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Gondola could help solve Kirkland transportation crunch

Picture a gondola like The Emirates Air Line across the River Thames in London floating above the Kirkland skyline. (AP)

It’s the fastest way to get to the top of a ski slope. Now, getting across town in Kirkland could be as easy as hopping aboard a gondola.

It could be years before light rail makes its way to Kirkland. So, city leaders are considering lots of other ways to move people, including gondolas. At a recent transportation symposium, advocates pitched aerial gondolas as the world’s fastest-growing transit strategy. Even Portland has an aerial tram, which is different than a gondola.

A Kirkland city councilmember thinks a gondola might be a good way to move people from downtown to the Cross Kirkland Corridor, the former railroad line that bisects the city. “I’m afraid that growth will create problems Interstate 405 can’t handle,” Mayor Amy Walen told The Seattle Times.

From KIRO Radio:

Dori Monson: “It’s like the slowest mass transit system imaginable. So why not just walk?” – Read Dori’s take

John Curley: “It’s not fanciful, if the numbers work out that you can move 11,000 people.” – Listen: John reacts

Luke Burbank: “I wish we had these all over the country.”

Concerns include the cost of construction, disruption of views and privacy and the typical speed, which is only about ten miles per hour.

A round trip ride on the tram in Portland costs $4 or $100 annually. A tram cabin departs every six minutes, unless it’s windy, which slows the timing. The run is just over 420 feet long.

However, the Times says the Portland system is considered a black sheep because the end product ended up costing four times more than the original estimate.

Not only that, but insurance is a concern. But supporters believe rates will drop as soon as another city successfully pulls it off.

This isn’t the first time a gondola has been proposed for the Seattle area. Hal Griffith, the owner of Seattle’s Great Wheel, has been researching a plan that would take gondola riders from the Washington State Convention Center to the waterfront.

Matt Roewe, of VIA Architecture, and Matt “the Engineer” Gangemi, proposed a gondola last year that would take riders from the Capitol Hill light rail station to the Olympic Sculpture Garden.

If you now have an itch to ride a gondola, there’s always the Mt. Rainier gondola at Crystal Mountain. It’s open year-round, climbs 2,500 vertical feet, and takes about ten minutes before reaching the summit where you can eat at “Washington’s highest elevation restaurant” and take in views of Washington’s tallest peak.

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