They started last year, and plan to have their system running in 2015.  They’ll have 13 stations, 8 miles of travel, and expect 250,000 passengers per day at opening with a full capacity of over a million passengers per day.  It will be a privately funded system, paying for itself with farebox recovery.  Because of poor power reliability in Nigeria they’ll build two redundant generators at each station that needs power.  They’ll have cameras and intercoms in each of the 300 cabins.  The total cost of the system will be $500M, and fares will be between $1.28 and $1.92 per trip.

I’m not proposing we build such a large system here, and such a system would certainly cost more in Seattle than Lagos.  But surely a line or two connecting our subway system to areas of potential ridership couldn’t be that bad an idea.

Infographic from Trico Capital

(via The Gondola Project)

33 Replies to “Lagos gets a Free Gondola System”

  1. This makes me disgusted and sick to my stomach.

    If I lived in Nigeria, I’d look for a way to sabotage it.

    To those of us around here, 2.00 doesn’t seem too bad (though a little on the high side for such a distance), but in Nigeria, it would exclude most of the population.

    1. I agree it’s high, and a daily commuter would spend between 18% and 27% of their income on transportation at these rates (per capita income is $3,649). But on the other hand, commutes are reported as being on the order of several hours each way.

      Would the better option be to publicly fund the system? Maybe, but they’re already well in debt for the light rail system they’re in the process of building (using old Toronto subway cars, modified in the US to use standard gauge tracks). The BRT system that exists already is at shove-your-way-in levels of capacity, and their roads are at complete gridlock.

      What would be your recommendation to provide for better commute options?

    2. Easy there. They are getting the system without using public funds, and the system will reduce congestion in an area with far more traffic congestion than we routinely see here in the USA. The gondola sounds like it will allow those who have some money can take the gondola, and those who can’t afford the gondola can benefit from less congested streets. Resorting to sabotage is pretty strong language.

      1. @alex Interesting point. I’ve always considered induced demand a phenomenon of pushing people to the suburbs. Make it easier to commute from far, cheap housing and more people will do that. In this case we’re talking about a very short distance transit system within a city. I suppose the same principles apply: if we build a subway system from downtown to Cap Hill we reduce traffic on the street (to the extent that people drive between those places), but perhaps we allow more people to live on Capitol Hill that otherwise would have lived downtown. Of course the difference between Cap Hill and North Bend is that Cap Hill is almost completely built out at the current zoning.

        The same case might exist here as well. Lagos is on track to be the world’s third largest city with 25 million people by 2015. I don’t know much about the places where they’re building gondola stations, but if they’re fully built out you shouldn’t get induced demand. Of course you could always change zoning and build up…

        The next question is whether induced demand is a problem inside a city. I care a lot about not pushing people out to the far suburbs, because of the high environmental costs. Do I care as much about not pushing people out to Capitol Hill or even Ballard? I suppose a little, but not very much. But I would highly value the transportation flexibility a transit system would provide.

    3. What are you talking about? Will anyone be forced to use it? People will pay to use it if their benefit is higher than the cost. That’s how markets work. What if you were very low-income, but taking this gondola gave you access to a job market orders of magnitude larger than what you get currently? What if that nets you a higher-paying job? Seems like it would suddenly be worth it.

  2. Looking at Lagos on Google Maps shows a nightmarish situation for mass transit. Few highways exist, don’t connect very well and looks like a horrible mess to connect in any way.
    The gondola sounds like a reasonable solution, where projects can proceed without all the process and regulation we have, and our special interest lobbies that have Veto powers over damn near anything that gets done these days.
    At least I’ll know how it worked out in my lifetime, rather than wait for ST3&4 to finish in 2040+.
    I wish them well.

    1. The fact that few highways exist there is a blessing and opportunity to install infrastructure that benefits the citizens and our global environment. The effect of a million people not traveling on surface streets should be quite noticeable.

      Not having to build out a highway system, import cars, and utilize petroleum to run those cars is a huge benefit to a country that can ill afford additional debt.

  3. $1.92 per trip? In Lagos? Who can afford to ride this thing?

