West Seattle SkyLink: Gondolas/aerial trams instead of light rail?

(West Seattle SkyLink advocates’ 12-minute presentation video)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Sound Transit‘s light-rail extension to West Seattle is already expected to be later and costlier than originally planned – with the schedule and cost changes far from finalized.

Advocates for building a gondola system instead of light rail think this mode of aerial transportation could fix both problems, by being cheaper and faster to build.

The idea of aerial transit between West Seattle and downtown has been discussed for a few years. But supporters recently bestowed the concept with the name West Seattle SkyLink, launching a new campaign to muster community interest and enthusiasm, while also angling for official support.

They’ve spoken to community groups – including the District 1 Community Network earlier this month – as well as holding smaller conversations. We talked with two representatives of the WS SkyLink campaign, Martin Pagel and Joyce Hengesbach. (She also worked recently with Bob Ortblad, who circulated the idea of an immersed-tube tunnel to replace the West Seattle Bridge. But this is an entirely separate campaign.) The team advocating for the gondola system also includes Marty Westerman, the Fauntleroy resident who has been a leading supporter in recent years.

The SkyLink team contends that the West Seattle light-rail extension is ideal for replacing with a system like this, because it’s an offshoot linr, not part of the main “spine.” Gondolas could carry West Seattleites across the Duwamish River and connect them to light rail in SODO/downtown, they say. They insist it would cost less money and time to build – one-tenth the cost of light rail, with a West Seattle-to-downtown line doable by 2025 – requiring much less real estate and right-of-way acquisition, among other attributes.

Pagel says he became interested in the concept after the West Seattle Bridge closure 10 months ago. He and Hengesbach speak of experience using gondola transportation in other cities. As you can see in the presentation atop this story (also viewable here), they show video of the Emirates Air gondola that crosses the River Thames in London, The cars are roomy enough that you can take along a bicycle, and they run multiple times a minute.

(Portland tram photo via Wikimedia)

On this continent, there’s a gondola line in Portland (above) – the Aerial Tram – and one in New York. There’s also one in the planning stage in the greater Vancouver, B.C. area. And Los Angeles has multiple proposals in circulation – we found this one and this one.

The electric-powered trams could run on the “same alignment” mapped out for light rail, but could travel over residential blocks rather than requiring homes to be purchased and demolished, says West Seattle SkyLink.

Though Sound Transit says it considered non-light-rail forms of transit, including aerial, before settling on light rail for the ST3 ballot measure in 2016 (here’s a 2013 document dismissing it in ST long-range planning), the SkyLink advocates want a new chance to make the case. They’ve been contacting both board members and staff members; they have a meeting this week with the latter. Hengesbach says, “We think the overriding issue is Sound Transit’s revenue issues, and we would like to present an option that’s very well researched.”

They’re embarking on wider public outreach, too, and by early January had already made half a dozen presentations to various groups. They see opportunities to draw support from, among others, neighborhoods that want more transit but are concerned about potential light-rail guideways rising 150 feet – equal to a 15-story building. “We expect public interest in this will build.”

Logical next steps, they say, would include a feasibility study. They’re also talking to manufacturers to continue their research. They contend this could work for other parts of the city beyond West Seattle, and could become part of Sound Transit’s “tool set … in efforts to link the neighborhoods.”

If you’re interested in getting involved, or have questions, contact info is on their website.

117 Replies to "West Seattle SkyLink: Gondolas/aerial trams instead of light rail?"

  • CAM January 31, 2021 (3:45 pm)

    How do they intend to cope with the equity issues of only serving the highest income portion of the peninsula while “flying over” everyone else and not granting them access? You want people to take a 15-20 min bus ride from the east end of the peninsula to the Junction to get on the gondola to the fly back over their homes? Any system that doesn’t respect that this peninsula has people living spread across a wide area is useless. And saying that you’re going to bus everyone on the peninsula to a single entry point is a nonstarter. 

    • WSB January 31, 2021 (4:46 pm)

      If you watch the presentation, 8 minutes in, they would propose, potentially, stations in the same places as the ST plan, not just The Junction.

      • trickycoolj January 31, 2021 (5:23 pm)

        Yep completely missing critical neighborhoods like High Point just like the water taxi shuttle. Just like CenturyLink’s gigabit internet. Average income isn’t high enough to get anyone’s attention over here and after 9 years it’s getting really really old. 

        • Sam January 31, 2021 (6:45 pm)

          As WSB said, they propose the exact same stations as a light rail.

        • CT January 31, 2021 (6:53 pm)

          It would be amazing if the city improves public transportation/access
          for low income residents in High Point, the largest SHA family
          community. Maybe expand access to White Center. It was too steep of an
          incline for the light rail, but the gondolas/aerial trams seem to be
          able to go up the hill. With your support marginalized communities can be better connected to the rest of (West) Seattle.  Thank you!

    • Also John January 31, 2021 (4:51 pm)

      What are you talking about?  Did you watch the video or are you jumping straight to inequality?     The proposed Gondola stations will be the same as the proposed light rail stations.

  • Elizh January 31, 2021 (3:51 pm)

    Potentially attractive, but capacity limitations and queueing requirements may be showstoppers. 

