Aerial gondolas: The next great (urban) transportation device?

Have you ever sat in traffic and wished your car could rise to the air and fly past everyone else? I have. That is why I feel compelled to bring you, what is in my opinion, the next great leap for the urban commuter – aerial gondolas.

If you have ever been on a mountain and ridden a ski-lift you already know the premise of the aerial gondola. But must such a mode of transportation be constrained to operating only in mountainous environments? The answer is no and city planners around the world, including some in the United States, are beginning to utilize this relatively inexpensive device in urban environments for a variety of reasons.

The Austin office of Frog Design has pitched an idea dubbed “The Wire” to Capital Area Metro that would bring aerial gondolas to the skies of Austin. While Austin is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, city planners have been searching for a way to keep the city growing without commute times busting at the seams. According to Frog Design, the gondolas would be detachable, meaning you could add additional gondolas during peak times to accommodate times of increased ridership.


Traffic is an economic killer and cities around the globe are encouraging people to commute to work via non-vehicular methods. It seems that The Wire could soon be an alternative method of public transportation compared to traditional methods like subways, bus lanes, and metro rails. Let’s talk about why these traditional methods often have economic costs that outweigh the benefits. Subways require painstaking engineering feats, years of planning, and a huge amount of money to successfully implement. Dedicated bus lanes can have success in increasing public transportation, but at the cost of eliminating road space for cars and increasing congestion. Metro rails often prove to be a best friend of the metropolitan commuter (if you live near one), but at a significantly high economic cost once you factor in the land rights that have to be negotiated. Plus, the cost and time required for implementation can become a deal breaker in and of itself. In addition, the times that riders can catch a train are limited and the predetermined routes you take are even more limited, if not definitive (Austin only has one route).

The Wire promises to alleviate congestion without limiting roadway availability, unlike bus lanes. Furthermore, the cost is far less expensive than some of the traditional transportation methods mentioned above. Another huge benefit for The Wire is land rights. Rather than negotiating with every landowner over easement rights, why not just go over their heads – literally! That is one of the biggest advantages urban gondolas have over other means of transportation. Aerial gondolas also give the rider an extremely flexible schedule with gondolas arriving multiple times every minute.

In a time when global warming is widely accepted, the desire to become more eco-friendly is widespread here in Austin and other cities around the world. All means of public transportation have the ability to be better on the environment as opposed to everybody driving a gas-guzzling vehicle of their own. I do not think there will ever be a single green solution to all of our transportation and energy problems but a healthy mix of many ideas. I believe that the aerial gondola could be a turning point in the quest for green transports and prove to be America’s true love affair.

For more information on Frog Design’s The Wire visit their website.

Jordan Schmidt environmental professional

Author’s note: I would like to leave you with a thought that I hope does you some good in life. While this has been an exciting post for me, it is also a reminder that if you do not personally make your dreams happen, nobody else will. If you believe in something that can have a positive impact to the world around you, don’t keep it to yourself – free it to the world. Believe it or not, I had this exact idea three years ago and told close friends of the economic and environmental benefits that my ‘Urban Lift’ could bring to Austin. My hat goes off to Frog Design for following through with such an innovative and progressive design. Think big. Think forward. Progress.

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