenient, either.

They're great if you want to steampunkify a skyline for your adventure movie. Not so great for actually moving goods and people.

Re:A Fashion Thing Maybe? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055058)

When I was a kid I lived for some years in Manizales, Colombia, where there was a tramway, mentioned in TFA, of 72km length. It passed very near where I lived, actually it went right over the end of our backyard.

I think maintenance costs have something to do why they stopped using it. Those cables had to be replaced from time to time, a very labor intensive task.

Also, when it failed, the whole system stopped working, different from a truck breaking down or a road needing maintenance. Unless it's a very big problem like a bridge collapsing a road can be fixed with traffic rolling. If a cable in an aerial tramway breaks, everything stops and all the cargo stays there until they fix it.

not really (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054168)

Aerial lines can go what, 3 miles? Don't most shipping containers go thousands of miles? It wouldn't be worth the construction cost even in the long run considering the distance and variety of locations that something needs to travel.

Re:not really (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054762)

Aerial lines can go what, 3 miles? Don't most shipping containers go thousands of miles? It wouldn't be worth the construction cost even in the long run considering the distance and variety of locations that something needs to travel.

I agree, I can think of some niche uses - a link from a mine to a power station or from a field to a processing plant. It won't be worrying the road haulage companies though.

Unfortunately, container ships (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055132)

don't go up and down hills very well. On the other hand, using overhead conveyors to transport bulk loads to ports can be very efficient. Most of the posts on this thread seem to be of the "why would anyone want a bicycle, it's slower than a Porsche" variety - i.e. spectacularly missing the point.

Ingenious Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054170)

I'm sure the various cargo hauling companies of the world would love to operate a system of these things. "Operate" being the key word here. Who's gonna pay to install what amount to heavy duty poles everywhere? Half the cost of those things is buying the land from the current owners. I'm sure the gov't could eminent domain some of it (in the US, anyway. Dunno 'bout elsewhere), and some land could be rented, but it's still an expensive proposition. And then the maintenance will still be high. And so on, and so forth. It's a grand idea, but it's pretty darn niche. Most companies won't put down big bucks for something like this without the promise of immediate fiscal benefits/incentives. I'm sure the gov't could help out there too, but I've got my own moral and ethical reasons for being leery of that...

Again, it looks nice, but it probably wouldn't work in real life.

How far does it work? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054190)

So it can move 10000 tonnes of freight per hour, but how far? What's the market? I can't see these competing with interstate bulk transport.

Re:How far does it work? (2)

ctid (449118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054306)

You could read the article, where your questions are answered. These systems don't seem to be aimed at competing with interstate - in one case a maximum length of 10km is mentioned.

Re:How far does it work? (1)

juletre (739996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055066)

You know, all of these questions were answered in TFA. TFA was actually a very enjoyable A IMHO.

Examples:
  • "In 2007, another non-governmental organization built a gravity powered cargo ropeway in India that serves 2,000 families. It costs just 14,000 dollars and transports agricultural produce downhill while taking manure to fertilize the fields uphill". More: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48170 [ipsnews.net]
  • The RopeCon system in Jamaica saves 1,200 truck journeys per day and generates 1,300 kWh of braking energy per day, which is fed back into the power network.
  • A temporary RopeCon installation was set up for the construction of a tunnel in Austria, where it was used for the transport of rock excavation material. Conveying capacity was 600 tonnes per hour, while engine output was very modest at 30 kW. The line was 270 metres long, with a vertical rise of 23 metres. It eliminated 115,000 truck journeys.

Re:How far does it work? (0)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055124)

According to the article:

Max speed: 5 mph.
Max distance: 4 km.
Max capacity: 800 tonnes per day.
Market: Basically mining.

This is a stupid submission.

Timothy... (-1, Troll)

mgbastard (612419) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054210)

This is a fucking stupid submission.

Re:Timothy... (2)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054220)

It was very useful in letting me know about the RopeCon convention in Finland, which everyone might have confused this device with with had it not clarified.

