A transit solution in the sky

Since we won’t build rail transit investments where they are really needed, and we can’t even study better bus service because we might build slower streetcars, we have to get creative if we want transit improvements in Minneapolis’ densest and least car-dependent neighborhoods.

Enter 32 Magazine and Frog Design, with the urban gondola.  32 Magazine includes urban gondolas as idea #5 on their list of “22 Bold & Fun Ideas to Make the Twin Cities Even Better”.

Why should we consider adding them to our transit mix?  Because not only do we urgently need to develop a way for people to get around without cars, but we also need to create landmarks that make it easier for residents to identify with their city.

Frog Designs claims this system could be built for $3 million per mile.  That’s $2 million per mile cheaper than arterial bus rapid transit on Hennepin and way cheaper than LRT (SW comes in at $83 million per mile).  Frog Designs also says the gondola could handle 10,000 people per hour, which is what Hennepin BRT is expected to carry each weekday, so capacity is no sweat.

Portland Aerial tram by flickr user compujeramey

The case history on US urban gondolas doesn’t look good cost-wise, but the travel time savings look great.  The Portland Aerial Tram, which could also be called an urban gondola (if you consider low-slung Portland urban), cost $57 million, or roughly $90 million per mile, if I calculated the hypotenuse correctly.  The Portland Aerial Tram travels at a top speed of 22 mph, which could make an Uptown Transit Station to Hennepin-8th Street trip in 6.5 minutes.  That’s about one-third the posted travel time for the #6 bus, and less than half the travel time of the limited-stop #12.  6 minutes is even less than half the travel time identified by Metro Transit for an upgraded arterial BRT on Hennepin.

The only other “commuter aerial tramway” in the US (according to the unassailable Wikipedia) is the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which spans the East River.  The Roosevelt Island Tramway actually carries quite a few people, with at least 15 minutes headways until 2:30 in the morning.  While not operated as part of the rest of the transit system, you can use a MetroCard. The tram’s route is 3,100 feet or 0.58 miles.  According to this website and others, the Tram cost $5 million when it was constructed in 1976.  That’s about $20 million in 2011 dollars, or $34 million per mile.  At 17.9 mph, a Roosevelt Island Tram-equivalent could make an Uptown Transit Station to Hennepin-8th Street trip in roughly 8 minutes.  That’s less than half of the #6 bus, and half of the #12.

But surely there would be economies of scale for our 4 mile Hennepin Transit Center-to-downtown-to-West Bank gondola.  Both the Portland and New York examples are very short runs, and I assume a large portion of the cost is in the motors and other mechanicals to make the wires move.  I assume tramways also have low personnel costs, as they have no drivers, so that would be a savings over buses and trains.

The Roosevelt Island Tram flying high above traffic. By flickr user nyer82.


I’m assuming a non-stop ride between three major destinations (that are each only 2 miles apart, mind you), so if you wanted extra stops cost would go up and travel times down.  There is no way tramways could be cost-effective if they stopped as much as buses.  You’d have to keep local bus service, but perhaps you could eliminate the 12.  If another tram stops are needed, I propose Franklin/Hennepin.  Here’s my Minneapolis aerial tram/urban gondola master plan, with a few extra stops.

View Twin Cities Urban Gondola in a larger map

Other downsides to urban gondolas?  They are in the sky, as are the towers, which some people will complain about, but which I think of as much less ugly than elevated trains for example (although I don’t really mind those that much either).  They could fall, but assumedly there are safety precautions in place currently.  Tower footprints require space, but then again, so do actual transit stations for buses or trains.  They would need to be well heated for the Minnesota winter, and air quality high above Hennepin Avenue might not be great, so some sort of air filtration system might be in order.

While probably more expensive than enhanced bus service, gondolas are cheaper than LRT and probably cheaper than streetcar per mile.  If they were configured as true express service, they would be quite a bit faster than all three.

