„Si’s Andrea Hinterseer interviewed Sunny Kodukula of ICLEI, the world´s leading network of over 1,500 cities, towns and metropolises committed to building a sustainable future.”

Si Urban: The traffic jams are the poison of our cities. Also, the public transportation stuck in the jam. Building Subways is comparatively expensive, for more streets there is a lack of space. Sustainable Urban Transport has been discussed for many years. But the implementation is slow. Why? And what are the most realistic ideas?


Santaosh „Sunny“ Kodukula: It is absolutely right that traffic jams are the poison in our cities. Yet, traffic jams are a symptom of something large. It is the way we built our cities and the priorities we put in our transport. Traffic jams are very evident in cities that have very less transport options and of cities that have prioritised personal automobiles over public and mass transport.

Unfortunately, several developing cities look to personal automobiles as status symbols and perceive that automobile use as economic development. On the contrary, cities and countries with excessive traffic jams are worse off in terms of the quality of life, air quality, and have unsafe roads.

Sustainable transport, is a term that is use for modes that are environmentally safe, people friendly and economically viable. Bicycles, electric mobility, public transport (both bus based and rail based) are considered as some forms of sustainable transport.

Implementing sustainable transport needs a very strong political will and city leadership with a vision of a city that is people friendly. Only a city leader who has seen the true purpose of a city, which is creating a city for the people, can implement sustainable transport. There are not so many such city leaders to implement real change in urban mobility and that explains the gaps in seeing sustainable transport projects


„Traffic jams are a symptom of something large. It is the way we built our cities and the priorities we put in our transport. Traffic jams are very evident in cities that have very less transport options and of cities that have prioritised personal automobiles over public and mass transport. Implementing sustainable transport needs a very strong political will and city leadership with a vision of a city that is people friendly.“

Si Urban: Man seem to be very conservativ, trying mostly things they know. Do you miss the courage to change?

Kodukula: Unlike many other sectors, transport has a very peculiar behaviour. One transport solution does not fit in every city. This is also the reason why cities seem to try many project but do not seem successful or less courageous. 

As said earlier, the most important part of the change is the political will. The second part of the transformation is the kind of transportation. It is very common to see cities with a vision to create a people friendly city end up having a very unsuccessful transport project. In these cases, the intention is there, yet the access to the proper solution is not. A failed project might reduce the morale of the city leadership and in some cases the decision revert back to the status quo i.e. automobile friendly development.

Successful city leaders tend to focus on an urban transport system that moves the maximum number of “people” at a particular interval of time (e.g. in one hour; technically called passengers per hour per direction (pphd)). Depending on the size, population, demand on the route and the geographical characteristics of the city the solution will vary. Thinking in this way will save cities a large amount of resources and boosts the morale of the city leadership. It is to be noted that not every city needs a metro to be a metropolis and not every traffic jam can be solved by a bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

For transport planners and engineers, it is paramount to know that a successful transport system in a city is possible only through a network. The network can be a homogeneous network (i.e. just one mode of transport) or a heterogeneous network (i.e. multiple transport modes). In either case the network needs to be integrated both physically and with fares.

The courage to implement more sustainable transport is visible only when there is a successful project and focussing on modes of transport that move more people than vehicles will increase the success factor and thus the courage.



LEITNER-POMA/Sigma MiniMetro train car transport flyers at Miami International Airport. Photo: LEITNER-POMA

Si Urban: Not only the projection from customary cableways in the intra-urban Traffic Systems. Can you image also detachable ropeways as a kind of network with 10, 20 or more stations. Like a Circle to get the cableway closer tot he people than the car parking. Only in that way the attraction will grow.

Kodukula: In anyway – the idea is not new at all. In 1974 in Kiel an urban cableway was implemented to transport people visitors over the harbour to a shopping mal. And 1976 the Roosevelt Aerial Tram in New York was built, during the Subways was built. On the island of Santorini the cableway connects the harbour with the city center on the hill. … 40 years later we are only few steps farther.

I am for any transport system that forms a network and transfers more people. As I said earlier, if the geographical characteristics of the city require a cable car and if cable car is the option that can transfer more people then such is a good decision. It is very clear in the examples above that the geographical nature of the cities favour a cable car system and it has proven to be useful.

In any transportation system, the system should provide an opportunity to expand when the demand increases and if cable cars through detachable ropeway system can perform this function of higher frequencies during peak hours and reduce the frequencies during non-peak then they can be a part of a transport system. I am personally not a supporter of a homogenous transport network, as I feel that such a system cannot exist. All people who are mobile will use at least one additional mode when using a transport system (people who bicycle have to walk, people who ride buses either walk/bike, people who drive cars have to walk to their car etc.)

I am also not a supporter of implementing a public transport system because it looks good or it is just attractive, as I feel that there are better ways to use public funds. An effective transport system will save money, which can be used to develop public spaces, schools or provide fresh water.



The Línea Azul in El Alto is another milestone for Bolivia‘s infrastructure. It is the first line that the DOPPELMAYR / GARAVENTA Group has completed in Phase II of the world‘s largest urban cable car network.

Si Urban: Detachable Ropeways are very useful as Intra-Urban Traffic Systems. Since the Congress of OITAF in October 2011 in Rio started to think aloud about cableways in cities, a lot of experienced had been made in economic questions, building and operating. The results arer usually convincingly positiv. You get more area closure for the same money. Why are there still so many opponents?

Kodukula: As I mentioned earlier, the success of a transport system is very subjective. My definition of a successful transport system is that it carries more “people” than all the personal automobile travel put together, and more importantly people want to travel on the system as an everyday activity i.e. the system is convenient, attractive and affordable.

I have seen different solutions and have personally compared the costs of various systems and it is clear that personal automobiles are the costliest mode of transport, while there is a clear competition between light rail and cableways.

Light rail excels in level cities and cable cars excel in geographically difficult terrains.



For the transport of 10,000 passengers per our (5,000 per direction) one needs: (Source DOPPELMAYR):

Si Urban: Not only for people, also for Freight Transport?


Kodukula: This is definitely a sector that I still need to expand my knowledge on as I haven’t heard of many cableway systems on urban freight. I have seen industrial settings where cableways are used for transporting goods but not yet in an urban setting.


Si Urban: What do you think about electric cars. The even do not know how to recycle the batteries and in fact, they are also a part of the jam-makers?


Kodukula: As I was saying earlier, I do not endorse any specific mode of transport, the recommendation is clearly based on each city and the existing conditions in a city. Never the less, on the point of electric cars, yes they are an innovation in the industry and have covered a lot of ground in a short span.

It is also a valid argument that they contribute to green congestion in cities. While, the industry is attempting to venture into new business models, which are difficult for public transport, such as electric car sharing.

I see such shared mobility ideas as a part of the transport network. I see that the future of our urban mobility in a way that we will have various kinds of urban mobility systems, working together to make a shift from personal automobiles. So, I see a strong role for cableways but it is clear that only cableways (or only electric cars or only BRT) cannot be the entire transport in a city. ah