UPDATE: Sound Transit releases ‘feasibility report’ on West Seattle SkyLink gondola proposal

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

When we first reported in early 2021 on the West Seattle SkyLink campaign – people advocating for a gondola (aerial tram) system between West Seattle and downtown instead of light rail – they suggested a feasibility study, for starters.

Sound Transit‘s board eventually asked the agency’s staff to do one, and this morning, ST has made its report public. The 17-page report is here and below:

It was officially released during the board’s monthly Executive Committee meeting, but without even an agenda item of its own – ST CEO Peter Rogoff announced its completion during the regular “CEO Report” item.

We got a pre-meeting briefing with Matt Shelden, the ST deputy executive director of planning and integration, who led the team that worked on the report; he also provided a very quick topline summary at this morning’s meeting. Rogoff offered a “more detaiiled briefing” to any board member who wanted one, and then moved on to other items; the board member who requested the report, West Seattle-residing King County Executive Dow Constantine, was not in attendance at this morning’s meeting.

In our pre-meeting briefing, Shelden said the staff received the request at the end of January, so the report has taken about two months. It reaches the same conclusion that ST had before the 2016 ST3 ballot measure that set the stage for light rail – that in ST’s view, a gondola system is not suitable as “high-capacity transit” – what ST is supposed to deliver – to get people between West Seattle and downtown.

The study reaches this conclusion on three main points, as summarized by Shelden:

First, ST says gondola technology would not “integrate well” with the existing (and planned) ST system, and would not necessarily be expandable to points south, as the West Seattle light rail is supposed to be. The integration also refers to the West Seattle to Everett trains – after full buildout – providing capacity through downtown, as well as to/from WS, capacity that the agency says would be lost if they instead substituted a gondola system for the West Seattle to downtown leg.

Second, they don’t believe a gondola system could reach the passenger capacity that they believe would be needed – up to 3,000 passengers per hour. While West Seattle SkyLink proponents believe the gondola cars could take off every 10 seconds, ST says even that pace would be likely to max out at 2,000 people per hour.

Third, “legal considerations” – Shelden says they believe the language of the ST3 ballot measure locks the agency into light rail, so “changing the (transit) mode would likely require voter approval.”

The report also says ST staff could not verify the SkyLink claims that the gondola system could be built more quickly and cheaply than light rail.

It also contains a few positive points, such as noting that an aerial system would not contribute to ground congestion, and that fare compliance would likely be easier to achieve than with trains.

We are seeking comment from SkyLink proponents and will add that to the story when we get it. Prior to the report’s release, they submitted these written comments saying they were unaware the feasibility study was in progress until the CEO mentioned it two weeks ago. Shelden said during the pre-meeting briefing with WSB that the study’s findings are based on staffers’ “review of other gondola systems, existing or planned,” as well as information from the SkyLink website and “a briefing last year” (which is mentioned in the SkyLink comment document).

So what happens now? ST continues with the light-rail plan unless directed otherwise by the board, which could call for a more extensive independent study, or, as Rogoff said at this morning’s meeting, independent briefings.

ADDED 3:21 PM: Here’s what we heard back from Constantine’s office, responding to our request for comment:

The Executive is looking forward to reviewing and understanding the outcomes and analysis contained within the Aerial Gondola Feasibility study he requested Sound Transit produce, based on requests from a group of community advocates in West Seattle. The Executive has publicly voiced concerns about both the legality and equity impacts of the aerial gondola proposal to replace the West Seattle portion of the voter-approved West Seattle to Ballard Link Extension, and will seek further understanding from the feasibility report and interested parties. At this time, our office has not been briefed on any planned further discussion amongst the board on this issue and would defer to agency leadership regarding any plans for continued discussion.

107 Replies to "UPDATE: Sound Transit releases 'feasibility report' on West Seattle SkyLink gondola proposal"

  • shawn April 7, 2022 (11:07 am)

    Good. It is a terrible joke of an idea.  Really I’m mostly surprised they didn’t bring up the serious safety concerns. Gondolas are very dangerous, especially with all the air traffic in the area.

    • John April 7, 2022 (11:53 am)

      Serious safety concerns like the West Seattle bridge being on the verge of collapsing?! The gondolas are a fantastic idea you just need to learn to embrace them and it’s better than sound transit burning away money with no results

      • Bronson April 7, 2022 (1:06 pm)

        John, I think you may need to learn to embrace that gondolas aren’t going to happen. Nice try on slowing light rail down, but it is going to happen.

        • John April 8, 2022 (1:23 am)

          Slow it down?! I could build the darn thing myself faster at the rate that it’s been going. First Levy for this thing was passed when I was in preschool and now here we are several levees later and no benefit to West Seattle

          • K April 8, 2022 (10:50 am)

            It makes sense WS didn’t get service planned until now–we simply don’t have the population base as a more suburban neighborhood. Now that we’re building denser housing along main roads (and main roads only!) its starting to make sense. Connecting key population and job centers to the airport in earlier builds was logical, especially considering ST’s taxing base.

          • Ron Swanson April 8, 2022 (3:32 pm)

            The first levy for light rail to West Seattle was in 2016, so congratulations on being a fourth grader who follows local issues so closely!

    • Aaron April 7, 2022 (12:12 pm)

      I wonder how much taxpayer money the Skylink people have wasted with their stunt. I hope this is the end of it.

      • WSB April 7, 2022 (12:24 pm)

        I asked ST in our briefing. As this was done with staff, technically it did not cost anything “extra,” aside from whatever the regular salaries were of the people who worked on it.

        • WW April 7, 2022 (7:52 pm)

          … plus two months they could have been working on something tangible. 

        • Jort April 7, 2022 (9:33 pm)

          The reason Sound Transit is saying it didn’t cost anything is because, if it did, it would open Sound Transit to litigation for spending money and pursuing studies outside the scope of the voter-approved ballot measure. Sound Transit is not statutorily authorized to study light rail alternatives. That is a big part of why the gondola ‘proposal’ has been dead on arrival before it was even brought forward.

