Kirkland, Washington, just a bit northeast of Seattle, is in need of expanded public transit options but doesn’t think it can “wait decades for Sound Transit to extend light rail along the Cross Kirkland Corridor.” As a result, the city is looking into a quicker, more affordable solution through air gondolas (as written about in the Seattle Times).
We at ratpag, admittedly, don’t know much about air gondolas aside from their use at ski resorts, which we never go to, and the Roosevelt Island aerial tramway in New York City. The aerial gondolas are a bit different, though, as they serve stations as a rail system would – just simply from the air.
These aerial gondolas are a bit of a novelty in the U.S. but have become quite popular in other parts of the world. The article states that:
They’ve become more popular in European countries such as Italy, Germany, Portugal, and France. In South America, there are more than 50 gondola transit systems either being planned or built…
The systems are capable of swift construction, as the Seattle Times notes that a 12-mile route in La Paz, Bolivia will open after less than two years of construction. Construction costs can also be substantially less than that for light rail or subways.
With all of this great news about aerial gondolas we here at ratpag wonder why not favor these over light rail or subway? Though our knowledge regarding such a system remains limited we’re sure that it is best suited for smaller cities such as Kirkland or along established, transit-starved corridors of larger areas (such as the aerial gondolas in Portland, Oregon). Light rail and subway still seems best to serve large, dense populations but aerial gondolas seem very promising and reasonable where budgets may be tight and populations somewhat low. It also seems quite suitable for traversing bodies of water or varying geography.