    Give me a break. Scale that ticket price up to Seattle level and it would be way north of $5/trip. I.e., 2 to 3 times the cost of a bus ticket, and lot more expensive than just walking.

    But is this really the *vision* for Seattle’s transpo future? Copy Lagos?

    1. Lazarus, what’s wrong with copying Lagos? You make it sound like the people in Lagos aren’t capable of coming up with good ideas to address their major transportation problem. I’ve had far better experiences with mass transit living in the developing world than I ever have had here in Seattle.

      What the heck is wrong with the gondola idea? I ride gondolas every winter when I ski. They move quickly, are easy to get on/off, and are quiet enough to enjoy the scenery around me. Yes, it’s a different approach. Why does different have to be bad again? I’m amazed I have to ask that question.

    2. BRT there charges $0.76 per trip, and is packed solid:

      The BRT buses plying Ikorodu Road were initially meant for 60,000 passengers, but due to public acceptance, the system is carrying more than 200,000 passengers per day. Of course, there is no way this will not weigh down on the buses. The operators are doing all they can to ensure that the buses are functioning regularly but of course you know, if you have 220 buses for 20,0000 passengers, it is going to have a backlash on the number of passengers that will be stranded on the roads.

      $1.28 isn’t a huge jump from that price, though I agree $1.92 is.

      Keep in mind this is for an unsubsidized system. If we were to do something similar in Seattle I’d probably lean on our tourists. For instance, charge a high amount for single trips, or standard bus rates for 10+ trips.

      1. The Gadgebahn du jour. Won’t happen on any significant scale in Seattle — didn’t we learn our lesson with the monorail?

      2. Good point. Especially if it connected to Seattle Center and any skyscraper downtown, tourists would use it a lot and would be willing to pay for it. Charge a higher price for cash and a lower price for ORCA users.

      3. [lazarus] What lesson is that? That we need solid financing before starting a project?

        Seriously, the Monorail was a great idea that we could have been riding right now. In another few decades, if we’re lucky and fight hard, we’ll have the same functionality with the Seattle Subway project.

      4. The technical plan for the monorail wasn’t any better than the financial plan, and we all know how bad that was. It was a disaster from the start and it seriously damaged the reputation and credibility of not just monorail supporters, but of Seattle transit supporters in general.

        But the real damage done by the monorail was the loss of taxing authority. The State doesn’t give Seattle very many opportunities to “go it alone”, but when they do we really need to perform. The result of the monorail implosion is that we squandered a great opportunity to tax ourselves for our own benefit, and now the State is even less likely to allow us to tax ourselves for any sort of Seattle-only transpo improvement.

        Want to create a ST overlay district or accelerate LR in Seattle with more local funding? You’re going to have to go to the State and deal with the ghosts of the monorail. And you are going to get a lot of laughs.

        So…monorails? Gondolas? PRT? Whatever? How many feet do we have to shoot before we actually get serious?

      5. “the same functionality with the Seattle Subway project”

        Better functionality, actually. The monorail would have topped out at 35 mph while Link can go 55. Also, some of the monorail route was single-track to fit in budget, and that would have limited the frequency (like the waterfront streetcar).

        But monorails do give you an elevated view the entire way.

        “But the real damage done by the monorail was the loss of taxing authority. The State doesn’t give Seattle very many opportunities to “go it alone”, but when they do we really need to perform. The result of the monorail implosion is that we squandered a great opportunity to tax ourselves for our own benefit, and now the State is even less likely to allow us to tax ourselves for any sort of Seattle-only transpo improvement.”

        The loss of taxing authority is mainly ideological. It was an Eyman initiative that slashed the MVET, and in the following years state Republicans have adopted the same anti-tax attitude, and state Democrats have been too afraid to counter the supposed “people’s will”.

      6. The monorail MVET was not affected by Eyman’s initiative (I-695). And issues related to Seattle being able to tax itself for transit (or whatever) are not limited to MVET and the shrill voices surrounding it.