Will we build them?  Probably not, they are too whacky for us Minnesotans, and are probably more expensive than I, or Frog Designs, anticipate.  Plus I’ve never heard anyone say gondolas spur economic development, which is a necessity for any modern transit project to gain traction with politicians.  But I still yearn for a quick way to get between Downtown and Uptown, you say.  Well, you can always ride a bike.

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52 Responses to A transit solution in the sky

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke February 7, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    It’s a well known fact that gondolas spur economic development. (There, now you’ve heard it.)

    Also, there is another gondola example to draw on. The MN State Fair skyride: http://bit.ly/11PfSIl

    My question is about station loading, and how that would change travel time, etc. That seems to me the main time delay in the gondola situation. How many station stops would you have, how long might it take to load / unload at each stop. Not sure of the engineering challenges involved, but every gondola I’ve been on (including non-urban Portland) seems to have a delay at those points.

    • Jeb February 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      My other fear would be time to transfer between modes. Buses can be more easily boarded, with less time spent transferring if properly implemented. A gondola system (with all that entails) would require going up at least one “level”, if not two or three. Also, how would it work with the skyway system? (Frankly, if it’s not serving downtown Minneapolis well, it won’t be a practical idea.)

      Also, how well can luggage and such be brought onto these? One of the benefits of light rail is the ability to easily bring your luggage on, and even buses aren’t that hard to bring luggage onto. Based on my gondola experiences, luggage would be much harder to bring onboard.

    • Nathanael February 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      Gondolas have serious trouble with mid-line stops. This is why they’re mostly used for point-to-point applications. There’s some with mid-line stops going up hills somewhere in South America (I forget where); they’re fairly low capacity.

  2. Janne February 7, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Feel free to strike those air quality concerns. Air quality rapidly improves as you move away from a street — up as well as out. The gondola air quality would be some of the best in the entire City.

  3. David Levinson
    David Levinson February 7, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    The most obvious use of an Aerial Tramway in my mind is to connect the Academic Health Center on the East Bank of the Mississippi River on the University of Minnesota campus with the University of Minnesota Riverside complex on the West Bank. It’s one hospital system, separated by a river, with the nearest crossings (Washington Ave or I-94 or Franklin Ave) not terribly convenient.

    Not entirely facetiously, I agree with Bill, the Economic Development potential is enormous. Roosevelt Island would not be populated but for the connection.

    Entirely facetiously, If we really wanted to be ambitious, this technology could be used in place of the proposed Zip rail, to tie the Mayo Clinic to the Airport. This would be a truer Zip line.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt February 7, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      Not to be facetious, does the current ZipRail proposal still terminate at MSP airport instead of one of the downtowns? I had hoped that idea was left in the previous decade alongside the old MnDOT HSR study for the corridor.

      • Jeb February 7, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

        Is the idea really that bad? It still wouldn’t be that hard to access either downtown (especially if the 54 line can be improved beyond a simple limited bus service,) especially if it was brought right into the airport, much like light rail is. I remember seeing an article here (but can’t find it) about the problems of getting to the airport, though.

        Frankly, the airport is probably a bigger market than either downtown is for the traveler to/from Rochester. It could also help reduce the need for a Rochester airport (and the extra expense there) if people could easily fly into MSP and take rail from there. (I know people who fly Delta out of Rochester, which means that short flight from MSP to Rochester that really would be better done by other means.)

  4. Daniel February 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    I’ve long thought a tram/gondola would work well in Duluth considering it’s topography. It could connect UMD with downtown with one stop at the new student village they want to build by the armory on East Superior Street.

    The view would be so incredible, I would expect long lines of tourists pleasure-riding in the summer.

  5. David Greene February 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Oh God.

    This is ridiculous.

    Ri. di. cu. lous.

    First off, Southwest LRT is going *exactly* where it needs to go. People have repeatedly explained why yet some refuse to listen.

    Uptown is getting plenty of reasonable transit improvements. Spending an extra $300 million to route LRT where it’s not needed is not one of them.

