Up and down

I chose to celebrate Auckland Anniversary by visiting Wellington. (Naturally enough.) No surcharges on the coffee there. It was my first visit to the capital as a tourist, and as you might expect I did some of the usual touristy things like Te Papa, Parliament, and the cable car.  The cable car is a real gem; it doesn’t cover much height but it’s a lovely piece of history, and there’s a great cable-car museum at the top. It’s a classic funicular design, consisting of two cars connected by a single cable, which is basically wound around a pulley at the top. That means down-ward moving car helps to pull the upward-moving one up. Of course, there’s a motor in there too, but the idea is that the two cars are pretty well balanced, so they can be moved without much input of energy.

This being the case, it is obviously in the interests of the cable car operators to have as many people travelling down as possible. More people in the down car means more weight, which means more force on the cable that pulls the upward car up. That means less power consumed. That being the case, why is the fare down the same as the fare up?

With such a pleasant walk down available through the botanic gardens (OK, so it ends at the beehive, but you can’t have everything), surely you’d think the cable car company would encourage downward travellers by halving the price (as was the case in the early 1900’s), or making it free.  In fact, they should be paying the passengers to travel down. It would be a great way to earn money as a student – run up the hill, travel down, run up the hill, travel down – make money and keep fit in the process.  Yes, I know your bum is wearing the varnish off the seat, but the same price down as up? Get real.

As a postscript, for those of you who know some physics, you might try to estimate just how much money the cable car company will save in power if one extra person travels down. The result might surprise you.

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