There’s not much to say about this that isn’t obvious. For non local government enthusiasts, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) is an agency staffed by appointees of the Governor of Texas charged with finding “innovative, multi-modal transportation solutions that reduce congestion and create transportation choices that enhance quality of life and economic vitality”. They have the power to issue bonds, and are overseeing some of the toll road projects around the Austin area.
The CTRMA Board “gushed” over a proposal for gondolas in Austin recently by Jared Ficklin, a self described “creative technologist and futurist” with what appears to be zero expertise or qualifications in transportation planning. The online home for the project appears to be a Facebook page, but that’s enough for CTRMA Deputy Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein to say he would bring an item forward to fund a viability study.
Even Ficklin himself says that the line could cost over $500 million to construct and carry 13,342 passengers per day at best, which is far below the 38,000 riders estimated for the far cheaper light rail line on Lamar.
Also, ya know, gondolas aren’t a real form of mass transportation anywhere. They are typically used to cross difficult natural boundaries like mountains or water that are difficult with traditional rail. But even what is likely the most successful aerial tram system in the world in La Paz, Bolivia only carries 18,000 people per hour maximum. It’s also very expensive for riders. On the other hand, a single subway line in New York can carry up to 60,000 people per hour in each direction. The capacity of a subway system dwarfs anything that could possibly be achieved by small gondola cars running on wires.
La Paz is a heavily mountainous city with lots of winding roads. They have a good reason to build a tram system. Austin doesn’t, and the CTRMA is wasting time and money listening to what sounds more like bad TED talk than a realistic transportation option for the Austin region.