    I hope the rest of this article is a joke. People have been proposing crazy transit ideas for decades in order to stop progress on real solutions. Look who has been behind the push for PRT. These people don’t want transit. They want delays and flushing of dolars down toilets so they can prevent buildout of a system that would actually work.

    Eyes on the prize, folks. We’re building rail and bus, which is what we need. We don’t need pointless diversions into fantasies.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt February 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Unfortunately the locally preferred alternative stopped progress on a real solution to Uptown, a node with extremely high transit demand and also a regional destination. The point is that we’re neglecting the level of service warranted by transit demand in Uptown, so what’s plan B?

      Seems like gondolas are worth exploring, in addition to streetcars or (my wish) grade separated LRT/heavy rail between Uptown and Downtown.

      • David Greene February 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

        You want to spend $300 million EXTRA dollars for an LRT that’s unnecessary? We can use that money for better things. Uptown has lots of transit. It will be getting more in the form of aBRT and streetcars. No one is going to transfer from a bus to LRT for the 10 blocks it takes to get downtown.

        On the other hand, North Minneapolis desperately needs upgraded transit to the southwest suburbs. Not coincidentally, that’s what the LPA provides.

        Uptown is not neglected. Honestly, it’s getting extremely frustrating trying to explain this to residents without having to break it down into baby steps. Let’s just say that LRT to Uptown would not only be a tremendous waste of transit dollars, it would be about the most racially inequitable thing we could do.

        The studies were done on this. They’re pretty convincing.

        And no, there is no way that gondolas make any sense whatsoever.

        • Brendon Slotterback
          Brendon Slotterback February 8, 2013 at 7:19 am #

          No doubt North Minneapolis needs better transit service. But an Uptown alignment would provide people access to jobs not just in the SW metro but all the jobs right in Minneapolis. Here is a map showing where transit-dependent communities live compared to the alignments: http://netdensity.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/SW_LRT_No_Car.pdf

          “Studies” that were done show equal boardings in Uptown and at stations in a railroad trench that are virtually inaccessible. Hardly convincing.

          Please don’t worry, I won’t be going to legislature any time soon to promote gondolas in Uptown or anywhere else.

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke February 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

            Any study that says ridership will be equal going through uptown vs. the middle of residential nowhere is ridiculous on its face. Things like that throw the whole planning profession into clownland.

          • Matt Steele
            Matt February 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

            Yep. How many boardings did they claim for 21st Street station? More than 100/day? It’s a shame so much infrastructure capital gets thrown at studies that obviously have no credibility. I’d rather see that money go to engineering, amenities, transit vehicles, etc.

            What’s the marginal increase in North Mpls residents who would have access to a one transfer transit journey to LRT stops in the southwest metro? 0. No difference between transferring at Interchange or Nicollet Mall vs transferring via crosstown buses at Penn or Van White stations. And any time savings by not going downtown is destroyed by the necessity of lower frequencies for these crosstown routes down Penn or Van White, since they will necessarily compete with and dilute existing service that heads downtown.

            And how many residents of North Mpls can walk to stations on the green line? Zero.

          • David Greene February 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

            Those maps don’t necessarily show transit dependence. A lot of those households are choice transit riders.

            And one has to look at where we most need the investment. It’s not Uptown, which has plenty of service already. It’s in the historically poor and disadvantaged communities where we need to upgrade service.

            You may not go to the legislature, but some of us do to, you know, actually get the money to build a system. It’s is extremely frustrating to have these kinds of things proposed, especially during session. It’s just a huge distraction and an excuse for those on the fence to close the purse.

            No, no legislator is going to look at this article and change his or her mind. But it does contribute to the seeds of doubt planted by others.

        • Alex Cecchini
          Alex February 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm #


          Matt has it right below. Claiming that Uptown already has *enough* transit ignores the development that is already going in, increasing population, jobs, and destinations in that area. This is the one area of the Green line that would have made sense – increasing transit capacity in an area that needs it.