    • Also John January 31, 2021 (4:57 pm)

      The lines will not be anywhere near what we see with light rail.  With light rail we wait for 15 – 20 minutes and during that time people amass.    With Skyline the Gondolas arrive every 10 – 15 seconds and can hold between 8 – 12 people each.

    • Martin January 31, 2021 (5:41 pm)

      Sound Transit expects 24,000 to 27,000 daily riders in 2040 for light rail, a gondola can handle more than twice that much, about 4000 – 6000 trips per hour depending on configuration. Mexico City built a similar line in 2016 which transports 6m riders a year across the neighborhood and to their light rail. They are now building more lines to other neighborhoods.

      • Mike January 31, 2021 (8:06 pm)

        @ Martin – you are mistaking projections for capacity. If ST is expecting 24k to 27k daily riders for light rail and you assume that those same people will use a gondola, then you have 24k to 27k daily riders of the gondola.

    • Matt P January 31, 2021 (6:02 pm)

      Capacity is enough for the current population easily and it doesn’t preclude the light rail from coming eventually or from building other gondola lines to relieve capacity issues in the future. 

  • AMD January 31, 2021 (4:18 pm)

    That looks like it would be fun, but neither rapid nor able to move mass amounts of people so hopefully it’s only a consideration for an addition to light rail, and not a replacement for it.  Going this route in lieu of light rail is just begging to sit in traffic on the bridge for the next 25 years until a new, smarter generation finally builds mass transit, at an even greater cost than it would have been today, and MUCH greater than it would have been were it built in the 1970s when it was first proposed.

    • Martin January 31, 2021 (4:56 pm)

      On travel time: As gondolas run continuously, depending on how long you have to wait for the next light rail, you might get quicker to your destination via gondola, than via light rail (once it is built, which isn’t for a while).Sound Transit expects 24,000 – 27,000 daily riders for light rail by 2040. A gondola can handle about twice as much, 4000 – 6000 riders an hour depending on configuration.

    • Em January 31, 2021 (4:58 pm)

      On their website they show it would only take 4 min longer than the light rail. Less capacity but still over the amounts estimated for light rail ridership by 2040. Agree it should be in addition the the light rail but would be great to have this much quicker and cheaper alternative for the short term. Gondolas are viable public transit options in many parts of the world. I could see it becoming a tourist attraction too with the amazing views. 

    • Skylink4me January 31, 2021 (5:21 pm)

      The capacity and rate are nearly the same, for 1/10 of the cost AND it can be done in a couple of years. No brainier if you ask me. https://www.westseattleskylink.org/skylink-vs-light-rail-for-west-seat 

    • Gull January 31, 2021 (5:31 pm)

      Have you had a chance to watch the presentation?  They suggest there could be 100 gondola cabins continuously cycling through, with a capacity to move 4,500 passengers an hour.

    • Jim February 1, 2021 (1:03 am)

      There already WAS mass transit in the 70s with street cars and the trolleys along Alaska way. Then they removed them foolishly there’s even a Seattle PI political cartoon you can find where a conductor is saying “one day you’ll regret this they’ll charge you millions to put this back” Sound Transit needs to be completely scrapped and reworked! It’s way over budget and way over the time frame we have four levees now specifically for it and the money’s not being used the way they said and they’re not valuing our vehicles the way they said they would.

    • Roger G. February 1, 2021 (8:08 am)

      An aerial cable transit (ACT) gondola system can move massive amounts of people. “Link” light rail carries 24 million passengers anually in Seattle – the same length “My Gondola” aerial cable system in La Paz carries 45 million passenger annually – almost double the amount Link carries, so that’s the answer to the capacity question. The top 5 ACT gondola systems in South America carry the same amount of total passengers annually as the top 5 public transit systems in the USA; that includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. 

      • Roger G. February 2, 2021 (7:47 am)

        Correction to the previous comment. I meant to compare the aerial gondola systems south of the border (incl. Mexico City) to similar length USA light rail systems, not to all public transit systems including commuter rail, subways, buses, etc. My mistake. 

  • Sam January 31, 2021 (4:26 pm)

    I don’t care if this makes no sense – we have to do it!!!!!!

    • Pete January 31, 2021 (4:53 pm)

      There are so many unknowns in this presentation. Their cost estimates are at best a wild ass guess. They do not mention for example that the gondola would pass 100 feet over the roof tops of houses in the Pigeon Point neighborhood every 30 seconds or so. They have no estimates of how much it would cost to purchase the air rights over these impacted houses. They are also very optimistic about the time frame involved. They seem to think that the acquisition  of property, acquisition of air rights, doing an environmental assessment and the permit process is going to be much faster than is realistic in Seattle. 

      • Gary L January 31, 2021 (9:19 pm)

        Yes, many unanswered questions, but that’s why we need a feasibility study. What’s the alternative, just accept that light rail won’t be in West Seattle until 2031 and cost more than $3.5 billion? It’s insanity just to dismiss looking at alternatives. There are hundreds of these systems around the world, many built in dense urban areas, this is not pie in the sky technology.

