Would gon­do­las re­duce traf­fic?

Austin de­signer imag­ines sus­pended cars in­stead of rail.

Austin American-Statesman - - B METRO & STATE - Wear B


my boss first men­tioned to me that some­one at a re­cent con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco had sug­gested us­ing gon­do­las for mass tran­sit in Austin, I thought he was talk­ing about boats.

You know, the grace­ful, skinny ca­noes from Venice, pi­loted by jovial guys wear­ing red-and-white striped T-shirts and straw hats. Sure, just put a flotilla of those on Lady Bird Lake, and traf­fic con­ges­tion on In­ter­state 35 and MoPac Boule­vard (Loop 1) would melt like a Pop­si­cle in Au­gust.

Af­ter all, Austin used to have a Ho­tel Gon­do­lier at I-35 and the river, and old post­cards for it fea­tured a gon­dola float­ing by.

Turns out I was wrong. What Michael McDaniel, a prin­ci­pal de­signer with Frog De­sign’s Austin of­fice, sug­gested at the Nov. 1 con­fer­ence of “creatives” was a sys­tem of over­head con­veyances, sus­pended on ca­bles, of the type you most typ­i­cally en­counter at ski ar­eas and amuse­ment parks. McDaniel, who dubbed what he had in mind the Wire, even mocked up ren­der­ings of the gon­do­las and sta­tions, and a map show­ing four lines stretch­ing from Round Rock to Kyle, from Manor to Drip­ping Springs.

He told me such a sys­tem could be built for $12 mil­lion a mile — com­pared with the city of Austin’s es­ti­mated $100 mil­lion a mile for a pro­posed ground-bound elec­tric rail sys­tem — and would al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem of find­ing space for tracks on or along­side streets. The pi­lot­less cap­sules would come along ev­ery 30 sec­onds or so, al­low­ing peo­ple to use them with­out hav­ing to con­sult a sched­ule, he said. And they would sim­ply slow down to walking speed at sta­tions, in McDaniel’s con­cep­tion, al­low­ing you to hop on or hop off a mov­ing gon­dola.

What about safety, or per­cep­tions of safety? I know I’ve never felt com­pletely com­fort­able bob­bing along in one of them, es­pe­cially at any sig­nif­i­cant el­e­va­tion. McDaniel said this re­search into newer sys­tems shows that they can run in wind speeds up to 50 mph — I’ll walk, thank you, at that point — and that they wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily need to be very high in the air un­less cross­ing a green space or other topo­graph­i­cal ob­sta­cle.

So, Six Flags-style gon­do­las, each hold­ing four to six pas-

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