LA Traffic Today, Gondola Ride Tomorrow

LA is having a bit of an infrastructure renaissance these days. As mentioned last week, the city green-lined the county’s first people-mover, an automated light-rail system that will transports patrons from LAX airport, over LA gridlock traffic, right into downtown Los Angeles. Now, just in the past few days, the city has out-done itself again; Los Angeles is reviewing an unsolicited proposal for a gondola system from Union Station to Dodger Stadium.

The gondola system is a creative solution to the widespread problem of LA entertainment venues: traffic. Other alternative transit methods (light-rail or bus) would struggle to ascend the rocky crags leading to Dodger Stadium. The gondola system, on the other hand, shines.

It comes as one of the latest proposals to the Office of Extraordinary Innovation (OEI), a tiny division of LA Metro that is inviting ideas just like this one. All projects sponsored by the OEI begin as unsolicited proposals like the gondola system. The city (LA Metro) reviews these projects and if they ask for more specific plans, there is a good chance that the project will be green-lighted.

Those specific plans for gondolas? They probably look pretty good. The group that put the proposal together, Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies (ARTT), has some of the brightest minds involved in the project – and close ties with all parties involved.

ARTT was founded by Drew McCourt, the son of former Dodger owner Frank McCourt, and the project he’s funding is being directed by LA Metro’s own former chief planning officer, Martha Welborne. The land that the proposed project will be supposedly built on? Also owned by the McCourts, who retained half-stake in the 130 acres surrounding the stadium.

It might come as no surprise then that ARTT has volunteered to finance the project – at no additional charge to the city of Los Angeles. The company is even offering to reimburse LA Metro for its environmental impact studies and public hearings.

While the idea of an Alpine lift might seem a little out of place in downtown LA, the idea of gondolas as urban transportation is not a new one. There are already successful models in Rio De Janeiro, Hong Kong and London. It’s not even the first gondola proposed for LA – late last year, a similar system was proposed that would ferry people to the Hollywood sign from the LA zoo.

While the gondola won’t be serving commuters, it is still planned to serve the needs of the public at a low cost. When it’s not ferrying fans for the 81 Dodger home games, the mayor of LA claims the lift will be used for scenic trips, dates, and marriage proposals as well as any other events or concerts being held at Dodger Stadium.

The project is awaiting approval, but this transportation project is definitely a must-watch in LA.