Re:Timothy... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054446)

Expects a glowing pneumatic tubes story submission soon.

Re:Timothy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054532)

Only the convention has a Wikipedia article, not this thing..

Highly optimistic claims (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054218)

This does not only concern energy use: contrary to a road or a railroad track, a cargo ropeway can be built straight through nature without harming animal and plant life (or, potentially, straight through a city without harming human life).

Then scroll down to the big ugly modern cargo ropeways/conveyor belts in the bottom of the article and you can see they're ugly as fuck and can be seen for many miles around. Compared to that a road or railroad is almost invisible. They also generously ignore that we've gotten a lot better at building bridges and tunnels than before, not worse.

I suppose it makes sense if you have a huge, stable amount of materials moving point-to-point, but for the most part such a cargoway will only add another exchange point where goods must be unloaded and reloaded which costs time and money. Also there's very little flexibility, with trucks or trains you can run more or less and even sell parts of it if things are slow. With this you have almost only fixed costs and if you hit the capacity limit it's a very hard limit.

This reminds me a little of the people that try to revive the zeppelins, it's only going to work in some really niche cases and those places usually already have one.

And the problem (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054434)

Is that if you have a stable, point-to-point thing then, well, you want a train. Trains work great for moving cargo. They are extremely efficient, using 1% or less of the energy a truck would need to move it. America still moves many, many tons of cargo daily by train. If you've ever visited a city with a major railway going through it you see trains multiple times an hour, 24 hours a day. They also move pretty quick. While heavy cargo trains can't zip like light rail passenger trains, they can still do 70ish MPH without a problem.

The only reason they aren't used in place of trucks for cargo completely is their inflexibility. They are largely point-to-point transit. You can't have crisscrossing rails and lots of intersections for them to turn on and choose where they want to go.

So I fail to see what a rope cargo system would do that trains don't do better. It certainly wouldn't be as fast, I have trouble believing it'd be as efficient, and as you say it'd be ugly.

Seems like a solution looking for a problem. We don't have a problem moving goods in bulk, place to place for cheap. Heavy cargo rail does a superb job, and promises only to get better with hybrid trains (locomotives are ideal for hybrid technology, they are electric direct drive already and the need a lot of added weight to function correctly). What we do not have is as good a system for delivering goods to a final destination. Trucks are the best we've come up with for something that can move a reasonable amount of material for a reasonable price, yet can go to arbitrary locations as needed.

Re:Highly optimistic claims (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054482)

Then scroll down to the big ugly modern cargo ropeways/conveyor belts in the bottom of the article and you can see they're ugly as fuck and can be seen for many miles around.

Well, we do have power transmission lines crisscrossing the country. They're big eyesores too. In fact, you could conceivably operate both systems right next to each other in the same footprint, though certainly it would have safety implications.

Also there's very little flexibility, with trucks or trains you can run more or less and even sell parts of it if things are slow. With this you have almost only fixed costs and if you hit the capacity limit it's a very hard limit.

Why couldn't you run a tramway at half capacity or sell parts of it? Isn't there a hard capacity limit for railways too? Fundamentally, the idea doesn't seem that different from a railroad except the track is in the air rather than on the ground.

Still, I tend to agree with your overall conclusion. Transportation companies wouldn't be in business long if they ignored opportunities to save money and run their businesses more efficiently. While cases of inefficient markets are notorious, you wouldn't just assume that's the case by default. The fact that tramways are used, but only for special purposes where they have advantages, would be a sign that the market has considered them and found them lacking for broader adoption.

Re:Highly optimistic claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054530)

Does a moose or any other animal care if a forrest look "ugly as fuck"? Does said moose care if it is runover by a train or not?

What alternativ does more damage and what looks good?

Re:Highly optimistic claims (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054814)

Compared to that a road or railroad is almost invisible.

While it may harm your sense of esthetics, I'm sure the animals and plants actually living in the area mind a lot less.

