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Surprising Science

Commuting By Aerial Gondola

Transit projects — none of which is at a resort — are in various stages of completion worldwide. In the US, designers from one company will soon meet with Austin city officials.

What’s the Latest Development?

Designers at the Austin-based company Frog Design are about to present to city officials their proposal for a public transit system that involves the use of aerial gondolas similar to those found at ski resorts. Like those transportation systems, moving cables would be used to propel the gondolas across town. Unlike them, the gondolas only need to hover a few feet above traffic. Designer Michael McDaniel says “The Wire” can be implemented for a fraction of the cost of a light-rail system: “You’re not looking at eminent domain or rights of way, and you’re not disrupting local businesses or cutting out vehicular traffic.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Moving gondolas from the mountains to urban areas isn’t new. Colombia, Venezuela and Vietnam already have these systems, and more are planned in other countries, according to The Gondola Project, which calls itself “an urban application designed to increase knowledge about Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) and achieve uptake of the technology in the urban environment.” Frog Design’s system would offer detachable cars that could be added during busy travel periods, as well as both elevated and ground-level stops, among other features.

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