    • Rick April 7, 2022 (2:06 pm)

      Just how low are those planes flyin’?

  • wscommuter April 7, 2022 (11:36 am)

    It is a sideshow and a distraction.  But the gondola supporters will persist, I fear.  So long as it doesn’t otherwise distract from building rail, so be it.  

    • Jim April 8, 2022 (1:24 am)

      Building rail that won’t be ready for decades?!

      • Rocket April 9, 2022 (8:34 am)

        Jim. Chill.  You’ve waited the whole 7 years since you were in preschool to get to this point, you can weight 8 to 10 mores years until this gets done. Sound Transit is developing a habit of getting their projects done on time to early and under budget so cut the histrionics.

  • Balderdash April 7, 2022 (11:53 am)

    capacity is low and it doesn’t really make any sense so…..

  • Jim April 7, 2022 (11:54 am)

    Shocker that the organization that wastes a ton of money doesn’t want to admit that this is a good idea. It’s just like using private security instead of TSA has to be approved by TSA they’re never going to say that they are inefficient

  • Derek April 7, 2022 (12:48 pm)

    Gondola is a terrible idea. Get rid of this nonsense and all these signs of it. I’m tired of seeing it. I would never support such an ugly slow idea.

  • Jort April 7, 2022 (1:02 pm)

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is the official, government-approved way of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I can only assume that the next steps in this ludicrous-on-its-face “proposal” is for the Skylink folks to file lawsuits to block the planning and construction of the light rail line because they feel they’re entitled to have a full DEIS prepared on their pet project, a DEIS that would not recommend this method anyway. “Skylink” has never been about a viable public transportation proposal but always has been, from the very beginning, meant to delay and obstruct the West Seattle Link Light Rail Extension planning. The way you can verify this is by asking any of the organizing proponents if they will commit to not suing if their “proposal” is ignored. They can’t do it, and they won’t do it, because the point of Skylink is to delay the light rail project.

    • Jay April 7, 2022 (1:36 pm)

      This is exactly it. Skylink is non-viable and the organizers know it. It’s an attempt to delay and obstruct light rail. I suspect that they’re NIMBYs who don’t want the growth and density that convenient transit will bring. It’s unfortunate that enough people have bought into the disinformation campaign that Sound Transit feels the need to waste staff hours on studies and reports.

    • Jethro Marx April 7, 2022 (2:04 pm)

      There are at least two possibilities: 

      1. Even though it may be a bad idea, a bunch of residents are encouraging construction of a gondola.

      2. Even though they do not want a gondola, a bunch of residents are conspiring to pretend to want one to be constructed as a way of sabotaging light rail construction.

      One of these is much more likely than the other.  Is there any reason you and a bunch of other commenters think the latter possibility is the truth?  The way Sound Transit had some random “staffers” create the document in a relatively short period of time reminds me of the way a parent might knock together a quick photoshop image of “the farm old Fido went to live on.”  Also interesting that the gondola supporters thought a tram could leave every ten seconds- most people are not capable of scanning a boarding pass at the airport in ten seconds, much less loading into a vehicle with a bunch of strangers with all their bits and pieces.

      • Jort April 7, 2022 (2:35 pm)

        I think that there are many residents who have been cynically fooled into genuinely thinking the gondola is a viable alternative (it is not), and I think there are some key spokespeople and organizers of “Skylink” who are taking advantage of that interest as part of a larger goal to prevent construction of light rail into West Seattle entirely. Again, the way you can tell this is true is because the key organizers of this “proposal” (which is not a proposal by any meaningful measure, just a powerpoint presentation and marketing effort) will never commit to a promise that they will not sue to delay the light rail project. They’ll couch their language in things like, “We don’t want to sue, but we want to ensure that Sound Transit is taking the time to look into all options. This project will be around for decades and decades, we better make sure we’re doing it right!” This is not a commitment to allow light rail to continue, it is heavily implied they will use the pretext of the “Skylink” as a method to delay planning and construction. People need to know this viewpoint when they think they’re benignly signing up for the gondola “cause.” It’s not benign. It’s an active attempt to intentionally delay or prevent construction of the voter-approved light rail.

        • nwpolitico April 7, 2022 (5:50 pm)

          Have you ever asked these questions of the key organizers you lambast as misguided? Your comments here reek of ad hominem attacks without evidence.

        • Suing April 7, 2022 (6:42 pm)

          I’m filing a lawsuit immediately.  I’ve convinced others as well. 

          • Sue L. April 7, 2022 (7:34 pm)

            Please let me know if you can do it. I’d like to help.

          • Bronson April 8, 2022 (7:32 am)

            So you two want to sue ST for not breaking the law? This will go well. They put together a levy that was voted on that was for, wait for it….light rail. Not gondolas, not hot air balloons, not hyper loop, but light rail. To do anything other than light rail would be illegal and violate contract law with the bondholders. Have fund wasting your money. 

    • North Admiral Resident April 7, 2022 (2:40 pm)

      Well put.  We’ll never be free of the gondola folks’ obsession with their circus attraction waste of money and engineering attention, because they either don’t care about actual feasibility, or simply do not want to think about the future beyond the day after it’s built.  Even accounting for an entirely unrealistic ten second headway on the line (which is frankly impossible when you need to board more than one person at a time, let alone load/unload *and* accommodate people with cargo/mobility issues) the system’s throughput is incapable of handling future-proof (ie accounting for people coming in from future white center/burien expansions of the line) ridership numbers, and unlike light rail can’t be easily expanded by simply running more/longer trains.I would say that I hope we can stop wasting time on this farce, but we’ll honestly never be free of it.  Much like the idea of the monorail has been propped up time and again since the sixties, well beyond the point of parody, I suspect we’re stuck with gondola boosters returning perennially to hawk their tourist trap as if it were a real solution that fits the needs of our rapidly-growing city instead of a cheap bandaid that would only serve the wealthiest among us.To those of you reading this and decrying the changing character of West Seattle: densification is coming, and there’s very little you can do about it.  I hear now’s a great time to sell your house if you want to move to a place that will continue to be a wasteland of single family homes and poor public transit.

