One of the last remaining Major League Baseball stadiums not serviced by permanent public transportation could be reached by gondola in 2022, says a group with early support from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Mayor Eric Garcetti. Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC presented the idea to the Metro regional transit authority this morning as part of its Extraordinary Innovation unsolicited proposals program. The tricable system would link Dodgers Stadium to Union Station, the busiest rail hub in the Western United States.
The 3S would be capable of transporting 5,000 passengers per hour and direction along a 1.25 mile route before, during and after Dodgers Stadium events. It would cross over Chinatown and Interstate 110 with a terminus on the southeastern side of the ballpark with an unknown number of towers in between. Utilizing 30 to 40 passenger cabins, the lift would be the largest gauge gondola in the western hemisphere and was selected for its optimal capacity and ease of accessibility. “This is a major investment in the future of Los Angeles, with a zero-emission, sustainable technology that is increasingly popular for urban areas throughout the world,” noted Martha Welborne, project director for ARTT in a press release. “We look forward to working with Metro to make it a reality.” Welborne is a former Senior Vice President of Corporate Real Estate at Disney and also served as Chief Planning Officer at LA Metro.
Mayor Garcetti commented on the project too, saying, “Dodger fans know better than anyone: making history means swinging for the fences and never stopping until you get home. Our team has been at the center of so many landmark moments for Los Angeles, and this bold idea to ease congestion could transform how Angelenos — and millions of visitors — experience our city on their way to and from the ballpark.” Lakers legend Magic Johnson also tweeted his support.
Imagine skipping the drive and flying to @Dodgers Stadium instead! That’s the idea behind this new proposed gondola connecting the stadium with Union Station. pic.twitter.com/HJnqDJwkiB
The estimated $125 million project would be funded privately but require the blessing of various public entities, especially to secure a lease at or near Union Station. The founding principal of ARTT is McCourt Global, whose Chairman and CEO Frank McCourt formerly owned the Dodgers. Much work lies ahead for the group including specific route selection and public outreach. Operations are eyed for 2022, six years before Los Angeles hosts the Olympics for a third time.
In its home country of France, Poma Ropeways has won a $56 million tender to realize the first 3S gondola designed entirely for public transport. Téléphérique Urbain Sud (South Urban Cable Car) will link two hospitals to Paul Sabatier University in the city of Toulouse. You may know France’s fourth largest city, with 1.2 million inhabitants, as the global headquarters of the Airbus Group.
The gondola’s 1.9 mile route will ascend a 300-foot hill called Pech David before crossing the Garonne waterway. Factors leading to the selection of a 3S over a MGD were the need for long spans between towers (just 5 required instead of 20), the ability to more easily transport wheelchairs/bicycles as well as wind tolerance. Fourteen 35-passenger Sigma Symphony cabins will circulate between three stations with an hourly capacity of 1,500 passengers per direction. At 5 m/s, the system will achieve headways of just 90 seconds and a trip will take ten minutes each way, a 20-minute improvement from today in a car. Like other successful urban gondola projects, riders of the 3S will be able to use existing fare media and easily transfer to and from metro trains or buses. Additional stages are likely to be added to the ends of the new gondola in the future.
Burnaby Mountain in Metro Vancouver seems like a textbook site to test cable-propelled transit in a major North American city. Simon Fraser University, with 30,000 students and staff, occupies 200 acres on the western crest of the mountain. A growing neighborhood called UniverCity occupies the eastern hilltop with 5,000 residents. Both are surrounded by parks and conservation lands but are only 1.7 miles from a SkyTrain rail station. The mountain is 985 feet tall and served by a fleet of 48 diesel buses providing more than four million annual transit trips with poor levels of service. Snow cripples transit ten an average of days per year on a hill that 39,000 people will live on by 2030.
In 2010, TransLink commissioned one of the first comprehensive studies pitting ropeway technologies against the status quo and other alternatives in a North American context. One of the world’s largest engineering firms, CH2M Hill, led the team with financial analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers and technical consulting by Gmuender Engineering and the lift manufacturers. Commercially sensitive sections of the report were never released to the public in order to safeguard a future competitive procurement process, but what was published is a fascinating read for anyone interested in transit or ropeways.
The SkyTrain Millenium Line, opened in 2002, passes 1.7 miles south of SFU at a station called Production Way-University in Burnaby. Commuters wait an average of seven minutes for a bus here, which takes 13-16 minutes to go the less than four miles to SFU. Increased frequencies of already articulated buses would result in proportionally greater emissions, traffic impacts, staffing needs, required layover space and capital costs.
The study looked at a wide range of alternatives – from bus rapid transit (BRT) to light rail, funicular, subway, trolleybus, reversible aerial tramway, monocable gondola, 2S gondola, 3S gondola and funitel. These were narrowed down to three major categories for further study – diesel bus, monocable/2S gondola and 3S gondola/funitel. Other surface alternatives proved too expensive, had significant neighborhood impacts, or both.
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.
Timberline Lodge & Ski Area is perhaps America’s most unique snowsports destination with year-round skiing on one of the Lower 48’s largest volcanoes. Operated for the last fifty years by RLK & Company on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, Timberline offers lift-served skiing twelve months a year on 1,400 acres of Mt. Hood. Two million people visit the Lodge and ski area annually which are under 60 miles from Portland, the tenth fastest-growing city in America. Timberline’s ski operation expanded in 2007 to accommodate growing numbers of visitors by adding the Jeff Flood Express in Still Creek Basin. The ski area now has seven lifts with a vertical rise of 3,690 feet, the largest in the Pacific Northwest.
Timberline is also unique in that much of its terrain lies below the Lodge and access road. Visitors drive halfway up the mountain just to leave their car and ski below. Although the mountain offers more alternative transportation options than ever, Timberline’s two-lane access road and relatively small parking lots remain woefully inadequate. Building more parking at 6,000 feet within a National Historic Landmark is not consistent with RLK’s sustainability goals nor those of the Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service to minimize development around the historic lodge.
There’s a lively discussion going on over at Alpinforum about the future of detachable lifts, which haven’t gotten much faster despite huge advances in technology over the last thirty years. The first modern detachable chairlift, Quicksilver at Breckenridge, went 787 feet a minute when it debuted in 1981. Since then, manufacturers have installed hundreds of gondolas and chairlifts capable of going more than 1,000 fpm.
30-year old lift: 1000 ft/min
Brand new lift: 1000 ft/min
The first lift to go 1,100 fpm was the Whistler Village Gondola in 1988 and the first capable of 1,200 fpm was Stowe’s gondola in 1991. Both were built by Poma, the early adopter of faster line speeds. The only detachable installed in North America since 1991 capable of traveling any more than 1,200 fpm is the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, debuting in 2012. As a tri-cable gondola, P2P has an impressive capability of 1,476 fpm (7.5 m/s.) Doppelmayr claims similar systems can go up to 1,670 fpm (8.5 m/s.) So far, the fastest 3S ever built goes 8 m/s and one that can go 8.5 will debut in Vietnam next year. Meanwhile, 1,200 fpm (6 m/s) remains the highest speed for a single cable detachable, a stat that hasn’t changed since 1991.
The truth is the vast majority of detachable lifts built these days have the standard design speed of 1,000 fpm (5.08 m/s) and operate even slower much of the time. In my experience, many ski areas run so-called high speed lifts at 800 or 900 feet a minute on all but the busiest of days. As users on Alpinforum note, ski resort operators care more about reducing stops, wear and tear than shaving thirty seconds off a ride time that the average guest won’t even notice.