The impact zone of a highway is about two miles in every direction. That is a major cut you're making into the landscape. It's not just the paving itself, you know? It's the noise, the change in animal paths, erosion patterns and a hundred other things.

but for the most part such a cargoway will only add another exchange point where goods must be unloaded and reloaded which costs time and money.

Newsflash: That is how airports, railroads and even a lot of trucks already work.

Also there's very little flexibility, with trucks or trains you can run more or less and even sell parts of it if things are slow. With this you have almost only fixed costs and if you hit the capacity limit it's a very hard limit.

You can certainly put more or less containers on the rope, and since most of your power consumption goes for moving mass around, less mass equals less power. The really fixed amount of moving the cable around is probably tiny compared to the load.

Nature doesn't care how it looks (4, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054952)

Nature doesn't care how it looks, it cares what it's footprint is. Roads result in a segmented habitat, millions of tons of CO2, and roadkill galore. This would result in none of those.

Re:Highly optimistic claims (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055044)

There is one niche that Dirigibles could fill quite nicely that they have not yet appeared in: Cruise Liners. Unlike the Ocean Liners of yore they would not be competing on cargo haul or schedule. They would be competing on uniqueness of experience and elegance.

They also turn out to be very good aerial cranes, but neither case is going to work out if they have to use helium for buoyancy: there simply isn't enough of it trapped terrestrially to sustain a large number of airships, and it's far too valuable to waste on such frivolities.

Ugly BUT above the land (2)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055122)

No animal has ever been hurt by an ugly construction, this structure exists above the trees. So the animals can live beneath it,their habitat is not cut up by a road, no animals are killed on the road.

Clearly you are one of those people who think oil slicks are good for nature because they sparkle so nicely in the sun.

problem (5, Insightful)

Eivind (15695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054238)

The principal problem of this, and most other similar suggestions, is that while such a system is good for a-b transport, reality is a network. Such a system helps you not at all, unless the goods to be delivered are already at the start-station, and are being transported to the end-station.

If not, you need to *first* load it on one mode of transport (typically some kind of car) -then- drive to the nearest "station" where the goods are repackaged, then near the destination, repeat.

It turns out the delays and costs of reloading cargo, frequently makes the economy such that it's better to simply go the entire distance by lorry. The advantage of the lorry is that it goes from where your goods are, to where you want them, with zero intermediary re-loads. (typically anyway, sure there's exceptions)

The lack of a robust network, also makes the system vulnerable. When (not if!) one ropeway breaks down, what do you do ? Reroute onto roads ? Wait ?

I think the best hopes are for dual-mode-transport, that is, vehicles that can drive both on normal roads -and- on special-purpose tracks of some sort. Doing this, gives you the best of two worlds. Have a look at http://www.ruf.dk/ [www.ruf.dk] for an example system.

Re:problem (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054310)

I think the best hopes are for dual-mode-transport, that is, vehicles that can drive both on normal roads -and- on special-purpose tracks of some sort.

I agree with this. This is where electric cars are headed. It would make much more sense to abandon high-speed rail in favor of some proof of concept installations of something like this.

Re:problem (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054338)

"If not, you need to *first* load it on one mode of transport (typically some kind of car) -then- drive to the nearest "station" where the goods are repackaged, then near the destination, repeat."

With trains, you can drive the whole truck onto a railway wagon (Modalohr road trailer carriers) and move it a couple of thousand miles until the driver does the last bit of transportation to the actual destination himself.
I live 1 mile from such a station and it's highly successful.
Saves also a lot of road tolls.

Re:problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054342)

Across the pond, a "lorry" is apparently a truck.

Re:problem (1)

Saint Gerbil (1155665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054566)

You would load the cargo in to a container which would then be placed to be picked up in some fashion, take the example of skiiers the chair lift only stops when something goes wrong...

I cant help but to think that a railway is a better alternative tho...

