The owners of the Seattle Greet Wheel, Great Western Pacific, have announced a plan to build a gondola from the Convention Center to the waterfront on Union Street. Here’s KUOW on the subject, and the Seattle Times has more details, including a potential route map, and this bit of detail:
At a news conference, Griffith said the system would run east and west; be privately financed; require no tax dollars; pose no risk to the city; and bring people into the waterfront area of the city, a region that is now difficult to access due to lack of parking and continuing construction.
I few bits of detail:
- The cars are supposed to be 40 or 50 feet off the ground, which would pose privacy issues for any apartments or condos on that street at or around that height.
- No word yet on how much a trip would cost, or whether an Orca could be used.
- The system would be paid with private financing, but use the public right-of-way.
I think a gondola there is a great idea, but I think there might be better ways to get it than let a private developer finance, build it, and operate it. With private operations, the system is likely to be a one-off, and the trips are likely to be rather expensive. I wonder if there isn’t a way to get this paid with private money but operated publicly.
Last time I was in London, I rode the “Emirates Air Line” (different from Emirates Airline), a gondola that opened in London for the 2012 Olympics. The gondola was originally meant to be entirely privately financed, but the project went significantly over-budget. In the end, Emirates Airlines paid £36 million of the £60 million price tag in exchange for 10 years of “branding” of the line, which is included on Transport for London rail maps along with the Underground, the Overground and the Docklands light rail.
Now, Seattle’s not London, and we’re not hosting the Olympics, but there may still be a way to get this or other gondolas paid for without significant public expenditure while still maintaining public ownership. The best thing about contracts for naming rights is that they can expire. What do you think? Is it worth it to let a private company put their own fixed infrastructure over the public right-of-way?