The current mobility challenges largely concern public transport and the major role it plays in travel within the major French cities. This is in keeping with a context that is still strongly marked by the use of private cars to serve city centers and suburban areas.
In 2009, the first law resulting from the Grenelle Environment Forum identified cable transportation in urban areas as a potential avenue for development in French cities.
The lack of French experiments in urban areas and the lack of evaluation of the first achievements are currently an obstacle to the promotion of this system in non-mountain areas.
The challenges of insertion in an urban environment:
Technical regulations for cable transport
This type of transport falls within the scope of technical regulations for ski lifts, backed up by a European framework and based initially on feedback from systems in service mainly in the mountains.
Numerous technical constraints are set out in regulations (location and height of towers, ground clearance, location of stations, overflight, speed, fire, etc.) and are relatively fixed in the decrees. However, these decrees do not prohibit derogations from certain principles, provided that it can be demonstrated that safety is perfectly preserved. Initially, the regulations were not adapted to cable transport in urban areas, which are subject to more complex integration constraints, as the urban planning code is not the same as in mountain areas. The technical regulations have just been adapted to meet these new urban issues.
Impacts of cable transportation
The installation of a cable transport system raises concerns about the noise pollution it will create for local residents. The population has strong preconceived ideas about noise pollution, perhaps linked to the fact that mountain equipment is often older and less regularly maintained than in urban areas, or to the specific environment of mountain areas (resonance, lower noise levels).
The adaptation of CPT in urban areas is much more sensitive than in ski resorts in winter where the facilities are well assimilated. The notions of “disfigurement” and negative impact on the landscape are obstacles put forward by opponents of cable transport.
Even if the urban environment is less environmentally sensitive than mountainous areas, CPT projects cross natural environments and can impact the fauna and flora. Environmental impact studies on biophysical and human environments are therefore necessary, and must be accompanied by mitigation measures or compensatory formulas.
In the city, it will be necessary to foresee the treatment of the overflight of wooded areas which can impose, according to the height, the clearing of trees to prevent the fire risk.
The economic dimension involves, among others, two major issues:
- The question of the relationship between service and cost, but also the impact on the neighborhood and habitat.
- The investment costs of an aerial cableway system cannot be compared in a crude way with those of a ground-based transport mode. The different systems do not provide the same services, and the CPT system allows the crossing of urban cut-offs that other ground-based modes of transport do not allow without structures.
Need for skills and organization
Historically, manufacturers have produced mountain installations that they offer as standardized products. On their side, local authorities and urban transport actors are not very familiar with TPC technologies. It is therefore necessary to develop and build a mutual knowledge between actors. It is more complex for manufacturers to work on urban projects than on mountain projects where the implementation is often simpler and the context more favorable. Aerial ropeway builders must develop a culture of anticipation necessary for urban transport projects and collaborate with the various actors in the area. In fact, in urban areas, constructors work in the form of a consortium with partners who have experience in urban public transport and public works.
To develop this market and design these new urban products, manufacturers are investing in research and development. They are aware of this need and are developing alliance strategies with other industrial partners or designers in order to perfect urban facilities and their architectural treatment, and to develop new concepts. Having a development committee allows manufacturers to get closer to the level required in urban transport.
Quite apart from the feasibility of an air-guided transport system in an urban environment, there is the question of the social acceptability of an atypical mode of transport that is surrounded by preconceived ideas.
Despite widespread communication about its reliability and low mortality rate, these factors do not seem to be enough to reassure the public. This remains a significant problem, and a major social issue.
Passing close to private plots of land and visual intrusion are the negative points raised by the population when a guided air transport project was presented.
From New York to Constantine, from Medellín to Brest, urban air transport is developing around the world. They enable people to cross rivers and hills and open up remote areas. In terms of its performance in crossing urban divides and gradients, it is an innovative transport solution that complements land transport networks. It can be adapted to a wide range of contexts and appears to be highly appropriate for certain services, but must be limited to certain configurations if it is to be competitive.