        • Jim February 1, 2021 (1:04 am)

          Very well said! I couldn’t agree more especially since we have ST1, 2, 3, 4 and we’ve seen no benefit from all that funding. Time to scrap the project entirely and move on to this gondola idea I like it.

      • Seaviewer February 3, 2021 (4:26 pm)

        Gondolas are in use all over the world. And can handle any terrain. Have you seen the Peak 2 Peak gondola at Whistler Blackcomb? It goes from the top of one mountain to the top of another. This is very proven technology. If the capacity is equal to light rail and the stations are the same, I can’t really think of a reason to not build one.The environmental impact on the communities it passes through/over is low because the cars are completely silent. They have no engines at all. The only engines are located at the ends of the line and they keep the wire moving.  The wire itself and the cars attached to it make no noise.  Whatever the cost for air rights over a house would be, it would be less than the cost for the same air if you were running a noisy train on tracks through it.The only real issue is the same issue you have with a monorail. It’s hard to jump off a gondola in the event of an emergency. There’s no track to walk upon. There’s no walkway. But the failure rate on gondolas is very low. 

  • Matt January 31, 2021 (4:30 pm)

    This is brilliant and must be seriously considered by city leadership.

  • DRC January 31, 2021 (4:51 pm)

                         This is a dumb idea

    • Jim February 1, 2021 (1:05 am)

      So you’re fine with waiting minimum another decade and spending billions more and probably several more ST levies that will most likely still go over budget?! ST1 was passed when I was a child now I’m nearly 30 and we’ve still seen no benefit

  • Meeeee January 31, 2021 (4:54 pm)

    Knock yourself out, it’s not going to happen with public funding.

    • spooled January 31, 2021 (8:29 pm)

      seattle leaders:  Hold our beer!  We’re going to do this and you’re going to like it.

  • EL January 31, 2021 (4:56 pm)

    This would be great for the small businesses in WS. It would most likely bring in lots of tourism to our neighborhood. Maybe a bike/scooter rental business near the offload platform could provide their services. Visitors would spend the day dining, shopping and checking out Alki and our very cool junction. 

    • Jim February 1, 2021 (1:06 am)

      I completely agree! Plus I’ve always wanted to come to a dead stop on the West Seattle bridge and take a picture because the view of the city is so beautiful. People would ride the gondola just for the opportunity to get a snapshot

    • ACG February 1, 2021 (12:08 pm)

      I agree with this as well!

  • SlimJim January 31, 2021 (5:10 pm)

    When will people learn? We voted for a monorail then decided to try something else. Now we’re going to take the plans for light rail and scotch that to try something else? I’d say unbelievable, except it is believable,  human folly being what it us.

    • Jim February 1, 2021 (1:07 am)

      There were issues and safety concerns with the monorail but the city kind of forced the voters to go with this light rail BS. Gondolas would have a much higher standard for safety and would have to be built better. besides the first ST Levy was passed when I was a small child now I’m nearly 30 and we’ve seen no benefit and there’s been three additional levies. Time to rework that money, turn it over to another agency and scrap the project. I’m sick of billions being spent over decades with no results

    • Tomas February 1, 2021 (3:40 pm)

      Amen SlimJim.  Like 3 seperate votes for the monorail and it was then scrapped because (after almost a decade of not building it) it was more expensive then anticipated.  Now the same thing with the light rail because it’s more expensive then anticipated.It’s like no one putting the budget together is looking at what property values are doing and properly adjusting for inflation….common guys, you KNOW property values are going up every year.  You KNOW land at a price today is going to cost more tomorrow.   

  • Steve January 31, 2021 (5:18 pm)

    YES PLEASE!!!! 

  • Gull January 31, 2021 (5:27 pm)

    Good work, I am for this being explored and considered further, thanks for proposing it.

  • Deane January 31, 2021 (5:48 pm)

    Seems worth a feasibility study with estimates of cost/passenger.  Other cities experience seems relevant, and there is some tourism benefits as well. If popular, other routes could be proposed and added to the mix to increase capacity (just like on the ski slopes!). 

  • West Seattle Lurker January 31, 2021 (5:56 pm)

    This would block a lot of million dollar views right? Not to mention, it’s just too darn windy for a gondola.

  • sam-c January 31, 2021 (6:07 pm)

    That’s not what I voted for, when I voted for ST3…. eyeroll…..

  • Derek January 31, 2021 (6:07 pm)

    Please NO to this awful idea. I do not want a slow glorified ski lift making Elliot Bay look really ugly. Please just get light rail here sooner. 

    • Gary L January 31, 2021 (9:22 pm)

      West Seattle Light Rail cost estimates got 50% more expensive this month. We’ll be lucky to have it by 2035. Time to look for alternatives. The view of Elliot Bay from a gondola would be fantastic.

  • StopCuttingDownTrees January 31, 2021 (6:19 pm)

    No, thanks. I’ll have an electric car that can take me in any direction on any paved road any time I want LONG before this would be built.

