With the cancelling of the SkyPath and the short-lived $800 million Pedestrian/Cycling bridge proposal it seems that the only options for the next harbour crossing will be a full scale tunnel or bridge.
In the last decade urban gondola systems have become increasingly popular. They work well in difficult terrain such as steep hills, valley or river crossings. They are also relatively cheap which makes them popular in middle-income countries in the Americas.
The Cablebús in Mexico City opened two lines in 2021 connecting low income transport-poor suburbs with metro stations.
The technology I am assuming is a Detachable Monocable Gondola with cars similar to the Emirates Air-Line in London, Medellin MetroCable and Mexican Cablebús.
Monocable means that there is a single moving cable. Detachable means that each car unhooks from the cable inside stations and moves slowly (or even stops) for easy boarding and unboarding. The general characteristics of these systems are:
8-10 person cars ( able to carry bicycles, wheelchairs etc )
Speed around 20 km/h
Capacity 2500 people/hour in each direction.
Approx 1 car every 15 seconds.
Note that it is possible to increase capacity, for instance the new Medellin line P has a capacity of 4,000 people per hour in each direction.
Options for routes
I have provided details about two possible routes:
Route One is a simple crossing of Auckland Harbour just east of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Route Two connects the CBD (near Elliot Street), the University of Auckland and Parnell.
Note that apart from at stations cable systems are along able to make very slight turns at each tower. I have pretty much assumed each line will be straight apart of at stations.
Route One – East of the Bridge.
The will start from a station near the current Ponsonby Cruising Club. A 50m mast 150m north, then a 700m span across the harbour to another 50m mast and then a station in the Stokes Point Reserve.
Total length is 1100m. Travel time around 5 minutes.
This route is a direct replacement of the Skypath. It would cater to cyclists and pedestrians needing to get between Stokes Point and Westhaven. The exact placement of the stations is flexible. The main difficulties are the height required to provide room for tall ships to pass underneath. The Emirates line has similar requirements to allow Thames river traffic and higher than usual towers.
Apart from some sightseers this line would mainly serve cyclists wishing to go directly between North Shore and the city. This Greater Auckland article shows the 2020 Skypath business case was estimating 4500 daily users for the Skypath a few years after it was built.
Route Two – Elliot Street to Parnell via Wellesley Street and the University
This would start with a station near the corner of Elliot Street and Wellesley Street West (possibly in front of Bledisloe House). The line would go east above Wellesley Street and over the Art Gallery, Albert Park and parts of the University to a station at the University (perhaps at the corner of Grafton Road and Symonds Street). The line would then go across Grafton Gully to a station at Parnell Train Station and then up the hill to terminate on Parnell Road. The total length is around 1700 metres.
There are 4 stations on this route.
Parnell Village (near 236 Parnell Road) is an employment & entertainment area.
Parnell Train Station is near Parnell and the University but down a hill from both and across busy roads from the University. It is within walking distance of the Auckland Museum.
The University is well served by Symonds Street buses but not by rail and is cut off from the CBD and Parnell.
The Elliot Street endpoint would be just 50 metres from both the Aotea Train Station and a proposed Queen Street light rail station near the Civic.
The idea of this line is to cross the difficult terrain that separates Parnell, Parnell Station, the University and the CBD. There should be a lot of possible journeys between these four. It will expand the effective radius of Aotea Station, Parnell Station and a Civic light-rail station. It would also improve Parnell’s connectivity.
Travel times ( assuming 20km/h speed and 1 minute per station ) on the most likely journeys:
Elliot St to University
Elliot St to Parnell
Parnell Station to Parnell
Parnell Station to University
This line has the potential to be very busy. All the stops on the route would benefit from the improved inter-connectivity.
Two extensions to the line are possible. At the Parnell end the line could be extended down to a station located in the valley around St Georges Bay Road to serve the businesses (and housing) located around there.
Another possible extension of the line would be directly along Wellesley St West from Elliot Street to Victoria Park. I am unsure if traffic to/from the Victoria Park area would justify this however.
I had problems finding other routes that were suitable for gondolas. I’ve included a route to Birkenhead as an example of one that does not appear to be competitive with the existing bus as an example.
The majority of possible routes had various combinations of long distances (which take too long at 20km/h), low density/population at station catchment, already being covered by existing links and lack of obvious demand.
Westhaven to Birkenhead via Northcote Point and Marine Terrace.
This starts on the western side of the Harbour Bridge near a small Park/Bungy HQ. It goes over the harbour alongside the Bridge and has a station near “The Wharf”. The Line would then go across Little Shoal Bay to Little Shoal Bay Reserve. There would be a turning point there to go north-west over the gully of the Le Roys Bush Reserve to a station on the side of Birkenhead Avenue near the viewing platform.
Length 3.9km and end to end travel time of around 15 minutes.
The problem with this line is that Westhaven is not a good destination. Route One across the harbour fills a gap for cyclists but extending the line to Birkenhead doesn’t seem significantly improve the catchment (especially for non-cyclists).
Other possible routes I looked at
A simple crossing West of the Bridge
From the south-east of St Mary’s Bay to Stokes Point
From Wynyard Quarter to Stokes Point.
From St Mary’s Bay to Stokes Point and then the Akoranga Bus station
From Wellesley Street West to Stokes Point.
Between Devonport and the city
Above Lake Road from Devonport to Takapuna
Between Stokes Point and Bayswater
Between Akoranga Bus station and Devonport
Urban Gondolas do not work as a general solution to urban public transport but are suited to certain niche routes across difficult terrain.
Starting from the simple harbour crossing I looked at several cross harbour routes but most were unpromising due to lack of under-served destinations that could be easily connected. I ended up just keeping the basic harbour crossing to fill the gap for cyclists and walkers.