      • Oh Seattle April 7, 2022 (6:26 pm)

        I hate to tell you, but many large cities and their surrounding single family home “wastelands” have had frequent, reliable train service for decades, some for well over a century.  I’m happily moving to another state where this is a reality in just over a month, but then again, my idea of a wasteland is 3rd Avenue in downtown Seattle.

        • Rocket April 9, 2022 (8:37 am)

          Any city with transit better than Seattle has sections just as bad or worse than 2 blocks on 3rd.  Have fun in shangri la. 

      • Pessoa April 8, 2022 (10:22 am)

        Have you actually ever lived anywhere else yourself, North Admiral Resident?  I have, a number of cities including Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles, and  light rail has proven to be a failure in all of them, never living up to the breathless hype that a good bus transit can’t accomplish.   The circus attraction is a ridiculous, monstrous light project extension to West Seattle and it has nothing to do with opposition to density or small town provincialism  – it’s just an ill-conceived idea.  

        • Rocket April 9, 2022 (8:40 am)

          Have you ever lived in the Bay Area, Chicago, New York, Boston, London, anywhere in Japan where light rail or similar versions are the engine of their economic success?or how about Seattle where it’s little baby light rail line was so amazing and useful the citizenry decided to expand it greatly?

        • North Admiral Resident April 10, 2022 (3:11 pm)

          I’ve lived in Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, London, and Barcelona.  Light rail is literally the best public transit solution available to humans at the moment.  Bus systems are perfectly reasonable when it comes to supplementing train-based trunk lines, but in terms of the future, any bus transit must be fully electrified, which means additional infrastructure to support that.

    • Marfaun April 8, 2022 (2:16 pm)

      ST is spending $4 million on a consultant to help it find ways to save money.  A gondola study would have cost $200K and saved ST $2 billion on a WS extension.  But I like your definition of “wasted government money.”

  • Marie April 7, 2022 (1:21 pm)

    This isn’t a feasibility study. It is an opinion piece written by ST staffers who are invested in the train project. A proper study would be done by transportation experts outside the ST organization who have experience with multi-modal systems. In fact, we should require the same kind of outside expertise to evaluate ST’s proposed WS extension.  If their DEIS is any example, their work needs scrutiny. West Seattle needs multiple efficient transit options in and out of the neighborhood.  That’s the lesson learned from the WS Bridge closure. Sound Transit refuses to look seriously at any other ideas except their own single solution, leaving West Seattle stranded for another decade or more.  We need to connect to light rail. And in multiple ways. And in this decade. Where is that report? There are billions of tax payer dollars at stake here. We should expect better than this. 

    • skeeter April 7, 2022 (3:15 pm)

      Although I think the Gondola is a silly idea, there is some truth to Marie’s point.  If the gondola is a potentially credible idea, the study should have been done by an independent professional with no stake in the matter.  Maybe this is ST’s way of saying that the gondola is so unworkable that it doesn’t even make sense to have an independent study.     

      • Bronson April 7, 2022 (3:47 pm)

        The gondola folks need to realize that it doesn’t matter if their project is feasible; it is illegal based on the terms of ST3 and likely the bonds backing the financing. That has been the number 1 problem with this gondola nonsense from the beginning. No reason to conduct a true feasibility study. 

        • nwpolitico April 7, 2022 (5:47 pm)

          The comments you have posted here are both condescending and inaccurate. Sound Transit set a precedent for mode change by serving First Hill with a streetcar rather than light rail. The board absolutely has the legal authority to change mode. 

          • Bronson April 8, 2022 (7:39 am)

            The comments I posted here are factually accurate and if you feel they are condescending, then that is likely because you are upset that no one is taking this fantasy project seriously, nor should they. ST3 was specifically for light rail. I don’t know or care what was done with other initiatives as the wording may have been different. This one was clear. It would seem that ST’s own lawyers would agree and I’m sure the bondholders’ legal counsel would also agree. 

          • nwpolitico April 8, 2022 (9:04 am)

            It has nothing to do with whether or not I agree with you and everything to do with the snobbish tone of your comments.ST3 was not specifically for light rail. ST’s own website states that “the plan also establishes BRT on I-405/SR 518 and SR 522/NE 145th; expands capacity and service of the Sounder south rail line; includes ST Express bus service; improves access to stations for bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and pick-up and drop-off services, and expands parking at stations.”Section 2 of the ST3 package allows the board to adjust projects if something becomes too expensive or impossible to build. This is in addition to the board power mentioned by transit experts in this thread: https://mobile.twitter.com/MikeLindblom/status/1512126886565928989

          • Bronson April 8, 2022 (5:36 pm)

            Literally within the thread you sent is reference to the RCW that states vehicles suspended from cables do not fit the definition of fixed rail, which was what was voted on for West Seattle. I don’t care about the bus funding etc., because that was what was voted in for those areas. So once again, you are incorrect. Also, the Street Car was sent to voters as part of ST2. Feel free to argue with the lawyers who have already stated this would have to go back to the voters, just like the Street Car.4) “Rail fixed guideway system” means a light, heavy, or rapid rail system, monorail, inclined plane, funicular, trolley, or other fixed rail guideway component of a high capacity transportation system that is not regulated by the federal railroad administration, or its successor. “Rail fixed guideway system” does not mean elevators, moving sidewalks or stairs, and vehicles suspended from aerial cables, unless they are an integral component of a station served by a rail fixed guideway system.

          • nwpolitico April 8, 2022 (8:57 pm)

            The thread I included concludes ‘if the board loved gondolas, lawyers might claim they’re “an integral component of a station,” such as Sodo Station.’ The cursory legal review included in the study did not account for such a case. Nothing I’m staying here is inaccurate. I’m glad we’re both passionate about expanding transit access in West Seattle, even if we have different preferred modes.