  • Dave January 31, 2021 (6:19 pm)

    This is quite feasible plus it would be fun to ride.  EXCEPT, recognize that it will forever preclude a transit extension to White Center and Burien.One other big benefit for Sound Transit: they won’t have to procure a fleet of transit cars at huge cost plus their perpetual maintenance costs.That said, an important lesson learned from the Monorail project was that if you don’t get Sound Transit to think that it’s their idea and to champion it, it will die a bureaucratic death. 

    • Matt P February 1, 2021 (9:33 pm)

      A gondola could be easily extended to White Center and Burien, but they’re also not nearly dense enough for light rail.  West Seattle isn’t really either….

  • David January 31, 2021 (6:31 pm)

    I think it’s a great idea. Have they considered something like the 3S gondola that is up at Whistler for the Peak2Peak gondola? It can transport 5,500 people per hour each direction and it’s also designed to run in high wind with long cable spans, so you would need very few towers. It just makes too much sense though.

  • R Ceallaig January 31, 2021 (6:50 pm)

    10% of light rail cost. Do it now; bridge will be open, and then you have the usual 10 years to argue about something else

  • Mel January 31, 2021 (6:52 pm)

    Just no.

    West Seattleites already have a way to slowly get to existing light rail stations for a non-direct way to get downtown – it’s called buses, AND it’s way cheaper than running a gimmick gondola line, which would replace exactly zero of those buses.

    AND we’d still have to also build light rail so West Seattleites can have city-speed transit to points north and south, which is what will help make cars unnecessary for commuters (which is kind of the point).

    A gondola is a “cool idea,” but it really doesn’t make sense for what people need transit for.

    • winniegirl February 1, 2021 (4:53 pm)

      I agree.  I don’t really understand why there isn’t a push to just expand our bus network.  Put more buses on the street and make single seat rides more attractive.  Make transfer points intuitive.  It wouldn’t take 10 years to achieve the goal and there’s a lot more flexibility. I lived in NY for a long time.  I loved taking the subway for it’s efficiency and speed.  But, if it’s going to take 20 years to finish out this network, just get buses to get people moving!

  • Don Golier January 31, 2021 (6:54 pm)

    We should totally do it, provided we first put it through five referendums, buy private properties through eminent domain, vote it out in the sixth referendum, then sell the purchased properties at profit to other private businesses.Next, we should increase the scale of the project tenfold, wait a couple of decades until real estate prices go through the roof and expensive projects are built on the properties required for the project, then buy them at premium, pledge we’ll pay the maximum possible building cost in order to appease the unions, and keep everything funded through some magical future income based on wishful thinking projections in order to satisfy all ten independent local and regional transit committees.

    • Cathy February 1, 2021 (11:07 am)

      Well said!!!

  • CF January 31, 2021 (6:55 pm)

    I’m wondering if the FAA would allow something like this, as it would likely interfere with planes on final to 14R at Boeing Field. Planes are at 1000’ and descending ~340’ per nautical mile over Harbor Island, and the cable may interfere with that approach. I’m also concerned  the wake from a 767 or 777X would rock the gondolas pretty heavily. I love the idea (the views!) but I’m skeptical  on the execution. 

    • Martin February 3, 2021 (9:03 pm)

      SkyLink would use about the same height as the WS high bridge in order to stay above the Coast Guard marine requirements and below FAA requirements. It wouldn’t interfere with the high bridge as  SkyLink would cross Spokane St viaduct East of the high bridge where the viaduct is much lower than the bridge.

    • Martin February 3, 2021 (9:08 pm)

      SkyLink would cross the Duwamish at about the same height as the West Seattle High Bridge and that way stay above the maritime requirements and below FAA requirements. SkyLink would cross the Spokane St viaduct to the East of the High Bridge at about the same height as the viaduct is much lower than the bridge at that point.

  • Lagartija Nick January 31, 2021 (6:57 pm)

    Ladies and gentlemen may I present exhibit A for why every public project in Seattle takes forever to build. Too many voices, too many ideas, and too much process. Also, imagine the lawsuits if Sound Transit dropped the voter approved light rail plan in favor of this. It’d be tied up in litigation for years making any time reductions gained in construction a moot point. To those out there peddling these alternatives, please put your well meaning energy into getting the actually voter approved light rail  to West Seattle faster. Thanks

  • Spooled January 31, 2021 (6:59 pm)

    Anyone been on a ski lift, the Great Wheel, or London Eye when it stops for no reason and you’re just up there for a while?  Stuck with other people, some possibly freaking out or with restless infants, no booze, and no way down.  This thing, if built, will be a novelty.

    • Gull January 31, 2021 (7:23 pm)

      Yes, and you deal with it, adapt, just as you would have to when light rail trains stop unexpectedly in a dark tunnel, or when buses get stuck in some grid lock, which also happens. Not fun, but nothing goes perfectly smoothly all the time, it’s part of the journey.

    • Nw mama February 2, 2021 (10:36 pm)

      Here here!  I’ll be the first one to freak out.  Actually, I will anticipate this situation and never use it.  

  • Steve January 31, 2021 (7:23 pm)

    Exclusive bus routes are still the most efficient,  flexible, and cost effective way to move people in this town. Demographics change? Move the bus lane. Major event happening?  Slap on another #128! If we can get past vanity projects we’ll get to where we want to go a lot quicker. 

