Photo of Jim Fletcher sitting on gondola towerThe worlds’ ropeway experts are congregating in Rio de Janeiro from October 23rd through the 27th for the International Organization for Transportation by Rope (OITAF) Tenth International Congress.  These Congresses are held every six years.  The theme of this congress is “Cableways: Safe, Environmentally Friendly, with success in the Future”.

Major topics include “Rope Driven Transportation in Urban Settings”; “Transportation by Rope and Tourism”; “Sustainability of Transportation by Rope – Environmental, Social Aspects and Economic Efficiency”; and “Technology and Safety”.

ESG’s Jim Fletcher, PE has been asked to provide the current aspects of “Ropeways in North America – Impacts, Benefits and Outlooks”.  Jim has been a major contributor in the ropeway transportation industry over the past 35 years and was President for the Organizing Committee for the 8th International Congress in 1999 in San Francisco. Jim is a past President of OITAF, North American Continental Section, and was the first American to be appointed to OITAF’s Management Committee.

The Congress will be held at the intermediate station of the famous Sugarloaf Mountain Cableway an iconic feature of the Rio skyline. Presenters from France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Chile, China, Brazil, New Zealand, Georgia and the United States will present with simultaneous translation into English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Photo taken from Gondola as it moves toward a mountain topJim’s presentation provides the historical impacts of the ropeway in North American considering both material and passenger transportation.  He points out that early development of the ropeway was for the use in precious ore, gold and silver, mining in the mountain regions in the late 1800s.  He notes that passenger ropeways were first used in the early 1900s and included both aerial systems as well as funicular ropeways.

With the advent of skiing in the 1930s, the chairlift was invented in North America and rapid growth was seen after WWII when returning soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division started numerous ski resorts.  Jim further points out that ropeway transport in North America has provided the safest means of transportation during the past 50 years when compared to any other means including public transport, airplane and auto.  During those 50 years, it is estimated that ropeway systems have carried over 18 billion passengers with 21 fatalities, a one in 900 million probability.

The full text of Jim’s presentation can be found here.

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