Saturday, October 25, 2014

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rising to the challenge: Gondolas belong in Hamilton

Gondolas, a form of cable-propelled transit perhaps more usually associated with ski resorts, are not a practical addition to every city’s public transportation arsenal. In Hamilton, however, they are an ideal solution to that particular obstacle to urban mobility with which our city has always had to contend: the escarpment.

Last August, at a forum hosted at the Art Gallery of Hamilton called People First City Building: Focus on Sustainable Mobility, this idea received plenty of attention, and with good reason. Since then, interest seems to have waned.

However, with the beginning of the mayoral race in January, public transit will once again become a hot topic in municipal election debates, so I now want to present the case for gondolas as a valuable component worth integrating into any proposed future developments in Hamilton’s transit infrastructure. Whether our considerations be economic, environmental or even cultural, gondolas belong in Hamilton.

Michael McDaniel from Frog (an international innovation and design firm), the man behind a proposal for installing a system of gondolas in Austin, Texas, has calculated construction costs of gondola lines to be around $3 million to $12 million US per mile; this versus $36 million for light rail lines, and $400 million for subways

Considering Hamilton’s escarpment is about 100 metres tall at the three proposed light rail lines going up the escarpment (i.e., the A, S, and T lines of Hamilton’s LRT plan), the math reveals an estimated savings of at least $4.9 million. That alone should get everyone in the city thinking more seriously about cable propelled transit.

A gondola line travels at about 16 km/h, and can move between 6,000 and 8,000 people per hour per direction. According to