          • Bronson April 8, 2022 (5:48 pm)

            I’ll also add that there is nothing “snobbish” in my tone. My tone is that of someone whose life has been held hostage to this Seattle Process and nonsensical gondola proposals. I’m directly in the line of the light rail and my house will be taken. A gondola wouldn’t be better as it would be invading my privacy by having commuters sail over my home. So sue ST if you want, but I can guarantee you that others will sue if a gondola is chosen with out a vote. The towers and cables necessary for a gondola are no better for the neighborhoods than the light rail. 

    • Suing April 7, 2022 (6:43 pm)

      Totally agree Marie. 

    • Kevin April 16, 2022 (4:28 pm)

      Well said. The gondola wasn’t ST idea so they will never take it seriously. How does building an elevated rail line to carry a 300,000 lbs train up to the top of the tallest hill in Seattle make any sense? The gondola could be up and running in less time and for far far less money. 

  • audifans April 7, 2022 (1:29 pm)

    Sell tickets during a windstorm and bill it as a ‘thrill ride’.  Bonus points during an earthquake

    • Marfaun April 8, 2022 (2:19 pm)

      Gondolas are rated for 65 mph, & in 72 years since 1950, only six days have been that windy or more (NOAA).  High winds stop floating bridge traffic, airlines and ferries, & they’d stop gondola too.  Otherwise, smooth ride.

  • Mark April 7, 2022 (1:56 pm)

    Optimist: If this is such a spectacular idea, have private money research, fund, design, permit, build, cut the ribbon and see who shows up. Charge what it costs to operate, secure, maintain and upgrade the system.  Pessimist: If this is such spectacular idea, have private money, research, fund, design, permit, redesign, permit, fight a slew of lawsuits, give up and find another fantasy.It’s a lose-lose people!

  • Pessoa April 7, 2022 (2:01 pm)

    Light rail is a failed approach,  an outdated technology that will never keep pace with development and never justifiy the staggering sums of money spent to build it.  Rails are forever, unlike bus transit which is flexible and where routes can be adjusted to accomodate changing demographics.  Los Angeles has spent near 25 billion on light rail, and has seen a net decrease in users of public transportation, specifically a decrease in bus transit ridership.  This seems to be the modus operandi; push light rail through by playing on people’s rail fantasies and grandiose predictions of ridership and then undercut other public transit.  

    • Jort April 7, 2022 (3:57 pm)

      Yeah, “fantasy”-based rail transportation has never worked, except, of course, … *checks list* … in nearly every major city in every major country around the world. Speaking of things that actually don’t work, has there ever, in human history, been a city that has managed to successfully implement a cars-first transportation system without resulting in congestion and unsustainable sprawl? Nope. There hasn’t been. The religious devotion to cars-first planning occurs despite zero evidence that it will ever succeed (indeed, great evidence that it hasn’t), yet rail-based transportation options have managed to succeed globally in cities and regions that commit to them.  It is frequently commented that support for rail transportation is rooted only in a “fantasy” mindset about “shiny trains.” Did you know that the LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma’s literal tagline is, “Celebrating America’s Love Affair With The Automobile.” Gosh, that doesn’t exactly sound rational and evidence-based, does it?!

      • Amused April 7, 2022 (4:18 pm)

        Where did Pessoa ever mention cars? You really do have a one-track mind.

        • Jort April 7, 2022 (5:51 pm)

          Commentator Pessoa asserted that rail-based transportation is an “outdated technology” that is only built because of “fantasies.” This is factually untrue on a variety of levels, and if we’re going to use the word “fantasy” to describe a transportation system, we can start with the one true fantasy that Americans are largely blind to: that a cars-first transportation policy will somehow actually work. Rail is a proven, reliable method for serving as a backbone for transportation policy, and this is demonstrated all across the planet hundreds if not thousands of times. Cars have not once in the history of human civilization proven themselves to be a sustainable or realistic method. 

      • Pessoa April 7, 2022 (6:13 pm)

        Jort:  Cities, such as Seattle, have a defined topography that can’t be changed,  and roads that have evolved over decades to service neighborhoods.  Using these roads makes far more sense than constructing a monstrous, ugly extravagantly expensive – permanent – light project that will be, like the Central link, full of mostly empty stations except for rush hour.   There is a difference between East Coast corridors where rail works and the sort of light rail fantasies that has been disappointments in most cities where they are built, including Los Angeles where I was a frequent rider of both light rail and bus transit.   

        • Jort April 7, 2022 (9:05 pm)

          Oh gosh, I can’t imagine any other cities on this enormous, gigantic planet with topographical constraints. That must be uniquely owned by Seattle and no other city. I am particularly amused by the idea that there are roads that have “evolved over decades.” Please, tell me, how has the cars-first road “evolved” over “decades?” It hasn’t, other than to get wider and to destroy more land that could be used by humans outside of cars, yet still be congested. And also, using the pejorative “permanent” as a negative description of rail lines – what do you think the interstate highways are? Temporary art installations? The idea that light rail “fantasies” have been “disappointments” is inarguably and incontestably false and this is not even remotely debatable. Rail has been successfully built and used in cities all around the world – even cities with “topography” and even cities with roads with “decades” of “service” to neighborhoods.  The only method of transportation that has repeatedly been proven to be unsustainable and failed to live up to expectations is that of cars-first transportation policy. Again: this is not something that is debated or questioned, it is just a fact. 

  • Scubfafrog April 7, 2022 (2:24 pm)

    We really need to focus on rail.  The outlandish gondola “idea” has no basis in reality.