Re:problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054620)

You know, we could use some type of standardized container that could be moved by different "modes of transport"(ships, trains, trucks, helicopters, aerial ropeway etc).
You could also connect your station B to a station C and a station D and those station chould be connected to a station J, station E, station I and so on. On every station you would just move these standardized container between different ropeways or to other "modes of transport".

Re:problem (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054730)

The cost of building such a system is a major factor too. When the government builds a road it is paid for out of general taxation and they can get compulsory purchase orders on land. All companies are then free to use those roads with their existing vehicles. As such there is very little reason to invest hundreds of millions and decades of legal wrangling in a project that might be redundant anyway by the time it is finished.

Re:problem (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054794)

Almost all modern logistics are network-based already. The truck that comes over to pick up your UPS package is not really the same truck that delivers it at the destination.

Imagine a network of such transport cables alongside the most common routes, and loading stations at the end points and maybe intermediate points.

How many trucks drive the same route along the same interstate every day? How many of them already pick up their stuff at a loading bay and deliver it to a loading bay? All you'd need is move your loading bay to the new facility, and keep your local delivery vehicles, but you'd eliminate all the intermediate trucking.

When (not if!) one ropeway breaks down, what do you do ? Reroute onto roads ? Wait ?

Same problem as with railroads today. Same solution: Wait or take a different route through the network.

Re:problem (2)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055158)

The problem is that some people just can't get their heads around the idea of a solution sometimes not being perfect but still being needed. A cast is far from ideal to have around your leg, but better then walking around with a broken leg.

Inner city transportation, especially in old cities, is a simple question of just how much grid lock you can have before goods become impossible to move. If you want to supply every shop in an ancient city center, then you either have to tear everything down or find someway to reduce the number of trucks or just accept that the roads are filled with trucks constantly leaving no room for shoppers.

A simple solution use in Holland is to "force" suppliers to use a centralized delivery system. In Utrecht consisting of an electric road train deliving "wagons" to each shop. Yes, this means extra handling and extra costs but having a big truck waiting till it can move to its destination costs time and money as well. Now the shop has a clear street when the shoppers come instead of the entire road blocked by trucks.

In Amsterdam they have rediscovered the canals for supplies. A boat is far slower but since it has the canals pretty much to itself it actually moves at equal speed.

A rope supply line would not work everywhere but can solve the problem for when the 2d world is simply to full. It is the reason mono-rails exist. Why subways exist. When the roads are full, you go up or down.

And the extra handling? Costs are actually not all that high and we do it all the time with our goods already. Pretty much anything you buy has gone through an array of distribution centers.

My data center is powered by rope!!! (2)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054240)

Who wouldn't want to say that!?!

In your face nuclear powered data centers!

Re:My data center is powered by rope!!! (1)

Funky Weasel (1618185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054490)

You wouldn't want to typo that.

Tell me more about this (1, Funny)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054242)

Tell me more about this RopeCon you speak of. I am a level 47 Paladin and am interested in exploring the northern lands.

Re:Tell me more about this (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054390)

RopeCon [wikipedia.org]

Re:Tell me more about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054476)

http://www.ropecon.fi/pmwiki/index.php/Conry/InEnglish

Re:Tell me more about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054650)

I was thinking of a completely different kind of roleplaying...

Re:Tell me more about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055174)

LTP n00b

Before the 1900s horses were the norm... (1)

twebb72 (903169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054250)

...but before the 1940s, aerial ropeways were a common means of cargo transport, not only in mountainous regions but also on flat terrain.

Before the 1900s, horses were a common means of cargo transport. They're even more efficient than a ropeway. Just add food and water.

Where's the thought provoking article on horses?

Only use I can think of... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054284)

The technology was popular for the transport of wood and wood products

I can see how it would be useful for something like logging. It's like a train track with moveable endpoints. You could harvest a huge area without an investment in fixed capital. Mining would be similar. It's like a Cat truck if you don't have liquid fuels or rubber.

