Friday, May 28, 2010

709 The Maokong Gondola

710 The Maokong Gondola

Gondola pic
(TAIPEI) -- If there's an earthquake above 4.0 in magnitude, service is suspended. If there is wind of a certain velocity, service is suspended. There is no service on Mondays. If Monday is a national holiday, service will be suspended instead on Tuesday. Meantime, don't rock the gondola. Don't expect a car to yourself -- there's room for eight. And please use your subway easy pay card to save time, unless you're old, crippled or a kid, in which case you can stand on line to get a hefty discount. Now, then, what IS this thing?

It's an aerial subway. It's something between a ski lift in a place where it almost never snows, and the City Island Tramway, only lot's smaller -- plus it runs better. You take this thing at a station that's about 1200 feet above sea level. It goes up from there. And up and Up and UPPPPP. It passes weigh stations and platforms and you swear the thing's going to hit the concrete floors of those stations or the metal pillars a few thousand feet up, but it doesn't. You think about amusement park ride accidents but none happens. And you look over the city and you see fairly hefty buildings that look like they're made of Lego bocks. And your ears tell you that you're maybe 10 thousand feet up, but there's no way of knowing.

This system opened in 2007, but it hasn't been operating continuously. There was a 16 month shutdown while safety concerns were addressed. This happened after a Taipei mayor, accompanied by a former Taipei mayor were suspended in midair, in brutal heat and humidity while ground crews tried to figure out what had happened to stop the system. Apparently, they found out.

The ride was supposed to be scary. Riding above the tree tops, stepping in and out of moving gondolas with doors that opened... how? By hand? Automatically? But it wasn't frightening.

The system was built as a joint project between the Metro here and an Italian-owned, French-based company called Poma, which says it's the world's leading chair lift and people mover maker.

Do people actually use this in place of a subway or bus? Not this day. Passenger count was low and nicely spaced. But there's a leading indicator this isn't always so. There are markings for long lines patterned in the same way as airport security lines. That means cramming a lot of people into a small space and moving them expediently. So on weekends, probably the joint rocks. But remember, don't rock the gondola itself.

Shrapnel:

--Not so many years ago, people here washed their clothing in the waters of a moving river, but technology has changed all that. On our balcony overlooking the alley is a fine, new (Korean) washing machine, which when finished pours its water out onto the balcony floor where it (mostly) falls into a drain. So now instead of going to the river, the river comes to us.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 201

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