    • nwpolitico April 7, 2022 (5:56 pm)

      “No basis in reality,” huh? That claim doesn’t stand up to the facts. A cursory search of ‘cities with gondolas’ presents several examples.https://archive.curbed.com/2017/9/21/16340394/urban-gondolas-cable-cars-cities

      • Scubafrog April 7, 2022 (7:26 pm)

        At least here.  Respectfully, what I mean is,  to have light rail connected throughout the region, yet  alienated from WS  in lieu of gondola, would seem to be an obstacle  to local businesses, commuters, and anyone else who wants/needs rapid mass-transit.  

        • Yes to SkyLink April 9, 2022 (7:11 pm)

          The gondola would connect WS to other light rail stations with a simple transfer and would create this link faster than waiting for a WS rail line. This is the opposite of alienating WS from the rest of light rail. It’s just a different mode that well addresses the need while offering a number of benefits and opportunities that will be lost if not further explored. Multi modal transportation is modern. We are way behind the times with this. Our systems do not link up half as well, as many European cities systems do.

    • Pessoa April 9, 2022 (9:17 am)

      Light rail is a by-product of people coming back from European vacations,  with the idylic fantasies that their  transportation solutions can be easily implemented here.   

  • WSRedux April 7, 2022 (3:18 pm)

    Folks, I’m an older guy and don’t have a dog in this fight except that I’m interested that we get a usable transportation product at a reasonable cost,  offering relatively fast, accessible transit from West Seattle to other parts of our fair city and the greater Metropolitan Area. Having said that, I’m flabbergasted at the sloppy feasibility study of the aerial tram/gondola concept that was presented by ST staff at  Sound Transit Executive Meeting as reported in the WS Blog. Having read the articles I found, I don’t see that ST staff conclusions were based on”…review of other gondola systems, existing or planned.”  The ST staff presentation contains gross errors and exhibits extremely poor research…certainly worth no more than a C- (at best) if submitted as a term paper in an Urban Transportation graduate study course. A brief, no more than 10 minute, Internet search brought up the following two articles (among others) that challenge ST’s conclusions, including a peer reviewed article from The Journal of Transportation Engineering:J. Transp. Eng. 2012.138:253-262.https://www.transitchoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Urban-Gondola-Report.pdfhttps://www.gondolaproject.com/category/installations/medellin-metrocable/1) maximum gondola capacity doesn’t meet the ST standard of up to 3000 passengers/hour. Wrong: capacity of some of the current systems exceeds 3000/hr. 2) gondola systems do not integrate well with existing systems and can’t easily be expanded. Again, wrong: robust systems in other cities are integrated or are being planned to integrate with other forms of public transportation and aerial tram systems can be more easily extended at at lower cost than rail. 3) the original ST  initiative “locks” ST into light rail. Maybe yes, maybe no. Who knows,  since the project is so over budget and isn’t going to deliver a usable transportation product to WS, Ballard or other proposed extensions for a long, long time and thus is far from what the original initiative outlined. Some of the decisions and policies that have led to this smack to me of malfeasance. So, I suggest that anyone interested in the pros and cons of the current political and systemic  inertia of the  ST juggernaut vs the Skylink gondola concept or any other means of achieving the same goal of reasonable public transportation at a reasonable tax and use cost per passenger read the articles at the above links. After all, for those of us who can remember WHOOPS, we don’t want to end up on the hook as we were for some of an earlier fiasco that led to the greatest bond default in U.S. history. https://www.historylink.org/File/5482

    • Bronson April 7, 2022 (3:48 pm)

      It doesn’t matter. Simply put, this would have been illegal given the terms of the initiative put to voters.

    • Ron Swanson April 7, 2022 (4:08 pm)

      Gonna have to give you a C- on reading comprehension there – your asserted errors are addressed in the document, for instance noting that systems outside the US do exceed 2,000 pphpd.A gondola will never be integrated into the transit system the way a light rail line will be: a transfer at SODO is baked into the cake perpetually.  Versus a one seat ride to downtown and beyond.There are circumstances where a gondola makes sense – TransLink is going to build one in Vancouver to connect the SFU campus to SkyTrain because it’s a discrete major destination at the top of a steep hill.  Same thing for the OHSU aerial tram in Portland.  You’ll note neither city is proposing to build them as part of their major rapid transit lines – MAX and SkyTrain are being used to serve the major corridors.

    • Look Both Ways April 7, 2022 (4:39 pm)

      Thanks for the balanced wisdom, WSREDUX. Many share your thinking with regard to the hasty and erroneous “feasibility study” that ST sponsored. Clearly more work needs to be done by an independent commission — whichever method(s) of transport get recommended.

  • 935 April 7, 2022 (3:21 pm)


    This right here is the reason Seattle is a laughingstock throughout the state and region. Not to mention the remainder of the country – if it got out. Whether it’s put up as a roadblock to light rail or a chowder-headed “real” idea – the feasibility of it does not compute It does NOT take a team of bureaucrats to tell anyone otherwise. A gondola is a flat out stupid idea and should be paid less than zero lip service.

    If people want to pay for yard signs or ads – let them. They should be patted on the head and then left to their own devices.

    The idea, the study & the continued encouragement of such a ridiculous idea makes our region even less esteemed (and we don’t have much left)

    • nwpolitico April 7, 2022 (6:07 pm)

      Singapore, Hong Kong, La Paz and Mexico City are world class places. I have a feeling urban planners there didn’t listen to people who said their aerial gondola system was a “flat out stupid idea.” Please do some basic research before resorting to such faulty attacks.

      • 935 April 7, 2022 (8:18 pm)

        Lost me at “World Class”

        Underground subway systems work in NY, London, Paris others. Will it work here? no.

        Some people commute by helicopter. Some by private car. Some by bullet train. Do these work here? some.

        Aerial Gondola is a stupid idea HERE given our geologic, hydrographic, mountainous, flat land, windy, aeronautical challenges.

        Remember the other day when it was gusting 50?? Remember the earthquake of 01?

        Maybe REAL gondolas (ala Venice) would be a good idea. After all – we have water.