          You’re not wrong for stating N Mpls needs service, but stating that the Green Line alignment through a trench of rails, freeway, forest, and (relatively for the area) low density housing is a good idea is flat out wrong. The Van White station proposal is very car dependent and hasn’t been realized. The vast # of apartments, homes, businesses along Lake, Lyndale, Nicollet already exist and are growing. And a person riding a future BRT/LRT from N Mpls to downtown, transferring to a 3C alignment Green Line takes no less time than the LPA alignment.

          But seriously, Gondolas?

          • Jeb February 8, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

            My understanding is that the bigger problem was that it would make it too long time-wise for through commuters for the diversion to be practical. I could be wrong, though. In any case, Uptown does need better transit, and a short extension on some LRT line may make the most sense. (Perhaps, if the money is there, doing some sort of “express” service that would make up the time during rush hours? In reality, it may simply be better for those commuters to use express bus service, which should be kept during rush hours if their time is shorter than LRT.)

          • David Greene February 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

            How is the Van White plan car-dependent? Have you seen the rederings? There’s barely enough room for a road.

            Van White is key to the Basset Creek Valley Master Plan. That’s an exciting vision we need to have implemented if we’re to grow the city. There’s tons of prime real estate just waiting to be put on the tax rolls right on the Green Line.

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex February 9, 2013 at 10:25 am #


            We’re talking about the same plan, here http://www.southwesttransitway.org/station-area-planning.html right? The one that even states “This industrial character and vehicle-focused land uses acts as a psychological barrier for pedestrians and cyclists, as well. This group of users, likely to desire station ac- cess from the neighborhood west of the station, must also overcome the significant physical barrier of the freight rail line.” and that a top issue is that “Ridership depends on redevelopment” ??

            There is not a residence within a quarter mile of the station. About a quarter of the proposed development space is parking (pg 50). Who exactly would be walking there? If we’re building a LRT station and surrounding development that requires people to arrive only by car or the LRT itself then we’re entirely missing the mark.

            If all that land in the Basset Creek Valley plan is so valuable, why isn’t anyone developing right now? It can’t possibly require the full investment of a light rail system to become valuable enough to redevelop.

            Let’s be honest when we say that the real, true reason the SWLRT went the way it did was to increase total travel speed for the suburban commuters. Any possible benefits for N Mpls residents for the LPA route are marginal compared to the alternative of a SWLRT running through Uptown but still hitting downtown.

          • David Greene February 9, 2013 at 11:47 am #

            Alex, no, I am NOT talking about the Van White station area plan. I am talking about the *actual plan* put forward by Ryan Companies. Station area planning done by the city and county is almost entirely speculative. I’m talking about the real deal.

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex February 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

            Is the Ryan Companies’ plan for the area any more concrete or less speculative? Are there homes, businesses, etc in the area now or not? Even if the Ryan plan (which I can’t find anywhere) isn’t speculative, it still doesn’t address the other issues myself, Matt, and others have laid out regarding the folly of the location in the first place.

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke February 10, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

            I’d suggest listening to a podcast I did a while back with a Golden Valley City Councilmember, particularly her descriptions about how the route choice discussions and public meetings occurred: https://streets.mn/2012/11/13/podcast-15-talking-bottineau-light-rail-and-golden-valley-with-paula-pentel/

            It’s just one opinion, but helps to understand how the political considerations were weighed against ridership and development issues in ways that excluded certain options almost immediately. This was about Bottineau, but I’d bet that the same kinds of calculations and processes were at work in the route decision.

        • Jeb February 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

          Not-facetious question: wouldn’t a Blue Line extension through North Minneapolis (versus the Golden Valley alignment) do a much better job of serving North Minneapolis? I can certainly see the time argument, but I’m starting to wonder if many people, especially outside of rush hour, wouldn’t rather have a couple extra minutes to downtown if it meant being able to go through Uptown (and perhaps go there instead of downtown, which often seems desolate in comparison after normal business hours.)

