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Bikes should fit on the proposed downtown gondola, would you use it?

change-1Imagine a gondola from the waterfront to the convention center with a stop at Pike Place Market. Now imagine that you can bring your bike on board. Would you use it?

That’s the plan that Pier 57 and Waterfront Ferris Wheel owner Hal Griffith announced Tuesday. The privately-funded gondola is designed to increase access to the remade waterfront, and is scheduled to open shortly after the viaduct is torn down.

The gondola would run along Union Street, suspended well above the trolleybus wires. Ticket prices have not been set, but the Seattle PI reports they could end up around $5.

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changeSeattle Met tweeted that the gondola should not only take bikes, but planners are already thinking about how it could integrate with bike share:


More details from Publicola/Seattle Met:

• Where: The gondola would run from Freeway Park next to the Convention Center down to the waterfront, staying above Union Street. A midway station would sit between First and Second Avenues on Union, which would have to narrow from three to two lanes of traffic to accommodate the station.

• What it looks like: Eight towers would support the cable and cars, each shaped like a whalebone and taking up only three feet square on the sidewalk. The cars would travel about 40 to 50 feet above traffic, and well above the cables used by city buses.

• Who the heck is paying for it: The entire enterprise, which will cost “tens of millions of dollars,” according to Griffith, is privately funded. No taxpayer money will be used, says the elder Griffith, “and by being privately funded, there’s a strong possibility it will happen.”

Read more…

Of course, from a biking perspective, this is hardly the most difficult-to-travel corridor in Seattle or even the city center. Especially once the waterfront redesign connects to Pike Place Market with a gradual, ADA-compliant pathway, bike access to downtown and the Pike-Pine corridor should be greatly enhanced compared to today.

Speaking of the waterfront, there will be events all week starting today to get updated looks at plans.

Concept image from Waterfront Seattle

A primary driving force behind the gondola appears to be fears of losing all the car parking from under the viaduct. Since there is a lot of unused car parking near the convention center (especially during off hours), the gondola could be a way to increase car access to the waterfront without building any new parking.

So I ask you: Would you use the Union Street Gondola?

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31 responses to “Bikes should fit on the proposed downtown gondola, would you use it?”

  1. Zach

    I’m not sure I would use this if I’m on a bike already — there’s a parking garage that has entrances on both Alaskan Way and Pike Place, and the nice, gradual incline makes for an easily bikeable transition from the waterfront to downtown. That being said, adding another transportation option that could accommodate bikes, does not occupy street space, and costs nothing to taxpayers seems like a clear win.

    1. Gary

      Hmmm… never thought of riding up the ramps in the parking garage!… But in general those have terrible sightlines even if the cars are traveling slowly

      1. There are two elevators inside that parking garage that top out at the skybridge into the Market. Think of them as “vertical gondolas.” ;)

      2. Kirk

        There are two other elevators located right on the waterfront trail, one at Bell Harbor, the other south of the Marriott. These come in handy if you get “trained”. Otherwise I have found Western to be solid up to Pike Place from either end.

  2. I don’t think I would be using it for biking. Since I don’t really have a reason to go that way on my bike at the moment. I could see it being an asset to those that have a use for it. I would probably use it when I get off the ferry and don’t feel like walking up the hill to catch a bus home.

  3. Matthew Snyder

    I’m not sure I understand how this would help redistribute bike share bikes. Am I missing something? For cost-effective rebalancing, you want to move multiple bikes uphill all at once, not just one at a time, right? So somehow you need to get multiple bikes onto the gondola, which seems to suggest that you need multiple people involved (to get them from the docking station to the gondola), or you need a truck. If you have a truck already, why not just skip the gondola and drive them up to the convention center? And if you have multiple employees involved, is there really any cost savings to be achieved?

    Anyway, I still think that a bike share pricing model should incentivize users to return bikes at higher elevation than where they rented them.

  4. I honestly don’t think I would use it. It is a pain in general to take a regular bike on the Light Rail. People get mad when you stand with the bike or worse it is packed and then you don’t want to feel like a total nerd. Then if you have a cargo bike it makes life even worse. The only comments are from passengers who insist on standing at the door despite loads of empty seats. I have never had a fair inspector or someone from Sound Transit get upset. Also, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone with a bike on the S.L.U.T. but maybe once it makes it way to Capitol Hill you will see more of that. Unless they plan to make a real designated space for the bike then maybe I would consider it. The Light Rail cars could have been designed better to accommodate the luggage from airport travelers and bikes.