    • Gull February 1, 2021 (7:25 am)

      One point that makes a gondola system more efficient is that it is off the roadway and not impacted by traffic. Also, more direct routing, fewer stops, no stopping at intersections, etc. This would seem a beneficial option and transportation connection for many, in addition to buses.

  • Scubafrog January 31, 2021 (7:38 pm)

    Heck YES!  Think about how many people would take a scenic ride to WS and enrich local business, too!!  

  • ACG January 31, 2021 (7:40 pm)

    Interesting presentation. What happens if it stops or gets stuck while you’re suspended above the Duwamish?  And windy days would be another concern. 

    • Gull January 31, 2021 (8:20 pm)

      You enjoy the view, and earn an adventure patch ;)

    • Gary L January 31, 2021 (9:26 pm)

      Transit gondola systems are good to around 45 mph, so it would occasionally have to close in high winds. Link light rail stops all the time as well, due to collisions in track crossings in the Rainier Valley.

  • East Coast Cynic January 31, 2021 (7:57 pm)

    Ryan DiRamo makes some excellent points about the limitations of the gondola – the gondola takes 40 percent longer than link to get downtown and has 38 percent less passenger capacity than light rail.15 minutes for the gondola to move the same amount of people as light rail, with half the time frequency.https://www.theurbanist.org/2020/12/23/gondolas-cant-meet-west-seattles-transit-needs-light-rail-can/

    • Martin February 1, 2021 (5:08 pm)

      Half the time frequency? Gondolas arrive every 10 to 30 seconds while I may have to wait for light rail for 6min or 15min on the weekend. By that time, I could have already arrived at SODO by gondola.

  • East Coast Cynic January 31, 2021 (8:07 pm)

    https://www.theurbanist.org/2020/12/23/gondolas-cant-meet-west-seattles-transit-needs-light-rail-can/In the above article, Ryan DiRaimo makes some excellent points on the limitations of the gondola for West Seattle vs. Light Rail – It will take 40 percent longer than link to get downtown and will have 38 percent less capacity than light rail.  The gondolas, over a longer commute time, will get you to the stadium district or SODO with the future expansion benefits of light rail taking West Seattle passengers northbound to Ballard.  Given the population increases that we will see in West Seattle in the next 10-20 years, we should go with the transit option that will be best suited to serve West Seattle’s transit needs for the foreseeable future – light rail.

    • Ballardite February 2, 2021 (9:47 am)

      The 40% longer is 4 minutes.  It will take 14minutes instead of 10 minutes.  I think that is a good trade for having the gondola available – built – and running by 2028 (according to DiRaimo) AND saving Sound Transit $2.5 BILLION DOLLARS!

  • Bill January 31, 2021 (8:13 pm)

    We can wait 20 years or longer for light rail or we can get something perhaps within five years. Having this solution and light rail would be really great for Weat Seattle. Why not pursue both?

  • Auntie January 31, 2021 (8:42 pm)

    I have one thing to say: Monorail.We voted for it time and again. But do you see a Monorail anywhere? Nope. Nor will you ever see SkyLink.

  • 2 feet on the ground January 31, 2021 (8:52 pm)

    Hell no am I flying through the sky in a tiny box with a bunch of germy strangers and no driver and no way to escape if one of them gets handsy or has a medical emergency.   For fun, once or twice, sure. For commuting? No way. 

    • Nw mama February 2, 2021 (10:38 pm)

      Yup!  No way you’ll find me on that thing.  Can you imagine close quarters with your worst fellow bus passengers? 

  • rb January 31, 2021 (8:55 pm)

    it seems a bit too high up for comfort. and what about inclement weather days? Does it stop when we have high winds, lighting or other forecast?  

  • JeffK January 31, 2021 (9:24 pm)

    At 1/10th the cost and up to 18 years sooner I’m all for this.

  • MrsT January 31, 2021 (9:46 pm)

    Hard pass. None of my neighbors want to be stuck in one of those things with me when I have a heights induced panic attack. 

  • JES January 31, 2021 (10:01 pm)

    Have WS forgotten the monorail fiasco? ST3 was approved by voters, lets put our energy there.

  • Dan January 31, 2021 (10:01 pm)

    I believe the biggest issue that has yet to be addressed in the presentations I have seen is this.  ST3 was voted on as a light rail package with three stops in West Seattle. They were so concerned about removing a stop to save the cost so they could tunnel because it wasn’t with the voters voted on. ST said it would create legal challenges of a bait and switch. There’s no way we’re gonna get the three sound transit counties to vote to allow us to build an offshoot gondola. The transportation package that was passed does not allow for deviation to a gondola. Therefore, no available funding and no recognized legal board authority to make such a change. Figure that out first and then present it to the public. Also, the port may have some concerns.

  • Carole January 31, 2021 (10:15 pm)

    Have you read about the Portland gondola? Was way over cost estimates. Owners of the homes under it find it a nightmare. It mostly moves people affiliated with OHSU.  And now with covid it’s pretty much useless because of social distancing.  Sure they are fun for tourist sites, I’ve been on some in Europe, but none are used for commuters.  I believe the only operational one in the US is NYC over Roosevelt Island.  Mostly for tourists.

