The Gondola Project has responded to d.p.’s claim that Seattle should not want to be the first North American city with a gondola system, because of the effort and expense required to be a first mover. They make the case that:
- If it’s rational for Seattle to wait for other cities, it’s just as rational for other cities to wait for Seattle. The result is that nothing gets built.
- It’s arrogant to dismiss the heavy lifting done by places like Caracas, Medellin and Rio de Janeiro (and I’d add Algeria) simply because they’re poor.
- Seattle has already placed itself in the extremophile position (sorry, my fault). Other cities will look to us to be the first mover.
Great arguments. But I think they missed one point. Sometimes it’s great to be the first mover. The Pacific Northwest, and Seattle in particular, is very good at being cutting edge. And we profit from being first.
Let’s take the example of green buildings. The Pacific Northwest leads the US in green buildings, specifically LEED buildings though we’re going much beyond LEED into net-zero and Passivhaus. Being on the leading edge has grown our architects, engineers, and construction firms into sustainability experts. This expertise is highly valuable, and our services are in demand throughout the US and the world. There are now 1.8 billion square feet of LEED certified commercial space in the world and as early adopters we’ve been one of the go-to cities for expertise. Similar examples can be found in airplanes, software, and even coffee.
Sure, gondolas may not go anywhere. It might just be one weird system that Seattle has that nobody else wants to touch – perhaps it may even fail before we get that far. Or it can be one more symbol that Seattle is still an innovative city that’s not afraid to be out in front of the pack.