          LRT shouldn’t be seen as speed alone. (In fact, the 54 actually has a slightly faster trip time from the airport to MOA.) Instead, they should be seen as a relatively fast solution that connects many transit destinations. Uptown would be a very nice addition, and probably better in terms of transit usage than using an old railroad corridor.

          • David Greene February 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

            The blue line doesn’t get people to jobs in Eden Prairie.

          • Matt Steele
            Matt February 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

            The green line as proposed won’t even serve North Minneapolis. It’s at least a half mile walk from Penn or Van White to any housing in North Minneapolis. Remember, Bryn Mawr is not in the north community.

            It seems unfortunate that you want to force transit dependent north siders to transfer to/from buses to reach jobs in Eden Prairie, rather than transferring from LRT to LRT. Your plan would perpetuate inequality.

            • Jeb February 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

              Except I don’t believe that’s what I was proposing. I was proposing using the Green Line through Uptown, and then the Blue Line would take the North Minneapolis alignment. They’d transfer from LRT to either LRT or express bus (depending on their preference and options available) to get to jobs in Eden Prairie.

              Furthermore, what’s particularly wrong about having a bus, if an LRT line can’t be supported through that section? (It probably should go there, as the ridership is probably stronger there than through Golden Valley, but I’m not an expert on that landscape.) Plus, if push came to shove and our options were weak LRT connections (such as the proposed Green Line routing) or strong bus connections, I’d take strong bus connections any day of the week.

            • David Greene February 11, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

              First, Bryn Mawr (at least half of it anyway) *is* in North Minneapolis, whether residents want to think so or not.

              Second, have you no vision for economic development around Penn and Van White. That’s unfortunately because lots of us do.

              Third, Penn and Van White, as criticlally important as they are, are not the only stations in North Minneapolis.

              Don’t talk to me about “forcing” Northsiders to do anything. I’m advocating for what they want. Those neighborhoods have stated their desire for the Southwest line over and over and over. I’m not deciding what’s best for them, they are. They don’t need a white Uptown liberal telling them what’s best for them.

              • David Greene February 11, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

                Before anyone misreads my intent, that white Uptown liberal I’m talking about is me.

      • Jeb February 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

        LRT is suited for much longer distances than Uptown to Downtown. I also dislike streetcars, because they’re much more inflexible than a bus and are not grade-separated. Their only real practical use is the (rare) occurrence where more capacity is needed but speed (and stops) should not be sacrificed. Uptown to Downtown (along with every other streetcar line that I’ve seen proposed, at least in the Twin Cites) does not meet that criteria. (We’ve got to be at a level where there’s close to full buses every 5 minutes, at least, in order for me to think that streetcars could be most efficient.)

        The problem is that there’s not a ton of places with LRT-level demand on that corridor (or on any reasonable corridor that would go through it, based on the studies.) Arterial Bus Transit is probably best for this route.

        • Matt Steele
          Matt February 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

          LRT is suited to connect a string of dense, walkable, transit friendly nodes at high speed and with high capacity. I don’t think distance has much to do with it. The reason why you see long distance LRT lines down old rail/highway corridors to suburban park and rides is because the FTA CEI favored trip time reduction which favored (or still favors) long distance suburban commutes at the expense of the nodes that LRT would actually serve well. All over America, LRT has become the stroad of transit.

          To the second point, LRT should not serve a corridor such as a bus or a streetcar would. It should serve a string of nodes. This is also a case for grade separation, and we had an opportunity to do that with Southwest. And the nodes at Henn-Lake, Lyn-Lake, and Nic-Lake are worthwhile nodes to connect to such high speed high capacity transit headed downtown and beyond.