        • nwpolitico April 7, 2022 (9:40 pm)

          The existing underground light rail stations between Roosevelt and the International District largely mimic the underground parts of the subway systems you mentioned and work just fine (escalators notwithstanding).Aerial gondola systems are specifically designed to handle terrain challenges like those here in Seattle. Topographic issues are a gondola pro, not a con.

          • 935 April 7, 2022 (11:47 pm)

            Your mind will not change, as exhibited by your aforementioned arguments. Nor will mine We can both cite examples of how it will/won’t work.

            Lets place our money where our mouths are. $1000 to the other’s choice of transportation funding, once legislatively approved for construction, I will pay yours to “aerial gondolas” and you will pay ($1000) to “any other reasoned idea”. Deal?

      • Rocket April 9, 2022 (8:45 am)

        You have clearly never been to La Paz.  It is a dingey regional capital of an extremely undeveloped country built into a mountain side.  Hong Kong is an island surrounded closely by mountains. Singapore is an incredibly wealthy island nation state.  Mexico City is gigantic.  None of these compare at all to Seattle in terms of economics, geography, or size.

  • WSI April 7, 2022 (3:24 pm)

    Obviously the very small number of folks who want the gondola system have either used the Roosevelt Island Tramway in NYC once (I did a ton as I lived there and had tons of friends and relatives visit enjoy it…us natives know better.) and the Portland Aerial Tram (meh) and thought that their cute litte tram trip was perfect and quaint and we need it here.

    Gondolas and trams work differently and do not provide the same types of interchangable service. From the beginning even the research into the wording for a tram transportation system was absolutely incorrect.Gondolas are generally used for short, light, quickish transport between rides or sections of amusement parks, ski areas, or as in Europe, traversing neighborhoods and such.

    Again, one or many of these proponents for gondola system in Seattle when on a quaint little trip on one and thought “Oh, Seattle needs this.”Trams and gondolas do not consider the needs, like affordability and accessability, to help those who should get to use it the most: the working class and the disabled.

    Also, have you ever been in a tram or a gondola with someone who is having a mental health crisis? Or is nodding out from a drug overdose, or has piled in all the things that they are carrying in a cart onto one of these vehicles and you are stuck in it with them for the entire trip? No you haven’t. Or else you would never have come up with this cockamamie idea the West Seattle needs a gondola or tram system.

    I have.
    It’s no ride at Disneyland.

    It’s a bus in the sky, only smaller and with more humidity. Really.

    It takes a lot to get these items up to standards for ADA requirements as with specifically the Roosevelt Island tram system, because it is an actual public transit portion of a city that is high functioning and has a whole lot of working parts. In a city is large as NYC the cost can actually be a benefit and can be made affordable over time.

    Seattle is rife with transportation issues, both behind the scenes and on the ground. The cost alone of fares would be prohibitive. Our transportation infrastructure (when I say this I am including Sound Transit, King County Transit, anyone else you want to throw in the mix from Everett all the way down to Olympia) is incapable of handling the load of work, the amount of safety, the cost, and the lack of interest to push this idealized and classist version of travel.

    Only the proponents for public transportation trams and their followers would be able to afford it or use it. Nobody else really would. To allow our city, our County, our neighboring counties, and all their transportation needs to be slighted over and over again for the want of so few has to stop somewhere. And if it’s over gondolas versus trams then let it end here. This is nonsense.

    Transportation trams are not efficient or logical. If you want to ride a tram to and from work or to go see the grandkids every day, move to Portland or move to New York city. Or go to Europe. Otherwise this idea was dead for the beginning. This is idealism to the point of destruction.

    Besides, many of these propenants probably won’t be around once it’s been completed and ready to ride. And yes, I mean either they will pass away or they will move out of Seattle because it’s unaffordable, or they’ll forget they wanted it in the first place and complain as soon as it gets finished. This has happened before. This will happen again.

    • Belvidear April 7, 2022 (6:14 pm)

      Um. I was born and raised in NYC – on the UES – and used the Roosevelt Island Tramway on a regular basis. You do not speak for “natives,” or, more accurately, people who grew up there. 

      • WSI April 8, 2022 (2:13 pm)

        Born and Raised in Brooklyn (1970) and grew up over on Fulton & Lafayette. Bought my first apartment at 96 and Broadway. Moved West to care for family and stuck here ’til they die (they have an aggressive cancer, so yeah, they’re going to die. It’s ok. They know.) Moving back to Queens next.It’s obvious you grew up in a ritzy fancy neighborhood where. Take your uncalloused hands and Tram romance and sit down.

        For those who don’t know what the UES is, it’s the Upper East Side, one of the most well-known wealthy sections of Manhattan.

        The abbreviated version is rarely used in print because it’s always been a sense of pride of both the posh inhabitants and for NYC general. It’s the real estate abbreviation that switched out our common vernacular for safer and more Californicated names such as changing Hell’s Kitchen to Clinton.

        Otherwise, this unnecessary distraction of “who’s more East Coast” is over because only non-natives or natives out of touch of the large blue-collar not-ritzy population of NY and it’s sister Burroughs actually do what this fool did.

        • Belvidear April 12, 2022 (5:36 pm)

          That’s cute. I grew up in free housing that my dad got through work. Try again. 

    • nwpolitico April 7, 2022 (6:20 pm)

      Nothing says quaint like Mexico City…LOL

      Aerial gondola systems absolutely consider the needs of marginalized people. In this specific case, SkyLink proposes using the cost savings to accelerate construction of both light rail and gondolas throughout lower income and more diverse areas, like South Park, High Point, and White Center. There is nothing “idealized and classist” about advocating for more frequent transit service to marginalized communities like those abutting the south end of the peninsula and in unincorporated King County.

      I’m not sure where the claim about fare cost is evidenced. The whole point of the initial SkyLink build out is to connect West Seattle to the existing light rail spine, all with an ORCA Card and without dealing with traffic. I don’t imagine the advocates would intend for the fare to be anything different than what Sound Transit charges on its existing modes.

