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Michael Barnes

Austin reacts to a proposed gondola system

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When I posted a link to an American-Statesman commentary by Brigid Shea and Jared Ficklin about a proposed gondola system to help alleviate traffic, the response was predictably divided.

A few dozen readers gave the idea a thumbs-up. Others dissented thoughtfully.

Frog-Design-Gondola-Cable-cars3

Frog Design

Jake Billingly would prefer “a very large fleet of electric buses using existing roads.” I regularly take buses currently on those roads and, while they are a key part to my personal transit strategy, they still get caught in traffic and perform far better traveling north-south than east-west.

J Richard Smith was disappointed about what would be abandoned: “No light rail, but that?!” Light rail is very expensive, it tears up roads, takes away lanes, and takes seemingly forever to build. I use them in other cities, but they are already built.

John Havard Macpherson wants “moving sidewalk, Google and other technologies that work better than the 80-year-old cable car concept.” True, gondolas aren’t new, but that’s one of the selling points. They have proven to work in other cities. He also endorses a monorail, but those are also expensive and more disruptive during construction.

Later that morning, my husband, Kip Keller, looked up from the newspaper — an even older technology — to say: “Hey, am I missing something, or is this really a good idea? I don’t see any downside.”

Well, I was skeptical at first because I’m deathly afraid of heights, but the idea of stringing the first line along South First Street seemed a stroke of genius.

This is a narrow thoroughfare — a block from our house — that can’t be expanded without knocking down a lot of buildings. Also, the existing sidewalks are similarly narrow as well as uneven and would be hard to support a movement mechanism.

One could take wheelchairs, bikes, strollers and dogs onto gondola cars. They’d come every few minutes. They are air-conditioned. I’m not editorializing, but let’s give this idea a shot.