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Maybe Darryl LeClair was on to something: San Diego considers gondolas

Artist rendering of aerial gondola over San Diego

Howard Blackson/San Diego Union-Tribune

Artist rendering of aerial gondola over San Diego



When the details of Darryl LeClair's plans to develop Toytown were released last week, there was no mention of gondolas in the 258-page proposal.

There had been speculation that the Carillon office park developer would lace the flying cable cars throughout the Toytown proposal. It was just last year that LeClair shopped around his idea for using gondolas for transit, approaching everyone from the Florida Department of Transportation, the Tampa Bay Partnership and Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, according to the Tampa Tribune

But in an area that's hostile to any mode of transportation that isn't the automobile, that's pretty much the last the public heard about LeClair's gondola concept, which was dismissed by Steven Polzin at the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation as a mere tourist attraction.

So in yet another installment of what other cities are considering that Tampa Bay isn't, San Diego, more than 2,400 miles away, is taking a hard look at skyway gondolas.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a new long-term blueprint from the San Diego Association of Government offers a 35-year plan for growth. 

It envisions $204 billion in transportation spending, half of which (!) would go to public transit like light rail lines, skyways and buses. Another $42 billion would go toward highways and managed lanes. Another $5 billion would be spent to encourage biking and walking. 

The plan emphasizes rail, except in cases where the terrain offers too many obstacles and it's easier to do overhead gondolas carried by a wire cable.

The advantage of skyrails is that they don't consume as much real estate,Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, told the Union-Tribune. They're also a tenth to a fifth of the cost of rail.

Why such an emphasis on transit?

Drafters of the plan say it will better accomodate a region that is expected to add another 1 million people by 2050 while curtailing suburban sprawl in favor of a development pattern where "people will live closer to where they work and along transportation corridors. There will be a significant shift in the number of households in multifamily homes. Neighborhoods will be more densely populated, and it will be easier to use mass transit." 

Like gondolas.

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 5:58pm]


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