Almost predictably, the first search return for "ropecon" is an article about extracting resources from some third world country with one of these contraptions that can bypass "obstacles such as houses, roads or rivers". All that's missing is a Marine detachment and a group of local freedom fighters to blow the thing up periodically.

Living next to a Ropeway in Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054288)

This
http://lost-ropeways.de/forum/Lost-Ropeways%20Forum_t_73_0_Leimen-Transportseilbahn-Heidelberger-Zement.html
used to transport limestone from a quarry near Nußloch to a cement factory in Leimen (Baden), about 5km away.
From TFA and my experience living next to this thing (about 15 years ago) I would judge the pros and cons:

+ highly energy efficient (can even generate energy when transporting downhill)
- only when in continuous operation
+ low footprint / can pass over existing structures
- moderately ugly
+ almost noiseless for those living along the route (when well maintained)
- works only between two fixed terminals
+ independent from road-traffic
- loading / unloading of anything but bulk cargo can be tricky

In summary:
An excellent, possibly the best, solution for a some special transport problems (e.g. moving a steady stream of bulk cargo across a city).

Pneumatic tubes and dirigibles need love too (1)

Ranger (1783) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054304)

In addition to rope systems we should also use pneumatic tubes. Mail in Manhattan used to be transported across town efficiently, until GM convinced the Post Office to switch to trucks.

I also expect any day now for passenger dirigibles to make a comeback. Popular Science can't be wrong. They've been saying it since 1974.

The point of the submission... (1)

dirkdodgers (1642627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054348)

The point of the submission isn't that rope is replacing rail. Rail can do 7 times or more than the capacity cited in the article:
http://www.ugpti.org/pubs/html/dp-170/pg4.php [ugpti.org]

The point is that seeing how our engineering forebears across the ages moved stuff around by elaborate rope and pulley systems, is freaking cool, and so is the fact that it's still incredibly useful in specific applications today.

I need to copyright a new UPS slogan fast (1)

mpetch (692893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054356)

UPS will need to change to "What can brown pull for you?"

CarGoTram alternative, factory expansion (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054382)

It could be an alternative to this sort of thing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CarGoTram [wikipedia.org]

It goes from one factory (or warehouse) to another. Both have the same owner and are in the same city.

This is the sort of solution you might choose if you are unable to expand your existing property. You buy another property near by and then connect them.

The big trouble is getting the rights to install such an ugly thing. You'd have to lobby the government to make a special allowance. Probably you'd go on about how you're bringing jobs to help the local economy. Maybe the government would even help you, probably by grabbing chunks of land for the support towers.

exaggerated headline (1)

binarstu (720435) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054396)

The headline on this one appears to be quite a stretch. The article is interesting, but claiming that "ski lifts could help get cargo traffic off the road" does not seem remotely realistic in the near future. All of the examples of modern ropeways discussed in the article were systems that spanned less than 10 km, or even less than 1 km (as far as I noted, anyway). To even think about a system that could possibly displace cargo traffic on the roads on a significant scale, you'd probably be talking about hundreds of kilometers. At such short distances, you might consider moving cargo around a large city and its suburbs or something like that, but then the complexity of the distribution network that would be required would likely be a limiting factor, especially when the roads are already there.

Cheap? What? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054508)

Well the article itself is wishful thinking. It won't replace JIT, and it sure won't replace rolling warehouses that deliver items exactly to where it needs to go within a few minutes of needing it. Unless fuel hits $10+gal or more, trucks will continue to be the cheapest way to get things from point a to b.

Even then, you'll be able to see the market react to whatever is cheapest. And in anycase, we already have something similar to 'aerial ropeways' they're called rail roads. And they cost 4-8x as much to ship something than by road. Even in the middle of no-where Canada, it's cheaper to drop things off by plane or truck unless the federal government is subsidizing your rail line to keep your community of 800 people going when you're 1800mi away from civilization.