    • Martin February 1, 2021 (5:20 pm)

      The Portland one is an aerial tram, meaning only 2 cars, while a gondola may have more than 100 cars which means 100 families can travel safely social distant which no other transit system can offer.  Yes, there isn’t a precedence in the U.S., but plenty around the world (La Paz transports more than 40m people a year). Wouldn’t it be great, if Seattle would be first to take advantage of the technology in the U.S.?!?

  • Delta January 31, 2021 (10:26 pm)

    How many different transit systems do we need in the city? Busses, a monorail, the South Lake Union Trolley, Light Rail, and now a gondola system? All with their own support staff, some competing for space with each other. If we’re insistent on a redundant method of crossing the Duwamish, fine, but make it light rail which will plug into the existing infrastructure and not commit our children to maintenance of yet another system.

  • Craig January 31, 2021 (11:21 pm)

    If the water taxi was being proposed today, “It’s only to downtown, not equitable! It gets too windy for boats! If a boat has to stop because of an engine problem we’ll probably drift away! No way I’m going to be on one of those small boats with creepy strangers! I heard city X did it once and a boat was taken over by pirates! If it stalls we’ll have to paddle it and we all can’t fit on one rescue boat!” The water taxi until covid was a huge success adding 50k riders each year. We need the innovation and speed of construction that the gondola can bring.

    • Rb February 1, 2021 (12:41 am)

      Partially true. Which brings another good point. Why don’t overdo in a better water taxi? Maybe one that can be boarded on different points. Harbor heights, ferry Terminal, Alki, and maybe another line on the river side. Marginal, pigeon point, admiral. Not only it would make moving around the peninsula easier, but also it would provide speedy downtown access like the existing route does. Just a rough idea.

      • Why machine February 2, 2021 (4:12 pm)

         I love riding the water taxi, but it’s faster to take a bus to downtown because there are very few bus connections to the taxi! Does anyone know why the water taxi is not more utilized? 

      • Craig February 2, 2021 (7:43 pm)

        The monorail makes too much sense for Seattle, but if the needle could be thread, then maybe a second monorail could run between White Center and the Raineer Beech Light Rail?  At “one tenth” the cost, why not?  No  “million dollar views” to pay off on the south end…  No, that would be way to efficient and equitable.   The idea of running  water taxi service up the Duwamish is also intriguing.  Our own little Amsterdam scene down in the Duwamish Valley.  Would be awesome for Southpark.    

  • Joe Z February 1, 2021 (12:48 am)

    The part that bothers me most about this is the “done by 2025” claim. The gondola couldn’t even be designed, much less approved or built by 2025. If you want a gondola, fine, but don’t make false and misleading claims like this will be done faster than light rail because it’s already 5+ years behind light rail on scoping and design. If we wanted a gondola, we should have decided that in 2016. It’s too late now. 

    • Rick February 1, 2021 (8:27 am)

      “False and misleading claims”.  That’s how these agencies get folks to buy what they’re selling. And I’m talking about what we’re dealing with right now. 

  • David February 1, 2021 (5:18 am)

    Wait until it breaks down and people are stuck over the sound for hourshttps://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10075675/disney-world-skyliner-gondola-breakdown-orlando/

    • Martin February 1, 2021 (6:06 pm)

      nobody is proposing to travel over the Sound… Unlike simple ski lifts, urban gondolas have backup systems for power and even motor failure to be able to evacuate people safely in case of malfunction of the main systems.

  • Wsresirent February 1, 2021 (6:56 am)

    Not to mention the scenic nature of it. Light rail is never going to happen with home prices escalating. I just paid 200k over asking price for a house in the area of one of the proposed station areas- imagine what acquisitions will be in 15 years when they actually start building it. Will any of us still be working in Seattle in 15 years, anyway? 😳 I personally will be retried before this even happens IF it happens. We need transport NOW, yesterday really. I say do whatever is cost effective anf fast and screw the nay-sayers. I’m sure they’d ride the gondola if it were available. 

  • WS Realtor February 1, 2021 (7:19 am)

    Much respect for the team that has brought the Gondola idea forward, we need more innovative thinkers like this.  Not sure the idea with “fly” (pun intended).  I believe we’re legally locked in to Sound Transit now but we should at least respect the idea enough to get some initial feedback from the city and ST. 

  • Curtis February 1, 2021 (7:31 am)

    Question on impact from high winds.  Gondolas at ski resorts are often on “wind hold” during high winds- often for the entire day.

    • Martin February 1, 2021 (6:14 pm)

      That mostly applies to chair lifts… Depending on type, urban gondola systems can operate at up to 70mph winds, but I’m not sure you would want to walk or get in a car at that point either.

  • WestJack February 1, 2021 (7:43 am)

    Seems like a lot of the transit plans don’t take into account that there may be a limited need for people to even go downtown post-covid. A lot of businesses will have their workers work from home permanently.  We don’t have the money to get build new transit systems everywhere, fix the bridges and deal with the homeless. All seems like a pipe dream to me.