The Elliot Street to Parnell line on the other hand might be a good fit for a gondola. It is less than 2km long but connects 3 popular locations and an under-utilised train station.
Costs of gondolas are fairly low compared to other PT options. The two Cablebús lines in Mexico City are each around 10km long and cost $US 146m and $US 208m. Ballpark estimates might be between $NZ 100 million to $NZ 200 million for each route, hopefully closer to $100m.
Lewis interviews people involved in the Obama to Trump transition at 3 major government agencies. He profiles the people, their jobs and in most cases how the Trump people underestimated the Dept’s importance. 3/5
I’ve recently moved my home backups over to restic . I’m using restic to backup the /etc and /home folders and on all machines are my website files and databases. Media files are backed up separately.
I have around 220 Gigabytes of data, about half of that is photos.
My Home setup
I currently have 4 regularly-used physical machines at home: two workstations, one laptop and server. I also have a VPS hosted at Linode and a VM running on the home server. Everything is running Linux.
Existing Backup Setup
For at least 15 years I’ve been using rsnaphot for backup. rsnapshot works by keeping a local copy of the folders to be backup up. To update the local copy it uses rsync over ssh to pull down a copy from the remote machine. It then keeps multiple old versions of files by making a series of copies.
I’d end up with around 12 older versions of the filesystem (something like 5 daily, 4 weekly and 3 monthly) so I could recover files that had been deleted. To save space rsnapshot uses hard links so only one copy of a file is kept if the contents didn’t change.
I also backed up a copy to external hard drives regularly and kept one copy offsite.
The main problem with rsnapshot was it was a little clunky. It took a long time to run because it copied and deleted a lot of files every time it ran. It also is difficult to exclude folders from being backed up and it is also not compatible with any cloud based filesystems. It also requires ssh keys to login to remote machines as root.
Getting started with restic
I started playing around with restic after seeing some recommendations online. As a single binary with a few commands it seemed a little simpler than other solutions. It has a push model so needs to be on each machine and it will upload from there to the archive.
Restic supports around a dozen storage backends for repositories. These include local file system, sftp and Amazon S3. When you create an archive via “restic init” it creates a simple file structure for the repository in most backends:
You can then use simple commands like “restic backup /etc” to backup files to there. The restic documentation site makes things pretty easy to follow.
Restic automatically encrypts backups and each server needs a key to read/write to it’s backups. However any key can see all files in a repository even those belonging to other hosts.
Backup Strategy with Restic
I decided on the followup strategy for my backups:
Make a daily copy of /etc and other files for each server
Keep 5 daily and 3 weekly copies
Have one copy of data on Backblaze B2
Have another copy on my home server
Export the copies on the home server to external disk regularly
Backblaze B2 is very similar Amazon S3 and is supported directly by restic. It is however cheaper. Storage is 0.5 cents per gigabyte/month and downloads are 1 cent per gigabyte. In comparison AWS S3 One Zone Infrequent access charges 1 cent per gigabyte/month for storage and 9 cents per gigabyte for downloads.
Store 250 GB per month
Download 250 GB
AWS S3 Glacier is cheaper for storage but hard to work with and retrieval costs would be even higher.
Backblaze B2 is less reliable than S3 (they had an outage when I was testing) but this isn’t a big problem when I’m using them just for backups.
Setting up Backblaze B2
To setup B2 I went to the website and created an account. I would advise putting in your credit card once you finish initial testing as it will not let you add more than 10GB of data without one.
I decided that for security I would have each server use a separate restic repository. This means that I would use a bit of extra space since restic will only keep one copy of a file that is identical on most machines. I ended up using around 15% more.
For each machine I created an B2 application key and set it to have a namePrefix with the name of the machine. This means that each application key can only see files in it’s own folder
On each machine I installed restic and then created an /etc/restic folder. I then added the file b2_env:
as these are folders with regularly changing contents that I don’t need to backup.
The “restic forget” command removes older snapshots. I’m telling it to keep 6 daily copies and 3 weekly copies of my data, plus at least the most recent 5 no matter how old then are.
This command doesn’t actually free up the space taken up by the removed snapshots. I need to run the “restic prune” command for that. However according to this analysis the prune operation generates so many API calls and data transfers that the payback time on disk space saved can be months(!). So for now I’m planning to run the command only occasionally (probably every few months, depending on testing).
Setting up sftp
As well as backing up to B2 I wanted to backup my data to my home server. In this case I decided to have a single repository shared by all the servers.
First of all I created a “restic” account on my server with a home of /home/restic. I then created a folder /media/backups/restic owned by the restic user.
I then followed this guide for sftp-only accounts to restrict the restic user. Relevant lines I changed were “Match User restic” and “ChrootDirectory /media/backups/restic “
On each host I also needed to run “cp /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key /root/.ssh/id_rsa ” and also add the host’s public ssh_key to /home/restic/.ssh/authorized_keys on the server.
Then it is just a case of creating a sftp_env file like in the b2 example above. Except this is a little shorter:
For backing up my VPS I had to do another step since this couldn’t push files to my home. What I did was instead add a script that ran on the home server and used rsync to copy down folders from by VPS to local. I used rrsync to restrict this script.
Once I had a local folder I ran “restic –home vps-name backup /copy-of-folder” to backup over sftpd. The –host option made sure the backups were listed for the right machine.
Since the restic folder is just a bunch of files, I’m copying up it directly to external disk which I keep outside the house.
I’m fairly happy with restic so far. I don’t have not run into too many problems or gotchas yet although if you are starting up I’d suggest testing with a small repository to get used to the commands etc.
I have copies of keys in my password manager for recovery.
There are a few things I still have to do including setup up some monitoring and also decide how often to run the prune operation.