    1. Gary

      You don’t see bikes on the SLUT because it takes less time to ride the distance on a bike than it does to ride the SLUT.

    2. Aili L

      I’ve taken my bike on several times. Both due to significant bike part failures that needed attention either at a shop or at home. Best way to travel was via SLUT.

  5. biliruben

    If it was priced under $5, I’d probably use it, though not regularly. My boy would love it, so it would be more a touristy thing than a regular commute thing.

    If it got more than $5, then it would psychologically be difficult to trade a pint for a ride. The cost of a beer is how I measure all things. I’d probably chug up and reward myself with an IPA at six arms.

    Walking, that’s a whole different kettle of carp. 5 minutes would certainly be worth it. Aquarium to transit tunnel would be huge.

  6. Brian

    Having sat in an eight-person gun-dohla before, I doubt this thing would be capable of carrying a bike inside, and it’s probably not feasible to carry them on the exterior. Come to think of it, I think this idea is pretty dumb in general, but if these guys want to pay for it privately let ’em.

    Personally I’d rather see a streetcar line run from the waterfront up to pike/pine and then continue north on like 15th or 12th and connect to the U-district light rail.

      1. Allan

        Just imagine if something fell off the bike. You cannot put it on the outside and travel over people.

  7. I think with the ferris wheel we’re all set for hot boxing stations. Why else would you use the gondola if you have functional legs?

    1. Charles B

      How about convention goers who have been on their feet all day? This would be a dinner/lunch escape for them down to the waterfront. Its pretty clear to me that this is mostly for convention goers and tourists, but since its private money, I don’t really object to it.

      Its going to be like the monorail. Another touristy decoration for downtown. On the plus side though, this one could actually connect well to other transit modes tourists would use.

  8. G

    $5? That’s expensive for such a short trip. I do think it would be great to have an easy way for tourists on bikes coming from the waterfront access Pike Place Market and the Convention Center. Currently you can do it via a short jaunt on Western and the elevator. I’m curious if the new design will make that user experience better.

  9. Matt

    Seattle has to be one of the hilliest cities in the country, if not the world. Why don’t we fully incorporate a gondola system into our public transit system versus just creating another worthless monorail. I’m all about this project except for the idea of it connecting to the Convention Center as if that’s an easy place to get to by bikes or public transit. It makes it sound like this is just a fancy elevator in a parking garage. Have this connect to Capitol Hill somehow. It’s the most densely populated neighborhood in the city,the hardest to reach by bike or car if you don’t live in the neighborhood, and a destination for most residents. Have it also go to the top of Queen Anne Hill, Lake Washington Blvd, or endless other places that would be more useful in solving our transit woes than having it connect to the convention center.

    1. Gary

      Because monorails aren’t ‘worthless’….

      This thing is just a) a tourist t\b\r\b\a\b\p\b ride, and b) allows you to get back to the hotel/convention center without reclimbing the hill to the Market and walking the gauntlet of pan handlers on 1st & Pike.

      I could see myself using it after eating dinner down on the waterfront and being with my SO, not wanting to be hustled after most folks are off the street.

      1. Matt

        You missed my point. MonorailS aren’t worthless. Our monorail, not being linked to the public transit system, is worthless. My hope is that we make this into a system that is useful for everyone and not just tourists. I don’t think that is too much of an ask. If Medellin, Colombia can find a way to incorporate a gondola into their public transit system, then I’d think we would surely have the capacity as well.

      2. Gary

        For this gondola to be integrated into our transit system, ie fare sharing, Metro would have to cough up some money. I doubt that is going to happen.

  10. Lisa

    I would use it if it were somehow integrated into ORCA, like if my pass covered it. I doubt that’s going to happen, so no. I’m pretty lazy but I think I’m even cheaper than I am lazy.

  11. mjd

    I wouldn’t pay $5 to ride it, with our without my bike. For that distance, $2 or $3 seems more reasonable to me.

  12. Leif Espelund

    I’m all for this. I don’t see it as being useful for residents as a way to commute really (just like the monorail isn’t useful for that either). However, it is a great idea as a tourist attraction/convenience and a fun ride for us residents every so often. Would add some more character to Seattle and doesn’t cost the public anything. But really, the biggest advantage I see would be as a demonstration of the technology so we could prove that integrating gondolas into our public transit system is a real possibility. Imagine a Gondola from downtown to the top of Capitol Hill, downtown to the top of Queen Anne, Queen Anne to Capitol Hill via South Lake Union. Or even West Seattle to downtown.