  • shotinthefoot February 1, 2021 (7:54 am)

    Call me when they propose a series of pneumatic tubes to transport us around the city, a la Futurama. Until then, I’ll patiently wait for the light rail. 

  • Joe February 1, 2021 (9:25 am)

    The benefits (time to implement, fraction of the price of light rail, etc.) far outweigh the downside.  A gondola at the very least must be seriously considered and studied.

  • Rico February 1, 2021 (9:48 am)

    Light rail costs are currently estimated at $200k per West Seattle Household.  Given ST proficiency and history of “competence,” we can expect costs of $500k per household.   Maybe West Seattle can live with a bridge, a future of electronic vehicles and buses (rather than the empty diesel busses the SDOT is running 24×7 now)  and the City can push density to area’s better served by Light rail.       

    • Martin February 1, 2021 (6:16 pm)

      Current roads are already clogged (at least before covid), that won’t get any better even if they use electricity.

  • AIDM February 1, 2021 (10:26 am)

    Yes, this is a great idea. We should absolutely have a gondola between Admiral, Pike Place Market and ideally Capital Hill as well. Spend time and ride the gondola in Portland and you will agree. We would benefit from it being both a conduit and a tourist attraction. It could really enhance West Seattle and Admiral. 

  • jag February 1, 2021 (12:51 pm)

     The idea that it is not what the voters voted for his pretty funny. Tabs? And they voted for the rail to be completed in 2030. If they do not have the money to build then they should not be allowed to hold up serving our neighborhood. Their new plan is to release all the routes that might happen or might not. About 200 home owners for the next decade or two or who knows will be stuck years before ST will be able to purchase them.  Why do we all have to go by rules that they break? ST needs to allow us to build the Gondola or something or scrap the rail until ST can actually afford to build and compensate the land they are taking instead of putting it on hold. Is this layway? The 200 home owners will all be in assisted living by the time they get around to building. I guess it is a way to make sure those properties don’t go up any more in value. Kinda shady.

  • Anyoneelsethinkabouthis? February 1, 2021 (1:12 pm)

    OK, I watched the video and one thing that I instantly noticed, is what happens in an emergency situation!? Its one thing to be in a large area (like a bus or lightrail) and you can move around if you do not like the actions of someone. What happens if you are stuck in a Gondola car with someone who becomes irrational/dangerous? Ive been in MANY Gondolas, but only for skiing; Most of the times Ive used buses/light rail its totally fine, but there have been times where I specifically avoid people due to health/safety concerns. I do not want to think think about a situation like this, but unfortunately I live in a society where I feel like this should be a concern. (especially with all of the crazy news on WSB lately)

  • N February 1, 2021 (1:48 pm)

    This would be awesome.  And if it’s not feasible to SODO light rail station, how about a line from the California down to Alki – views plus connect the tourist zone with our central shopping district.    

  • Peter February 1, 2021 (2:16 pm)

    NO. It’s long past time to stop wasting everyone’s time with this idiotic gondola nonsense. We need real mass transit and we voted for real mass transit, not some pie in the sky fantasy that only exists as a form of opposition to real mass transit. 

  • DC February 1, 2021 (2:41 pm)

    This feels a lot like the monorail idea a number of years ago.  I know we’re desperate, but I don’t know if that’s a good basis for a mass transit system.  Just because it works well in other cities, doesn’t mean it will work well here.  Plans have to be implemented effectively – not a strong point with Seattle’s leadership.

  • Peter February 1, 2021 (4:37 pm)

    I’d advocate that we think about Gondola and light rail as both/and rather than either/or. With the rate of development and change, it makes sense to look for every opportunity for nearer-term and lower-cost improvements  even as we continue to invest in longer-term solutions.  And if the near-term improvements obviate the need for the long-term ones, all the better!

  • Will S. February 1, 2021 (5:31 pm)

    I once rode over the mile-wide Mississippi River in a gondola constructed for the 1984 World’s Fair. (It’s possible that I remember because I was so terrified.) Only now have I learned that the same World’s Fair also featured a monorail.
    Since I just remembered a personal experience and also learned something, it is mandatory that we set aside a $50-billion voter-approved mass-transit construction program and pay instead for studies, the results of which I will never accept, examining the reasons why these gondolas and monorails never caught on except in places like Bogotá, which we should admire for the spirit that has led to a public embrace of wild and invasive hippopotamuses, affectionately known as “cocaine hippos” (a term that is truly amazing and worth a google).

  • Junction Lady February 1, 2021 (5:45 pm)

    Conceptually this option looks forward thinking!  I hope it can be completed in the most optimum way to serve the citizens without compromising the neighborhoods.

  • Ari February 1, 2021 (7:04 pm)

    Would be nice to know about maintenance costs. If it’s a lot cheaper than light rail’s, perhaps there could be more lines to serve the lower part of the peninsula as well. 

