Could Gondolas Be Part of the Future of Public Transit?

Michael McDaniel, designer at Frog Design, thinks sky gondolas could be a viable (and less expensive) option for public transportation.

As cities grow more crowded, what's the best solution for public transportation? New rail systems are expensive: light rail costs about $35 million per mile, and subways are $400 million per mile. In some cities, dedicated bus lanes make buses a viable option, but in many places narrow city streets don't accommodate buses well. Michael McDaniel, a designer at Frog Design, is proposing a new solution for Austin, Texas: a network of gondolas that run high above the city from neighborhood to neighborhood.

The gondola system is considerably cheaper to build; Frog estimates it may cost around $3 million per mile. It can transport up to 10,000 people an hour. That can replace 100 bus trips, or 2,000 rides in a car. Unlike trains, Frog says, the gondolas can run almost anywhere, and the system can easily be expanded. It's best suited for cities with a network of skyscrapers, because transfer stations can be incorporated into the buildings without the need to build new, high platforms.

Critics point out that gondolas don't work well in windy conditions, and congestion can also be addressed by limiting car traffic. But it's an interesting idea. Watch the designer explain more in the video below.


Images courtesy of Frog Design