        The general adage in Washington politics is, “It’s East vs. West, and everyone against Seattle.” So we aren’t going to get many chances to “go it alone” here in Seattle proper, and when we do we better get it right and we had better deliver.

        The monorail was not getting it right, and it has done serious damage to our credibility and our ability to convince the rest of the State that we know what we are doing, and that we can be trusted to “go it alone” again.

        So the next time we get a chance we had better have a solid proposal that we can both finance and deliver on. Gondolas, or any other type of gadgetbahn, is not it, and will only further damage our credibility.

      7. Again, you’re talking about financing not technology. If we’d had replaced the monorail with a light rail system and it failed in the same way would we have any more credibility?

      8. The monorail was screwed up both technically and financially (and in about every other way possible too).

        The downside of that is that it has hurt our ability to finance other projects going forward – the State just isn’t going to give us many opportunities to “go it alone” given that we have already demonstrated our ability to screw things up royally.

        So, given that we aren’t going to get many opportunities to self-finance, we shouldn’t squander what rare opportunities we do get on boutique applications or gadgetbahns.

        Gondolas as a transit option are going to be a lot harder sell than the monorail was – we have the history of the monofail to overcome, and the level of skepticism from the purse-holders is higher with gondolas.

        I don’t’ see any viable path forward for widespread gondola use in Seattle. If you want it, find a very small custom application somewhere and hope that you can find someone to finance it outside of tax dollars.

      9. “The monorail MVET was not affected by Eyman’s initiative (I-695).”

        Didn’t 695 slash the variable-rate MVET to a fixed $30 and wipe out the monorail’s largest funding source? There were then further problems with the monorail’s cost, and a (misleading) ad by its 2nd Avenue business opponents about its ultimate cost including interest (misleading because every financed project has the same issue), and that finally caused voters to turn against it. But I still remember the MVET cut as being a significant factor, or am I remembering wrong?

      10. No. I-695 did not impact the monorail MVET. I-695 had nothing to do with the monorail’s MVET or eventual demise.

        The monorail imploded under the weight of its own issues/problems/false claims, but its demise makes it harder for us in the future.

      11. Why was it only going to go 35 mph? The current monorail only goes about that speed, but that’s because it’s an old clunker. The original design speed was more like 60.

      12. Orv: because monorails suck.

        If you want something which goes fast on a fixed guideway, build a train. Two tracks and angled wheels (self-stabilizing) riding between them.

        Monorails are a technology looking for a reason to exist. There isn’t one.

  4. !!! Yes! Bellevue Link Station to BTC to Downtown Bellevue! The perfect place for a gondola!

      1. It would also allow Bellevue to put one over on Seattle by having the first gondola in the region. While it’s up there it might as well continue all the way across the freeway to “future east downtown”.

  5. Wow.. what an incredible, large system for a gondola.

    We would only need a fraction of this, as mentioned. I still don’t know why everyone thinks the economics will be the same here as Lagos. It is being privately funded and looking to fund through the fare box. Obviously not the model we would use. But the proof of the mode is what we should be looking at, as we certainly have some situations that seem very well suited to it (Cap hill station to waterfront, conencting lower queen anne as well.)

    1. Judging from the pricing, I think this gondola plan is meant to tap into a market for upper-middle-class folks who want to get away from the poor people thronging the streets. I’m not sure there’s an equivalent demand in Seattle, unless you could somehow use it to avoid bus transfers at 3rd and Pike.

      1. …In Lagos. Nothing says it has to be that way here. A Gondola system would be cheaper to build and run than many competing modes.

  6. Looking at the geography of Lagos, I suspect the goal here is to get across the various waterways without expensive bridges or tunnels.

    Yep. Tracking through the proposed routes, the purpose is indeed to leap over the waterways. They’re connecting Lagos Island to Victoria Island, and Lagos Island to the mainland in a direction different from that of the three bridges.

    Note that the mainland is getting light rail.

    Not applicable to Seattle as far as I can see.

    1. On the contrary, it seems very applicable. We can build gondolas up the various hills, across the Ship Canal, and over to West Seattle for cheap, without needing expensive new bridges!

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