This week’s New Yorker features real estate website CEO Daniel Levy, who hatched a plan to bring gondolas to the Big Apple while on vacation in Chamonix in 2014. His private venture, dubbed East River Skyway, envisions a trio of 3S gondolas with up to 12 stations connecting points along the East River with landmarks in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Levy has retained the Canadian firm behind The Gondola Project, Creative Urban Projects Inc., as consultants for the proposal.
Working in East River Skyway’s favor is the fact that New York’s M.T.A. is finalizing plans to shut down a section of the L train subway for a year and a half or drastically reduce service for twice as long. The L train’s tunnel that shuttles 225,000 daily commuters under the East River sustained damaged during Hurricane Sandy and needs up to a billion dollars in repairs.
New Yorkers have been commuting by ropeway since 1976 on the VonRoll-built Roosevelt Island Tramway. Poma replaced that system with a 110-passenger dual-haul version in 2010. While it’s good New Yorkers are familiar with the tram as public transit, 3S gondolas are entirely different machines that trounce the performance of jig-backs by continuously moving up to ten times as many people. In the New Yorker article, Mr. Levy calls 3S technology the “big, bad kahuna.” Seventeen tri-cable gondolas operate worldwide with two public transit installations in service in Germany and France. Doppelmayr says its 3S technology can move up to 5,000 passengers per hour per direction at 8.5m/s, Leitner says up to 6,000 phpd. Skyway lines won’t replace the L-train or any other subway but they would provide a refreshing alternative for tens of thousands of commuters daily.
Mr. Levy estimates each line will cost $120-140 million and be funded privately, with monthly passes costing commuters $25. As the above video shows, East River Skyway still has a ways to go with station design and siting. 35-passenger cabins require significant space to turn around which appears to have escaped designers so far. The M.T.A. will decide within three months how it will proceed with the L train closure scheduled to begin in 2019. Tri-cable gondolas take 18-24 months to build so the clock is ticking.