Innovative Gondola Coming to Oakland Zoo’s California Trail

Berkeley-based Noll & Tam Architects designed California Trail’s striking hilltop visitor center integrated with the gondola’s top terminal.

This fall, the Oakland Zoo will open a unique new gondola serving a 56-acre expansion called California Trail, enabling the zoo’s 750,000 annual visitors to enjoy two distinct complexes less than four minutes apart.  It’s only logical that a ropeway system will serve exhibits on a summit featuring grizzly bears, mountain lions and gray wolves. By choosing to build a gondola, the zoo avoided the environmental impacts of roads, trails, and exhibits on steep slopes and won’t have to run higher-impact shuttle buses. Nik Dehejia, Oakland Zoo’s Chief Financial Officer notes, “the gondola system will be the first urban gondola of its size in Northern California and the second in the state. It will be an iconic feature for the Bay Area, drawing thousands from all over the region to Oakland.”

Doppelmayr crews building the top terminal.

The detachable 8-passenger system is being built by Doppelmayr USA under general contractor Overra Construction.  The gondola will feature 16 CWA Omega IV cabins and 7 towers that are up to 68 feet tall.  Slope length of the lift is 1,780 feet with a vertical rise of 309 feet.  The system will move up to 1,000 guests per hour/per direction initially with the option of adding 8 cabins to reach 1,500 per hour.  Ride time will be a quick 3.95 minutes at an operating speed of 450 feet per minute.

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