  13. Aaron

    I would definitely use the gondola with my bike. I live downtown, and it would be fun on occasion.

    Of course, an extension to the top of Cap Hill would be awesome :-)

  14. asdf2

    I once had a cable go out on me on the Kitsap peninsula and had to ride 7 miles to the Bremerton ferry with the chainring stuck on the highest gear. (Thankfully, it was mostly downhill). In a special situation like this, I would consider paying $5 to ride the gondola up the hill from the ferry terminal to get to a bus, or Link, that could take me home, or at least to a bike shop to get the problem fixed.

    But outside of something really unusual like this, I can’t see myself ever taking a bike for such a short distance when there’s a parallel street available. Without a bike, I don’t anticipate using it either unless I’ve traveling with someone visiting from out of town or someone who has difficulty walking.

    1. Gary

      If you ever have that happen again, take the cable and tie it off up on the head tube. (these cables nearly always break at the shift lever) If you can, move the derailer to the largest gear as you won’t be able to get enough tension on it to hold it in place. Then run the chain a bit, and use the adjustment knob on the derailer to get it to sit square on a cog. It will be one of the middle ones.

      If you have a 5mm allen and a pair of pliers you can adjust the cable at the derailer for your choice of gears. It gives you a two speed but at least the gears are closer to ones you can actually ride.

  15. Reilly

    No. I can ride my bike for free.

  16. Draco Malfoy

    People are cheap. Residents already know and tourists can find out quickly you can walk this route in what? 11 minutes? Say you’ve got three people in your group. $15 to save you the trouble of walking a hill? I guess there is the novelty factor that’s worth something. Once.

  17. I must say that this is about the dumbest idea I have seen in quite a while. No I would not use it to cary a bicycle. It will go less than 1 mile.
    Few residents will ever use this. It would be for tourists at the convention center and people who are afraid to walk 1 mile to get to the “great wheel”.
    This isn’t the transportation image I have in mind when I hear the phrase “world class city”.
    It’s just an astoundingly bad idea that isn’t integrated into any other transit planning that the city and county are working on, the route would travel right through the middle of the business district, and would only benefit the owners of the great wheel.

    At the same time, Metro is talking about cutting service 17% this year.
    We live in a crazy, upside world.

  18. Allan

    I love this idea. They must have thought of it after reading about my roller coaster idea. This would be a great tourist attraction It should connect to parking on the north, south and west. Than maybe we could have a car free downtown and that would be a super bonus for cyclists. The biggest problem is that it would be to slow for longer distance. Maybe someday when gas is $40 a gallon it might even connect to coaster stations. Maybe sooner at the rate population and congestion are growing. Has anybody won at Sim City-Detroit Scenario. So you cover the longer distance with a short sharp up followed by a long fast glide to your destination. Well, you have to take baby steps on the way to a Futureworld where private transport(cars) is obsolete. I hope the Cylons don’t rebel first.(15 to 30 years from now.)

  19. RossB

    Several have mentioned that this is a short distance. Gondolas only make sense for short distances. They are slow, but they can go over obstacles and arrive frequently (every few seconds). The problem with this route is that there are no obstacles, other than a steep hill.

    Because of the hill, bikes might be the one area where this makes sense, from a transportation standpoint. I could see someone biking along the waterfront, then taking this up the hill, then either traveling north or south (e. g. to Belltown) or riding Link to Capitol Hill. As others have mentioned, though, there are alternative ways to do this (elevators) and a lot of bikers would just bike or walk their bike up the hill. I think this is just for the tourists, and won’t be used by folks trying to find the fastest, easiest way from one place to another.

    A much better route is the one proposed earlier: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020384060_congestiongondolaxml.html, http://seattletimes.com/ABPub/zoom/html/2020384073.html. Just the part from Capitol Hill to the Cascade neighborhood is a great line for a gondola. The Metro Bus #8 follows something similar, but it is often stuck in traffic. Furthermore, this would be north of Denny, an area that is impossible to cross (because of the freeway). For those willing to bike, Denny is really nasty and steep. A route like this would mean that the fastest way to get to the Cascade neighborhood (with or without a bike) would involve a gondola ride. From there you could easily access Eastlake or the Denny triangle.

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