    • Yes to SkyLink April 8, 2022 (10:22 pm)

      Regarding getting stuck riding with someone uncomfortably.

      Again, this is a reality if riding public transit, period.

      And, one of the benefits of gondola transit vs light rail actually is you could skip a car and simply wait for the next one if you truly didn’t want to ride with a particular person(s), and you wouldn’t have to wait long. 

      With light rail, once your on, you’re pretty much on, with whoever is already on, and regardless of who comes in after you, and if you were to hop off, would have a substantial longer wait for the next train.

      • gone-dola April 9, 2022 (9:51 am)

        And, one of the benefits of gondola transit vs light rail actually is you could skip a car and simply wait for the next one if you truly didn’t want to ride with a particular person(s), and you wouldn’t have to wait long. “

        Hah, can you imagine how poorly this’d work in Seattle?  Nobody would want to ride with anyone else, it’d be one person per car!  Can you imagine how slowly those lines would move?  That’s a hilarious “benefit” to the gondola.  Well done, anonymous poster, well done, your contortions get better each day! (I guess they have to given your attempt to stop light rail isn’t going so terribly well…)  

        • Yes to SkyLink April 9, 2022 (6:58 pm)

          Disagree, and think most people would ride with others. But there would be instances where people would want to ride alone, or might be nice while on a date, and durring less busy times this would be a benefit. I still have faith in the majority of people to be able to manage riding with other people on transit, and generally having respect and compassion for fellow humans with challenges.

  • Marie April 7, 2022 (4:14 pm)

    Thank you, WSREDUX. When I moved to Seattle 30 years ago, I was puzzled by the sight of highway “ramps to nowhere” – ramps to elevated highways that never got built.  https://crosscut.com/2020/05/mossbacks-northwest-end-seattles-ramps-nowhere I predict the Sound Transit’s WS light rail project will buy us another one.   

  • snowskier April 7, 2022 (4:35 pm)

    I think the gondola people don’t realize this one fact about gondolas, they don’t stop to load.  You have to move with them while you step aboard.  This isn’t a tram that stops for everyone to board/disembark.  It’s a challenge for many folks to board gondolas at a ski area (and that is a highly self selected group that is agile and healthy enough to ski).  You really want senior citizens with walkers, parents corralling kids and strollers, those with luggage and those in a wheelchair to board a moving vehicle?  Force them to make a coordinated lateral and forward movement to a moving platform?  Talk about a train wreck!!  Buses and trains stop to allow those who are neither nimble nor quick to board safely. 

  • LauraPalmer April 7, 2022 (5:17 pm)

    Light rail LETS GOOOO!!!

  • WW Resident April 8, 2022 (6:24 am)

    How is this even a thing? 

  • Yep April 8, 2022 (7:48 am)

    Gondolas sound fun and sound faster, but it’s impractical for all the reasons sound transit listed.

    Let’s just move forward with getting the best light rail we can! (Say no to the elevated rail and support the tunnel options! ) 

  • Erina April 8, 2022 (9:13 am)

    The one item that is missing in this push to build a gondola is how does it connect with other areas of Greater Seattle.  The train will take me to Redmond, Federal Way, Ballard, etc.  With the gondola, I have to make a connection.  Not convenient.  How about a gondola instead of a high bridge?  Did anyone study that?  It makes about as much sense.

    • Bubbasaurus April 8, 2022 (11:53 am)

      For each of the destinations you’ve listed, you’re going to have to change trains when you get to SODO. Having to get off a gondola and walk to the train isn’t going to be all that different. 

  • Rico April 8, 2022 (9:53 am)

     The current projected cost of train aka light rail service to West Seattle is $350,000 per West Seattle household.  If you believe the train service will come in on budget (currently $12 billion) I suggest you have a close look at the performance of ST on other projects.    Is this really worth the cost?   

    • AMD April 8, 2022 (1:23 pm)


    • Jort April 8, 2022 (3:19 pm)

      That is a disingenuous, outright lie. West Seattle “households” are not, each, paying $350,000. Your quoted project cost also includes the tunnel through downtown Seattle and the entire line going to Ballard, not just the line to West Seattle. Your description is highly deceptive. Using the same method, you could also assert that the West Seattle/Ballard Link Extension line costs a “staggering” $9.2 million for each of the 1,213 households in Medina, also located in the Sound Transit taxing district. Or you could say that each West Seattle household’s share of the State of Washington’s budget ($123.1 billion) is $3.5 billion! Each! Sounds crazy, right? This is truly deceptive. 

      • Pessoa April 8, 2022 (4:42 pm)

        You’re putting up a valiant fight, Jort, but the Ballard-West Seattle extension is, like a lot of other things in life, feels good but doesn’t pencil out.   Maybe in ten years when it opens you’ll take your first ride excitedly, but then maybe you start considering the staggering financial cost, the tremendous environment cost to contruct the behemoth, the years of disruption, the insignificant effect on car traffic, and maybe deep down you’ll start feeling that it wasn’t worth it.  You would have a lot of company, because many across the country have been sold the same light rail “bill of goods.” 

  • K April 8, 2022 (10:18 am)

    Well, there’s the report some people have been begging for.  Also, lol: “The report also says ST staff could not verify the SkyLink claims that
    the gondola system could be built more quickly and cheaply than light

  • P. Phukety April 8, 2022 (10:25 am)

    Can you imagine being on a gondola today? That’s a HUGE nope for me. Gondolas are not intended to be a substitute for mass transit, but an enhancement for an otherwise untenable geographical area like La Paz. All the cities with gondola for transit have a robust mass transit area serving the major metropolitan area. This does not parallel West Seattle. I, for one, do not want a gondola running over my home listening to the constant hum of the pulley system 24hrs a day when there are other viable options that are far more sustainable for growth.  Is the light rail perfect and cheap? Absolutely not. But it is the best option moving forward, especially if a tunnel is negotiated. Mass transit is not cheap, folx.

  • Joe Z April 8, 2022 (10:49 am)

    Have they studied an immersed tube gondola? 

