A week and a half after Sound Transit released its feasibility report about whether gondola service could replace light rail for West Seattle, the organization proposing it has released its response. West Seattle SkyLink sent the eight-page response to us last night – read it here or below:
West Seattle SkyLink says the Sound Transit report was no substitute for a “technical engineering study by gondola experts.” They say, “The Feasibility Report was prepared in-house without any analysis by an engineering firm that has experience with gondola technology, design, or construction as is usually the case. There are several US firms qualified to undertake a feasibility study for an urban gondola feeder.” The response also says, “Another glaring deficiency in the Sound Transit Report is the lack of a review of current urban gondola projects … most of these urban gondola projects are being considered as feeders or connectors to a light rail or rapid bus system, just like an urban gondola would be for West Seattle.” The projects they cite range from Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit, for which a Draft Environmental Impact Report is due out this summer, to the “cable-car” aerial line that just went into operation a week ago in Haifa, Israel. Much closer to home, SkyLink also notes that Kirkland looked into using gondolas for a connection to a Sound Transit station (the city’s website says a feasibility study was done in 2018 but the gondola alternative was not included in recent environmental analysis).
Overall, the SkyLink response concludes, “The Sound Transit Report did its best to throw as much dirt as it could on urban gondolas as a feeder to its light rail system without noting the many other public transportation agencies, both domestic and foreign, that have found an urban gondola feeder is exactly the appropriate complement to their bus and light rail systems.” Their contention continues to be that a gondola line could be built more quickly and inexpensively, with much less residence and business displacement, but as for how much money and time it would take, that would be up to a “properly produced study” to determine.
Will such a study be commissioned? Sound Transit staff repeated last week, in a presentation to the 34th District Democrats, that it would be up to the board to order it. ST’s Carrie Avila-Mooney added during the 34th DDs’ meeting Q&A that the agency “has no voter-approved money” to study it. The board’s next meeting is Thursday, April 28th, and it will include a public-comment period; watch for the agenda here.