Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola



Georgetown Gondola Gains (Even More) Momentum


Conceptual rendering of Georgetown Gondola. Image from Georgetown BID.


The Georgetown-Rossyln Gondola (Washington, DC) proposal is gaining great momentum with many sponsors agreeing to back a feasibility study. Yesterday, Arlington County voted unanimously in favour to join a consortium and provide $35,000 to study the cable car.

We’re not entirely sure what the alignment will be, but the concept itself appears to share many characteristics found in successful cable transit lines — that is, it solves a clear last mile problem, connects to a rapid transit stop, and serves an activity node (22,000 workers/10,000 at university). As a quick comparison, the Portland Aerial Tram connects to OHSU, which employs just 14,000.

While the Portland system faced some initial opposition, all of this has been largely forgotten and the system today is heralded as a huge success — providing efficient, clean and convenient commutes to 7,000 riders a day.

In fact, the Portland Aerial Tram runs at capacity during rush hours. Image by Flickr user nickfalbo.

Looking to the East Coast now, a very similar situation is happening at the Roosevelt Island Tram in New York City. It too, transports greater than 2 million riders a year (or about 6,300 per day) and is an iconic system that’s deeply loved by locals.

Would similar results be replicated for the Georgetown system? It’s hard to say without more detailed analysis, but a quick time comparison indicates that a gondola could reduce trip times to just 3-5 minutes versus a 10-15 walk across the Key Bridge today.

Strangely enough, it appears some critics worry that the project is too tourism-focused. Without personally speaking to these opponents, the reasons for their beliefs are unclear. However, if you ask any urban cable car (or world-class transit system), attracting both visitor and local ridership is a massive benefit, not a cause for concern. I mean, capturing tourists is a clear sign that your transit system is useful. And economically speaking, non-local riders can bring in much needed revenue for the system and can catalyze positive change.

For those interested in urban gondolas, this proposal is definitely not one too be missed. If all goes according to plan, project proponents believe that the study can be completed by October 2016.

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