Monday, November 18, 2013

No cablecars in Bukhansan, please

The old Eunpyeong New Town cable car project that raised many critics from environmentalists in the late noughties has been revived yesterday by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon as a cheap quick fix for recurrent traffic jams between the new town and downtown*. Traffic jams that (sorry for repeating always the same things) should have been avoided in the first place, and public transit solutions considered as core elements of the said new town (an obviousness for any urban planner except - it seems - in this part of the world).

I can't deny the fact that cable cars are cheaper than, say, a railway extension such as the one the same Mayor promised last summer in his initial Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Master Plan, a very ambitious wish list where the Sinbundang Line was supposed to be prolonged to Pyongchang-dong, the infinity and beyond (see "If you ain't broke, fix it: Seoul, Welfare and Railways Deficits). Cable cars are even cheaper than the already environment-unfriendly Eunpyeong-Seochon tunnel considered two years ago, a car-centric nonsense that triggered the following rant from this excuse for a blogger (see "2 more tunnels up North"):
"Eunpyeong-gu definitely needs more connections with the rest of the city, but the priority for a forward looking city should be to develop public transportation, and deter people from using their cars in already saturated areas. 
I mean come on : Seoul is digging tunnels #10 and #11, and not one of them has ever been for a subway or a railway! It's as if the mind frame was set on 1960s and 1970s instead of the new millenium: more people? build more roads, sell more cars! and don't bother with medium / long term consequences! 
This totally contradicts Seoul's efforts to develop tourism and international attractiveness: downtown is not supposed to become again an environmental nightmare and a communication failure."
But Seoul is not Santiago do Chile, where funicular railways made perfect sense to connect higher neighborhoods with the rest of the city. Here, cable cars would follow a roller coaster from ground level to ground level in an endless, preventable eyesore that would totally ruin Bukhansan (via Samgaksan, Bugaksan, Inwangsan), one of the capital's most valuable assets - not to mention, of course, Seoul fortress... and downtown Seoul as a whole, because this monster would go all the way from Gupabal Station to City Hall (either in a straight line of 9.6 km, or in a 11 km course that would pass over Tongil-ro via Yeonsinnae and Dongnimun)! All this to shrink to 20 mn a journey that takes 40-50 mn by car or 30-35 mn by subway!

And they have the gall to sell it as a potential tourist asset as great as the London Cable Car, an urban abomination only topped by the ArcelorMittal Orbit as the most embarrassing erection of the 2012 Olympics (in a city with a recent history already rich in urban disasters). 

Of course the view could be interesting from above, but that's what you'd see from under:

The Emirates Air Line, a.k.a. the London Cable Car, a low cost bridge over River Thames. Now picture that as you stroll around Sejongno, Seochon, or Jeong-dong... "touristic", isn't it?

Brits can do whatever they want over this part of the Thames, I won't let downtown Seoul welcome a new elevated wart, not even a decade after the restoration of Cheonggyecheon.

This project insults the city's past, present and future. Seoul can't fix Eunpyeong New Town's failure by making it even worse and more visible. 

So back to the drawing board, and I'm begging you, next time, please try to look for more sustainable ways.

Seoul Village 2013
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* see "서울시, 은평뉴타운~서울 도심 케이블카 건설 검토 논란" (Chosun Ilbo 20131118)

NO WAY! Park Won-soon considering cablecar connections between Eunpyeong new town and downtown Seoul! Save Bukhansan from this madness!

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