Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mountain Mass Transit in Innsbruck

I am back in Salt Lake City and there is some weather outside today, but I'm having difficulty thinking about it in the wake of my trip through Europe.

I've already done a post on Innsbruck (see The Foehn Giveth and Taketh Away), but wanted to share some more of our experiences as they bear some relevance to long-term transportation planning for the Wasatch Front and Mountains.

Innsbruck is a "small" city, with a population of 130,000, but like many cities in Europe, is relatively high density with a large concentration of restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and the like.

It also has a remarkable public and mountain cableway system that provides incredible access to the mountains around Innsbruck.  First, there is the Nordkettenbahn, comprised of the Hungerburgbahn funicular and Seegrubenbahn and Hafelekarbahn aerial trams, which take you 5500 vertical feet from downtown Innsbruck to the top of the Nordkette or "North Chain" of mountains.

As mentioned in my earlier post, the two aerial trams ascend a remarkably steep and continuous slope, as illustrated by the view from the top of the Hafelekarbahn.

Here's another perspective showing the classic European passive avalanche control infrastructure in an avalanche starting zone for a slide path that probably drops a vertical mile to neighborhoods above Innsbruck.

Not interested in the steeps, then you can instead get on light rail and travel to the village of Igls and the Patscherkofel ski area, site of the famous 1976 downhill in which Franz Klammer claimed the gold for Austria.

Love the old-school tram!

Or, take a different light-rail line to the Village of Mutters where you can catch the Mutteralmbahn.

If that's not too your liking, continue on the light rail to the Fulpmes.

Yup, there's another resort here.

Or, forget that.  Catch the bus from here and you can travel up the entire Stubai Valley to Mutterbergalm.

Basically, the entire Stubai Valley can be accessed by train, train and bus, or direct bus from Innsbruck. During summer, hiking trails abound with lots of options for point to point hikes linked by the valley bus.

Or, get on the heavy rail and travel to St. Anton, the Otztal Valley, or a number of other great spots in an hour and a half.  

Whether or not such a mass transit system would work for the Wasatch Front and Mountains remains to be seen.  There are a host of issues that need to be explored, from funding to ensuring adequate environmental protection.  Now is a good time to let your opinions be heard.  Public comments are now being collected by the Mountain Accord project, which seeks to develop a future plan for the central Wasatch Mountains.  


  1. Re: Innsbruck

    Where's the trees?

  2. I looked at Mountain Accord and I didn't like what I saw.

    A big committee composed of representatives of towns, cities, counties, state departments, and federal agencies....


    As an attorney, I represented a major city that contracted with a private company to have its trash recycled and incinerated at a facility that sold the resulting steam to the paper mill that makes the paper on which US money is printed. Everybody wins -- the City's costs go down, private industry creates jobs and profits, the US Treas. pays less for its paper. Another city that was my client sold its entire sewerage system to a private company with similar results and protected the existing unionized city work force by setting hiring goals and standards to be met by the private company. I did about 20 projects like this -- combining the public and private sectors in relationships that were good for both. (Then I retired at 55 and ultimately bought a house in SLC to support a snowboard habit in the Wasatch.)

    This committee needs a set of reps from industries that can conceive and present economically viable options to adress the issues in question that lend themselves to technical solutions, such as transportation, recreation infrastructure, water/wastewater/power/communications/etc provisions, and the like.