  • Good grief April 8, 2022 (11:39 am)

    Are you all crazy with this gondola idea??I would never in a billion years get in one where I am TRAPPED with whatever crazy mofo decides to get on. Good way to get sexually assaulted or just violently assaulted. Must be nice to be a man and I can’t believe no one even brought this up.

  • WestSideBestSide April 8, 2022 (12:20 pm)

    I would prefer a West Seattle Trebuchet (WST).   It could hurl occupants to their destination, which would be more efficient that the West Seattle Ole Venetian Gondola Ride.   Need to go to the Pike Place Market?    Get in and you are delivered directly to your destination.   Going to a Mariners game?  Just tell the WST operator which seats you have.    Of course, there is the matter of returning to West Seattle, but we can figure that out once the WST is in place.

  • KD April 8, 2022 (2:43 pm)

    LOL. Wow no way?! What a joke. Of course they said it’s “not feasible.” But the reality is clear. The Sound Transit little choo choo train to West Seattle is already a disaster before breaking ground. You guys are building a new HWY99 Viaduct over your neighborhood. It’s going to be a total disgrace. As if that weren’t enough, the train doesn’t even serve the people who need it most. Delridge, White Center and Burien have MUCH higher ridership than the C line will ever have. You’re building a train to the highest concentration of BMWs, Mercedes’ and Telsas on the peninsula. Think they’ll give up their cars to sit on this thing? Nope. But sure, sit here and rip on the Gondola. The solution that is a proven success all over the world. 

  • Nogon Dola April 8, 2022 (2:45 pm)

    Between the monorail that nearly got built in the mid-2000s and this gondola idea, Seattle has an inexhaustible passion for modes of public transportation that work best in theme parks, movies and/or ski resorts. Remember the Campbell Scott character from “Singles”? He’s a Dow Constantine-lookalike who wants to build a thing called the Seattle Supertrain but he comes off as this idealistic doofus. My theory is that these gondola people are provocateurs who love their cars and want to torpedo light rail however they can.   

    • Y2 SkyLink April 8, 2022 (10:55 pm)

      What is it with all these theories about the people who are for the gondola idea? No theories necessary, just people who for all the reasons shared, like the idea, and see the many benefits vs the light rail project. That’s it. It’s as if all the benefits which have been repeated time and again here, go in one ear and right out the other. 

  • Matt P April 8, 2022 (5:34 pm)

    I thought the point was to build the gondola now quickly to supplement and then keep going with light rail?  That way we’d at least have something in the next few years instead of waiting more than a decade for light rail and probably more.  The study only looked at replacing light rail, which was never the point.

    • gone-dola April 9, 2022 (9:44 am)

      Their point was simply to sabotage light rail, they never wanted or cared about a gondola.  

      Notice how you never heard anything about a gondola BEFORE the light rail discussions started?  if these gondola proponents were so interested in getting a gondola for West Seattle, why do you think we never heard of this proposal until AFTER light rail started making headway?  If they are so keen on a gondola, why haven’t they been pushing for it for decades?

      Answer is they never cared about mass transit, they still don’t, they are just saying ‘oh ho ho what about a gondola?’ to slow down and sabotage any light rail improvements.  That’s all it is.

  • Westy April 8, 2022 (9:25 pm)

    Good.  Gondola was a terrible, unserious idea raised by unserious people who, despite having zero professional experience in city planning or transportation, thought their fever dream of an idea was just genius.  They wasted time and tax dollars beyond reasonable levels and need to stop.  No hot air balloon scheme.  No cannon people launchers.  No roller coasters.  Stop.

  • 935 April 9, 2022 (12:03 am)

    Funny – yet sad thing is the last 2 years has shown centralist “work zones” are a thing of the past. No more “downtown” for most.

    Specifically in a tech heavy area like Seattle.

    Seems like a self healing problem. No more “rush hour” … little commute. Downtown commercial real estate plummets.

    • Pessoa April 9, 2022 (9:12 am)

      Exactly.  This is something that I mentioned a few weeks ago, the fact that work patterns are changing with more remote work and/or work being conducted in local office-sharing hubs.  It is, as you say, a self-correcting problem.  The same can be said for neighborhoods in general:  When density reaches a point where some find it unattractive, they move out and are replaced by those who find density more attractive.   In the end, light rail will be of limited benefit to those who most need it, the less affluent who will find bus transit options reduced.  

    • CAM April 9, 2022 (5:02 pm)

      That’s not so true. All those tech companies are calling their employees back to the office at least part time currently. The 100% remote work moment is passing and is not healthy for most people or industries. There are also plenty of industries where it is simply more costly for people to perform their job duties remotely and less efficient/effective. 

      • Pessoa April 9, 2022 (5:33 pm)

        Possibly.  But remote work will continue to play a factor, and enough to significantly demand for light rail.   I think we’re going to find that the reality of light rail doesn’t measure up  the hype when this extension opens in ten long years, just as other cities have discovered.   There are also other private parties – construction for example – who have a vested financial interest in pushing this project on taxpayers.  

  • Ant April 9, 2022 (9:15 am)

    Can I bring my bike on the gondola?

    • Auntie April 9, 2022 (6:18 pm)

      No, Ant – because there isn’t going to be a gondola.

    • Yes to SkyLink April 9, 2022 (7:07 pm)

      Yes, bikes could be rolled right on.

  • Yes to SkyLink April 9, 2022 (7:31 pm)

    This half-hearted feasibility review is disappointing to say the least.

    Thank you team SkyLink, for bringing this idea forward, for all your efforts with the proposal, and for withstanding the blow back for it. There will always be people adverse to change and new ideas, critics, and haters. Not everyone will embrace the idea, but most will see through the personal attacks.

    Have some hope that there may be some folks in city leadership roles who similarly can see the vision and benefits and are not satisfied with this feasibility look, and that may push forward for a better review of this.

Sorry, comment time is over.