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There was a great article in CityLab last week about Washington DC’s Georgetown and how it would be a great idea to add a gondola.  Comparing it to a streetcar:

“For half the price [of a streetcar line], a gondola running down K Street could serve seven times the capacity. A gondola could deliver people at twice the speed at rush hour. It could be built in a fraction of the time.”

Which sparked an idea to bring a gondola to our Georgetown in this Washington.  The Georgetown neighborhood in Seattle is a bit rough, but has many of the right components for a walkable center – small slow crocked streets, retail with narrow storefronts, a community college, breweries, interesting historic sites, and a chocolate factory.

So here’s the idea.  Run a gondola from Georgetown to Othello Station, with a stop at the main entrance to Boeing Field and a stop at Van Asselt Community Center on top of Beacon Hill.  This would give our city easier access to Georgetown, it would connect Boeing Field with Seatac by transit, and would give Beacon Hill residents a new route down to Link.

This of course is just one of many east<–>west connections we can make in Seattle that could make sense.

(FYI: 12mph at 1.8 miles that’s a 9 minute trip end to end, maybe with another 3 minutes worth of slowdowns at stations)

13 Replies to “Bring Gondolas to the Georgetowns”

  1. At first glance, this sounds like an okay idea for a gondola, if not quite as good as the Factoria – South Bellevue proposal and far behind the Denny Way proposal – though well ahead of the Union Street proposal. However, the Georgetown station location needs much more work. It’s at the very corner of Georgetown, 4/5 mile from the community college you mentioned. Since you can’t run gondola wires on a diagonal over the airport, you’d need to extend it through Georgetown for at least another half-mile (to the near end of the community college parking lot).

    I have utterly no idea whether this new 2.3-mile line would be cost-effective. Before it goes any further, I’d like some evidence beyond just “Georgetown is a walkable neighborhood” (so is the International District), or “It connects Georgetown to Link” (so does the 124, in both directions), or “Boeing Field!” (there’re almost no flights there).

    1. Yeah, this started off as little more than a spark of an idea, and may not deserve to go much further than that. Items that would make this make more sense:
      1. Converting some of the little-used industrial zone to mid-rise residential. The drawback being that we lose industrial space, we then have residents right next to industrial space, and we could never build too tall because it’s next to an airport.
      2. AK, United, or SW airlines start up commercial operations at Boeing Field. This has been considered in the past.
      3. Some other large ridership attraction.

      Regarding the route, I just stuck pins on a map. I agree serving the college would be hard, but it wouldn’t be tough to get a bit further into Georgetown.

      1. It is highly unlikely Boeing Field will see any commercial air service beyond the air taxis that currently serve it.

        While I think gondolas and aerial trams can solve certain transit problems one needs to be careful that you aren’t proposing a solution in search of a problem.

        The Denny Way corridor or between the King County Courthouse and Harborview are much better .

    2. The thing is, it would be out of the way of the largest destinations, downtown and the U-District, as well as the stadiums, Broadway, etc. Transferring at Othello is a 20-minute overhead and about the furthest out of the way possible. Whereas the 124 goes straight to downtown and Airport Way is pretty fast. The other way it goes to TIB, which is on the way to the next largest destination, SeaTac. An earlier crosstown route between West Seattle and Rainier Valley failed, and the 50 is being propped up by Metro in hopes that it doesn’t fail. So would the gondola be much more used than the 50, besides gondola tourism.

      1. It would mostly be a high-capacity quick trip between the airports if Boeing Field ever started up, with a side benefit of giving Georgetown and South Beacon Hill access to Link. Link will soon go a lot of places reasonably fast. Yes, there’s a bus or two the goes from Georgetown to downtown quickly, and is probably a better way of going north. But I imagine this would be a faster way of going east or south.

        Again, I haven’t even convinced myself this is a useful thing to do. But it opens up possibilities that traditional transit can’t.

  2. It’s hard to see how this proposal connects anything to anything. Because of the airport, the freeways and the railroads, Georgetown is a noisy and dirty neighborhood that is fine for bohemians, but the future for large scale residential development along your proposed gondola route is very limited.

    A better idea might be to look at connecting Graham Street (in Rainier Valley) with Georgetown and SODO. I think the prospects for an infill station at Graham and MLK are pretty dim, so maybe a gondola that starts at Rainier & Graham, stops at MLK & Graham and goes over Beacon Hill to Georgetown (somehow avoiding the power lines) and ends near the busway at Spokane Street or at my pipe dream SODO Station TC might be more useful. However, getting from Georgetown to SODO might be difficult unless there is a way to build over some of the rail lines.

    1. You’re thinking too large – I like to keep gondola lines under 3 miles or your travel times are too long. Gondolas usually serve as one piece of a trip rather then the whole thing, so it’s a good idea to keep them short. Plus your route misses both the light rail station and the airport.

      Skipping the eastwest connection and just going to the SoDo station would give you a reasonable gondola length (2 miles), and you could continue on to the airport. But then you’re paralleling Airport Way, which is an easy bus route.

      1. The point is that instead of infilling a needed Link station at Graham & MLK, maybe a gondola would be a better choice. But you’re right, it’s hard to find a route that would connect easily to downtown services. Any route that tries to cross Beacon Hill is going to have a problem with the power transmission lines that parallel the Chief Sealth Trail. No way is any gondola going over the top of the wires and it’s hard to conceive of a path under the wires that would work.

  3. I’ll add this to my list of priority gondola lines:
    #1 – Space Needle (or Uptown) to Broadway Light Rail Station, along Denny Way (replacing the #8 bus).
    #2 – West Seattle to Stadium or SoDo light rail station.

  4. The main campus of South Seattle College is a destination to consider. It is inconveniently located for great bus service, as it is not on the way to other major destinations. East-west bus routes are especially difficult because the topography requires buses to travel about a mile north or south before they CAN go east or west. But a gondola wouldn’t have that constraint.

    There may also be benefit in connecting the main campus to the Georgetown campus. I just don’t know whether students and staff actually need to travel between campuses, so I don’t know if that connection would be useful.

    1. I like it. And it definitely would be useful to get between two campuses of the same school.

      It’s still tough to get around Boeing Field, so maybe we go north instead and connect to Columbia City. That still leaves us at a reasonable 3.4 miles, connects to a more central spot in Georgetown, and helps the light rail connection since you’re heading toward downtown instead of away from it. The only issue is that you’d need to go over some houses to do it.

      Route map.

  5. The capacity claims (“seven times the capacity”) are arrant nonsense. Also errant nonsense. Bluntly, well-designed streetcars have more capacity than the best gondolas.

    It’s this sort of nonsense which causes people to dismiss gondola advocates. Despite which, gondolas are a good option for moving people mountains, across rivers and lakes and sunken highways etc., because they’re much cheaper than bridges, and they’re the second-fastest choice for going up and down. (After the elevator.)

    I’d advise you, if you want gondola proposals to be taken seriously, not to publish ludicrous claims. It just makes you look bad.

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