          Now that we’ve lost our chance to properly use Southwest to connect regional destinations and dense nodes in its path, we need to look at other plans. Arterial bus would be fine, but I think traffic would be the biggest holdup during peak periods… and I can’t imagine the 6 getting dedicated lanes. Short of a gondola, removing traffic from most of Hennepin would allow for great sidewalk and shared public space and dedicated transit ROW between downtown and Uptown.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke February 8, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

          I have so many nice memories of taking streetcars in Europe, San Francisco, New Orleans and Portland. I don’t get why so many people are against them, maybe because they are occasionally built to service very slow speeds. It doesn’t have to be that way…

          • Jeb February 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

            The problem with streetcars is that they’re usually not grade-separated and have the same traffic problems buses encounter. Furthermore, they can’t navigate around potential traffic issues if they crop up, whereas buses can. Thus, they don’t gain any large advantages, from a practical standpoint, than having strong bus service, except for capacity.

            They may be great as tourist attractions or “tourist” transportation, but if we’re making lines primarily for tourist use, I’m worried. Especially if that line we’re looking at is one that many residents would use. In order for transit to be useful, it needs to value people’s time, and streetcars as they’re normally set up do not do that as well as other modes available to us (LRT, aBRT, dedicated lanes, etc.) If we close Hennepin down to car use, then I could see the use of streetcars or LRT (since they are typically friendlier than buses to pure pedestrian corridors, simply due to the lack of immediate-area pollution.) But until that becomes more than a thought experiment here (and is brought into mainstream discussion,) our solution must look at the environment we’re given. And streetcars do not fit that as well as other modes.

          • Nathanael February 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

            Exclusive ROW / dedicated lanes solves all the “problems” with streetcars.

            • Jeb February 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

              And then what’s the advantage of streetcar technology over a short LRT line? BRT? I’m still not “sold” on streetcar technology. Once you get to the point where you’re making a dedicated lane, it makes sense to investigate the right technology for the line, which may very well be something other than streetcar technology.

              • songosorongo February 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

                One advantage is no potholes and everything that implies. Bogota has maybe the most extensive BRT system and it is riddled with potholes because of the weight of the buses. I imagine it would be even worse in MN with the winters.

                • Jeb February 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

                  That sounds more like poor maintenance than anything else. If proper maintenance is more expensive for BRT than streetcar technology (by at least a somewhat significant amount), then streetcars could be better there. It has to be a fairly significant amount, though, because streetcar technology would require a whole new set of maintenance employees trained separately, whereas BRT would allow the same bus mechanics to service both types of buses with a minimal level of re-training.

                  However, if you’re doing streetcar technology on a dedicated lane, why not do LRT? (If you allow pedestrians to use the area when streetcars aren’t going through, you lose most of the speed benefit of streetcars, and now you’re back to square one. Also a problem with BRT, though.)

      • Janne February 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

        Ri. di. cu. lous? Sure. But come on, this is tongue in cheek. But a great blog post.

        As a car-free Uptown resident, current Uptown/Downtown transit options are frequent, but re. di. cu. lous. ly slow. For me and the thousands of other Uptowners trying to get places.

        You make a good point — people aren’t likely to transfer from one mode to another. But as I mentioned, a heck of a lot of us are already in Uptown.

        Maybe you’d prefer making Hennepin from Douglas to Lake bus/bike only, and get rid of the cars. That isn’t as ridiculous as the gondola, and would have massive positive spill-over effects. We’d have space for sidewalks, and trees, and sidewalk cafes in the shade of the trees. Transit speeds would be dramatically improved. The walk would be more pleasant walk and it would be possible to cross the street. Heck, the street might even feel safe for the bike riders — freeing up more sidewalk space for the pedestrians and sidewalk cafes.

    • David Greene February 8, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      Since apparently the Reply button goes missing after a few levels, I’ll try to repond to multiple posts.

      Bill, you are taking the conspiracy theory route. I’ll just note this. The single most powerful transportation person in Minnesota looked at these studies, which suggested routing SW LRT away from his district. He fully endorsed the findings.

