Seattle Gondola



Gondola Transit in Seattle?

Proposed Urban Gondolas for Seattle by Matt the Engineer.

Frequent commenter Matt The Engineer has thrown his hat into the ring for an urban gondola transit system in Seattle, Washington. He outlines his concept at

Let’s take a sample Seattle route with 3 stops. Seattle Center to South Lake Union to Capitol Hill near light rail. Each of these neighborhoods is separated by highways and geography to such an extent that the peak scheduled bus (travel) time (is) 40 minutes for this route – and add time for waiting, since traffic makes this route unreliable. But a gondola could make this entire trip in 7 minutes with no waiting.

Now I’ve never been to Seattle and while I have a pretty good idea about the city’s topographical challenges, I certainly can’t comment on whether or not this is a good or viable proposal. I do, however, have a few observations and questions:

  • I may be wrong, but I think the image above depicts two individual gondola lines. So when you read about a “sample Seattle route with 3 stops,” I believe Matt’s talking about the blue line alone (please correct me if I’m wrong).
  • Comparisons to bus travel times is somewhat controversial here as a bus along the same route would stop far more than 3 times. Is this trade-off for speed instead of coverage acceptable? Would it have a negative or positive impact on ridership? It’s really a question of geometry. Would adding another stop or two mitigate this problem?
  • Stations minimize turns which minimizes station footprint and costs – good!
  • No line has more than 3 stations. Another good example of starting small.
  • Seattle has severe topographical changes and steep inclines. Using gondolas in this situation makes clear sense.
  • Both lines appear to use existing rights-of-way with the notable exception of the red diagonal routing. This should ease concerns about privacy. The question I have is this: Does the route lend itself well to the technology from a design perspective? Are the lines running down the centre of the street? (And if so, is the street wide enough to accommodate towers?)

We get a fair bit of traffic from the Pacific Northwest, so I’d appreciate it if readers from those regions could chime in with their thoughts and opinions:

What do you think? Does Matt’s urban gondola in Seattle have merit?


Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.