  • Mr C Vue February 1, 2021 (11:03 pm)

    Count this skeptical civil engineer in. I was a strong no on the submersible tunnel. Strong no on the new bridge. And only support light rail if tunnel can be built to junction.  I normally don’t like sudden gear shifts to chase shiny objects but this one deserves some thought. Nice research and presentation can tell this idea isn’t a rehash of the monorail pipe dream. This is a proven tool for mobility in challenging geography like ours.   If well planned and implemented this would naturally turn our hood into tourist detour during weekdays when the junction is often dead and  would be good for businesses esp. after suffering through covid and bridge closure.  Gets people moving faster at much lower cost so hard to argue.  Creates certainty about access to downtown.   It also greatly minimizes impacts during construction. Come up with a destination concept the neighborhood can get behind,  get your real estate plan figured out, and get some good engineers on your team that have friends on the inside and make sure you have a strategy to keep drunk chads from terrorizing their fellow gondoliers and I think you might have a winner.  Maybe public/private model is something to think about. Best wishes,

  • Terre February 2, 2021 (9:36 am)

    I think it’s a great idea. Maybe it’s too much like the Jetsons for some people but I used this system in Vancouver BC and it was painless. I hope we will give it serious consideration.

  • Marfaun February 2, 2021 (11:43 am)

    Love the comments, & let’s take leading ones in order:More buses:  we don’t have enough roadway space to add more buses.  They get stuck in traffic just like cars & trucks.  Buses offer car-removal advantage, but no time advantageHigh winds & stuck gondolas:  In the 25,500 days since 1950, there have been six with winds of 65 mph that would affect gondola travel.   Gondolas operate with more than 99% efficiency, and rarely get “stuck.”  But every system is built with safety measures in place to retrieve cars and/or evacuate passengers if emergencies arise.Capacity:  SkyLink will carry 4500 passengers per hour, or 108,000 per day.  ST forecasts about 37,000 or fewer passengers per day in 2040.   Why  build  light rail to handle more than projected capacity, for $300M /mile (elevated) to $600M /mile (tunnel) when you can carry more than projected capacity with gondola for $64M / mile?   The transit option that will be best suited to serve West Seattle’s transit needs for the foreseeable future is –gondola.Ryan DiRaimo’s Urbanist article contained some inaccuracies (see above & below).Timing:   “40 percent longer than Link to get downtown.”  (1) Link won’t go downtown.  It’ll go to SODO — when ST builds the tunnel by 2035 or 2040.  (2) “40% longer” = 4 extra minutes by gondola vs. light rail.  Take another sip of coffee.  (3) very few WS people will take light rail to BallardGondolas to stadium-SODO & Int’l. District.:  ST’s 2014 mode study, and RCW both list gondola as high capacity transit when linked to light rail trunk lines.   Gondola stations will be built into light rail stations, making transfers easy. Saving money:  spending $1.5B to $2 billion less to build gondola in West Seattle will help ST with it’s “affordability gap,” and help it afford to finance the rest of its planned build out.  

    • East Coast Cynic February 3, 2021 (12:38 pm)

      Maybe a lot of people won’t go to Ballard, but many West Seattlites need to commute to the eastside and places north of the ship canal bridge that the gondola will not do.  Much more room to spread out in a light rail car vs. a gondola.  We will have to go backwards to start the process all over again of study, property selection, politics of where to put it and community resistance to locations vs. a link study and political process that is almost complete.  I don’t know if we want to roll the dice on that.

      • seattlejoyc February 3, 2021 (8:27 pm)

        The gondola is the connection between West Seattle and Link stations at SODO and International District where you can catch a light rail train south (to airport and beyond), east to Bellevue and Redmond, and north to UW and beyond.   Gondola would be about 1/10 the cost of light rail and would be ready years earlier.  

  • benoleson February 2, 2021 (3:20 pm)

    I love the idea!  For fun, and for weekends.  Or if I worked in an office.But like most public transit ideas, it leaves local tradesmen completely out.  Carpenters, landscapers and delivery drivers (sorry but that’s the hand I’ve been dealt)  cannot take their tools on the bus, the water taxi, the light rail or the gondola.  I guess if we a) got the gondola and b) I was stuck driving the long way to work until I died – I’d feel pretty shafted

  • Mark47n February 3, 2021 (2:02 pm)

    I vote for T-bars or, at best, classic chairlifts. You can kick you feel over the open air below and savor the rain in your face as you commute to work yet feel like your hitting the slopes!I think this is an interesting idea. I have had a chance to watch the presentation but I’m all about innovative ideas to alleviate the problem of transit in urban environments. Here’s a solution that requires a smaller ground foorprint, it’s electric, and has a proven track record in other places in the world. OF course these factors mean that we’ll never do it here, because there are too many that want more of the same (buses) or are trapped in the lightrail suckhole, to say nothing of the SEattle Process rathole coupled with Analysis Paralysis.Build it. I’ll ride it just for grins…since I get to live AND work in WS.

  • Reis February 3, 2021 (3:11 pm)

    The best way to understand what a great opportunity this could be is to watch a few short videos in use and hear some statistics. Very short time schedule to build; Very low comparative cost; Flexible capacity… much more than needed for West Seattle into the future. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1Besasn8-E https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtGQbNqIQso https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuyiiEdZTS0

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