      Matt, have you even been to North Minneapolis. To say that no one in North will be able to walk to SW LRT is just flat out wrong. Moreover, we don’t require all users of LRT to walk to stations. Why are you putting extra requirements on North getting some decent transit? I mean this in the most loving way possible — please reflect on where that’s coming from.

      The proposed Greenway streetcar should be a high-frequency, high-capacity connector to routes downtown. It will connect to several arterial BRT routes and two LRT lines.

      Alex, I don’t believe I said Uptown has enough transit. In fact I noted that substantial improvements are in the pipeline. What I said is that Uptown doesn’t need LRT and that’s true. It’s the completely wrong technology for the area. Talk to any of the transportation planners in Ramsey or Hennepin counties and they will tell you we have a limited number of corridors where LRT can work due to right-of-way issues.

      Janne, I think arterial BRT could be very nice on Hennepin. I need to see more details to be fully convinced but what I’ve seen so far sounds good.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex February 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

        Actually, over on Minnpost your exact words were “Uptown will get a Greenway streetcar and nice arterial BRT on Hennepin. That’s enough investment for a set of quite privileged neighborhoods.” and “Oh yes, by all means send the LRT through Uptown which ALREADY has some of the best transit service in the entire metro.”

        Matt’s point is most eloquently put: “LRT is suited to connect a string of dense, walkable, transit friendly nodes at high speed and with high capacity.” The point is not that LRT is the solution to bring people from Uptown to Downtown. The point is that, if we’re assuming a LRT from the SW suburbs to downtown is a good idea (in lieu of the numerous other productive transit projects we COULD be doing), then Uptown is the right choice. It connects people, commerce, retail, and jobs in a high density area (Uptown) to other high density nodes. They would THEN use other current and future transit (like Greenway streetcar) to connect to other destinations too far to walk.

        The routing up Kenilworth ignores the existing public and private infrastructure that already exists and offers barely faster connection for the people in N Mpls looking to go to the SW nodes.

        • David Greene February 11, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

          Is Uptown the right choice if it costs $300 million more than Kenilworth? We could build several streetcar lines for that money.

          I reject the notion that LRT is *only* to connect higher-density nodes. We have a serious transportation equity problem in this state and we have to correct it. If that means putting more money into places that need it, so be it.

          I for one am very excited to see the BCV Master Plan developed. That’s a whole lot of land suddenly put on the tax rolls.

          There is no way anyone can convince me that spending that kind of money to further increase racial inequity in our state is a good idea.

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex February 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

            Assuming the capital costs are correct and all inclusive (they aren’t – http://netdensity.net/2011/02/20/1645/ shows at least one example, there are more), my answer would still be yes – how much money for infrastructure, subsidies to developers, etc would be spent on the the Kenilworth alignment to make the station areas close to comparable with Uptown routing, which already has all said infrastructure in place? What about net operating costs being lower due to a lower ridership rate for the Kenilworth line?

            I also have not seen a response from you on how a SW line with a station at the Interchange (running through Uptown) is any less equitable for residents of North than a SW line running through Kenilworth? Those residents you cite will need to transfer from a streetcar/BRT/Blue Line LRT to the SW ANYWAY. The 3-C2 would run through the Royalston station but miss VW, Penn, and 21st St. Are the areas you refer to in most desperate need going to transfer at one of those 3 stations or more likely utilize the Interchange transfer? In fact, the very study you cite (alignment comparison) shows the number of reverse commuters for the 3-C2 to be higher than the 3-A (by very little).

            Also, as far as racial and class inequity goes, the 21st and Penn stations would serve a much higher income and higher % white population than a 28th St and Franklin stop would. I’m not arguing that the people of North don’t need better transit, and possibly transit options to get to SW metro – they do (if that’s the best route rather than improving housing affordability near the places of work or encouraging more companies to locate in N Mpls). I’m just still confused how the Kenilworth trail does it better. On the MinnPost disc board you talked about waiting for jobs/econ dev is not enough, the residents of North need it NOW. Well, right NOW there are jobs and housing in Uptown that N Mpls residents could access along the way to the SW burbs. They don’t need to be built up or encouraged or subsidized around some station. They’re already there.