I Can (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054594)

I Can Could First Post Posted

This would actually be awesome. (1)

Silpher (1379267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054600)

Here in europe the roads are cluttered with trucks, to get such lift infrastructure along paths which already deal with tonnes of cargo and therefore maybe kill of half of the trucks would be great. Sure a bad thing for the truckdrivers but the alternative is to eventually broaden the road twice or so making every Major highway 8 lanes. This would however cause a lot more pollution and whatnot. Just imagine a lift system on which you could load the standard sea container.

Or an even better idea - use the railways (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055140)

Thats what they were orignally built for. The only reason most goods go by road is cost. It would faily simple to have numerous rail hubs with goods being delivered the short distance to the shop/factory by small trucks instead of having 40 ton trucks driving all the way across the continent.

Why not explore this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054622)

It might not be a big problem in the States, ..; but here in Europe, the road are clogged by trucks.
I think this migt be a valable option for several reasons:
1) less traffic on the roads
2) less accidents caused by sleepy truck-drivers
3) Less human interaction needed than for train transport.
4) Less pollution than with truck-transport

If you have a good network of those lifts, you would only need short-range transport

Oh, the memories (1)

m95lah (55920) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054624)

We had one where I grew up:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norsjo_aerial_tramway [wikipedia.org]
It was pretty cool driving under the slowly moving carriages containing tons of iron ore.

Dibs! (1)

sixthousand (676886) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054660)

... on being the pioneering 21st century air-hobo.

Can could have checked grammar excerpt haven't! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054692)

Can could have checked grammar excerpt haven't!

Still being used -- By the Combine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054742)

It's also very handy for moving people to their doom.

What about commuters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054852)

You can also use this for commuters.
This blog suggests even to combine this with Segways Puma: http://thefirst12.blogspot.com/

Another opportunity for something like SkyTran... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35054856)

While ropeways may be suited for short stretches of hilly terrain, it is difficult to imagine that it would be economical in general. There are a lot of moving parts, which must be moved and maintained, and ultimately it will be slow with low throughput.

SkyTran [wikipedia.org] is basically an efficient high-speed packet switched passive maglev network. Its extremely light vehicles and elevated track allow it to be built at low cost--especially considering that alternatives generally require tearing down buildings and other earth work. Aside from high speeds, the maglev tech also affords low maintenance and operating cost, with basically no moving parts. Naturally, it would be cleaner, quieter, and require less waiting, making it far more attractive as public transit system.

It would also be straightforward to use the system for small cargo as well, using dedicated stops.

Discount Pet Urns (0)

williams457 (1964730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054912)

It's doing well, is all data is correct or just estimate. It's amazing. Discount Pet Urns [peturns.com]

Railroads (1)

mijelh (1111411) | more than 3 years ago | (#35054996)

Why not railroads? Much less visual impact, much less affected by the wind, technology extensively proved, and efficiency demonstrated (and not made-up or expected as in TFA).

Use underground pipes (1)

dgriff (1263092) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055116)

I've often wondered why we don't create a national infrastructure of underground pipes for the transportation of the reasonably small stuff that constitutes the majority of cargo. No wind resistance, no eyesore. Googled and found this brochure [cargocap.com] for it!

Thanks for clarifying (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055168)

Like everybody, I imagine, when the submission mentioned "RopeCon" I immediately thought of the role-playing convention held annually in Finland. Not a day goes by without ol' RopeCon being a topic of conversation in my household, I can tell you! But thanks to the submitter's wisdom I was thoughtfully steered away from this potentially embarrassing misunderstanding.

Who knows what kind of hilarious, cross-purpose confusion would have arisen on these pages otherwise? They are such similar subjects that no-one could be blamed for confusing the two.

generate energy (1)

andoman2000 (1755610) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055200)

Sorry I work on these systems from time to time and the opportunities to generate energy are few and far between. They only happen when you're down loading weight, the problem with long haul cargo systems is you have to get it up there in the first place, so there really isn't an opportunity to generate any useful amounts of energy.
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