            • David Greene February 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

              An Uptown routine is less equitable because of the lost opportunity of bringing economic development (read: jobs) to the North side. It would also force a longer trip for Northsiders though I am generally less concerned about that.

              You talk about locating companies in N. Minneapolis and that absolutely has to happen. The BCV Master Plan is one piece of that puzzle. It’s not the only piece but it’s an important one.

              As for the 21st St. station, I don’t particularly care whether it’s there or not. If projections show good ridership, then why not. We do want to get cars off the roads after all.

              A Penn station would serve more than just the houses around Bryn Mawr meadows. It is also a key development generator.

              You make a good point about Uptown jobs. I don’t think we should pick one or the other. Northsiders have good job skills matchups with employers in the SW suburbs. Northsiders also need much better connections downtown. The Glenwood bus runs too infrequently, for example. With well-done aBRT from Uptown to Downtown we could provide the job access to Uptown that you and I agree would be very helpful.

              Hell, if I had my way we’d take the opportunity to extend Penn Ave. across the whole valley and provide another north-south connection. A half-built Van White Blvd. isn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

        • Nathanael February 11, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

          The Greenway streetcar would be the first steps of creating a *network* of urban rail, rather than just a couple of lines. If someone has the sense to actually build it ASAP (should’ve been done 20 years ago)… you’ll find lots and lots of people changing trains at Hiawatha & Midtown Greenway and at SW Corridor & Midtown Greenway, *rather than taking the direct buses*.

    • David Greene February 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

      As for the 21st street station, one might be interested to know that that rail corridor exists partially because it once served as a commuter line.

      With a stop at 21st St.

      • Katie Eggers February 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

        I am a little late to the discussion, but very impressed by the knowledge and passion I find here.

        As the editor of thirty two, I just wanted to clarify that our intention was not to propose a serious transit alternative, but simply to toy with some ideas of how the Twin Cities could be a more fun and unique place to live. An urban gondola that would connect Uptown, Downtown and Northeast would tie together three main entertainment districts, serving not only residents but also providing visitors with a real destination, while adding some much needed vibrancy to the core of our city.

        Personally, I’d re-purpose some of the money that we waste on regional marketing. I’d rather see money spent on actual projects that really define the DNA of the city and the way we live our everyday lives, than see tourism boards spend millions of dollars a year desperately promoting the Mall of America and the Twins stadium to the rest of the world. In this context, I consider the proposal of urban gondolas a placeholder for the kind of ideas that would really make a difference and reinvigorate our urban sense of place here in the Twin Cities. Now, the question is, what will they be?

        • David Greene February 15, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

          But that’s just it. You’re seeing passion here because we *already know* how to do exactly what you’re saying.

          A real transit system is a game-changer. We really, really, really don’t need fancy gimmicks and unique never-before-seen solutions. We just need excellent transit opening up opportunity and accessibility to many, many, many, many more people than have it now via the transit system.

          The way to invigorate urban living is to make it easier for people to live in urban areas. Transportation is a huge part of that.

  6. Reuben Collins
    Reuben Collins February 7, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    I don’t actually think the idea of urban gondolas are ridiculous at all. I don’t know that I’ll be the one championing the idea any time soon, but if the movement picked up steam, I would surely not attempt to stop it. I find them to be relatively attractive, distinctive, and much less visually imposing than an elevated transitway on a concrete/steel structure of some sort. If they can move equivalent numbers of people for less cost, I have no objections. Vertical circulation and baggage issues can be resolved.

    • Nathanael February 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      The problem of midline stops can’t be resolved. This is what has prevented widespread adoption of gondolas.

  7. Andy February 9, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    Looks like Brendon & 32 Mag are not the only people thinking about gondolas these days. Check out the rendering on page 30 of the Hennepin Avenue Cultural District plan:


    New potential station in the Downtown Minneapolis post office?

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