Now that we got the whole Streetcar thing Squared Away – Gondolas!

by Prince Of Petworth February 19, 2016 at 1:05 pm 72 Comments

Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola rendering by the Georgetown BID

From the Georgetown BID:

“The Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID) and its partners issued the Request for Proposals (RFP) to commence a feasibility study for a Georgetown-Rosslyn Aerial Gondola Lift, linking the two communities and extending the Metro system with an new high-speed transit connection. The study is being conducted by a partnership that includes the District of Columbia, Arlington County, the Rosslyn BID, Georgetown University, Gould Property Company, JBG Companies, Inc., Penzance, and the Georgetown BID.

The feasibility study’s objective is to identify and lay out the demand, financial, regulatory, design and real estate considerations of an aerial gondola lift between the two commercial districts. The idea is part of the Georgetown BID’s Georgetown2028 15-Year Action Plan for the commercial district.

“Urban gondola systems have proven to be valuable transit connections in cities across the globe, and are often developed when waterways and slopes don’t allow for more familiar modes,” said Will Handsfield, the Georgetown BID’s Transportation Director. “For Georgetown and Rosslyn, we believe a gondola system might provide a great many benefits by reducing car travel, inexpensively extending a Metro station, and linking Georgetown and Rosslyn’s respective residential and commercial communities.”

The RFP seeks teams skilled in planning, transportation, and engineering, to evaluate potential demand, feasibility, and costs. Proposals are due March 18th, 2016. For more information and to view the RFP, please visit www.georgetownrosslyngondola.com.”

  • Chinatown

    This could be so much fun, but I would be afraid to be trapped alone inside one of these with someone intent on doing harm, or trapped inside one of these when it inevitably breaks down.

    • accendo

      If it breaks, maybe it will be like Metro and just offload people into the river.

      Next gondola directly behind . . . too bad you’re now treading water below it!

  • stacksp

    Seems appropriate for a date night adventure. Hang out a bit in Georgetown and Rosslyn without having to move the car.

  • Eleven

    As someone who crosses the Key Bridge on foot on a regular basis, this is seriously the laziest thing ever and a huge waste of money. I thought for sure it was a joke when I saw it on FB a few months ago. Cannot wait for the comments from the rest of Popville…

    • Caroline

      Walking into Georgetown via the Key Bridge was my favorite thing about living in Courthouse. I agree that this seems gimmicky.

    • navyard

      Yes! All I can think of is “ADD MORE BIKESHAREs for anyone that doesn’t want to walk”. For gosh sakes, we don’t need more expensive and flaky infrastructure.

      • jcm

        Biking across the Key Bridge really sucks though. The street is too scary and the sidewalks are full of pedestrians behaving unpredictably.

    • anon

      This would go up to reservoir road. It is probably the cheapest option to traverse river and the hill. Would be worth it if they rezoned that area for more density. Also, Gtown could chip in for most of the infra since it really only benefits them. They could start housing students in Roslyn.

      • anonymous

        For this to make sense it needs to be relocated entirely. I suggest Columbia Heights (DCUSA) to Cleveland Park (Red Line) via The Zoo (for families that only now realize they must hike back up to Connecticut Ave. with their exhausted children).

        • timmyp2353

          That’s actually a pretty good idea.

  • AG

    You refuse Metro, but you’re cool with a fugly gondola across the river???

  • andy

    Can’t we just light a trashcan full of money on fire and be done with ideas like this?

    • textdoc

      Actual LOL!

      • INDC

        +1 :-)

  • Ridiculous

    What about row boats? Or why not a sky tram? Or hot air balloons on tethers? Log ride? I mean why stop with gondolas?

    • The best

      Laughing so hard at this. I’d find the log ride as long as there’s no splash zone like at Disneyland bc hyperthermia

      • The best


  • petworther

    I really don’t want to be a downer on this, but as one of the Arlington commissioners pointed out in an earlier article about the subject: “There is a fear that the gondola proposal does not solve a real transportation need, and many commissioners fear that even contributing to a study will provide substantive fodder for transit-naysayers.”
    After the streetcar I can think of no better way to kill all future transit projects in metro area than building a gondola.

    • anon

      too late; see above comments

  • districtwanderer

    They portray this as “extending the metro system…” FML. Transit proposals in this region seem like nothing more than a contest to out-stupid the other guy.

    • LittleBluePenguin


  • dat

    as long as there are fire extinguishers on board, i can’t imagine anything going wrong…

  • Jayne

    Ugh Georgetown, just do what you should have done 20 years ago and put a Metro station in. This is a bandaid at best.

  • Anon Steak

    Why not a ferry, if the goal is just to get across the river?

    • Philippe Lecheval

      Or maybe a bridge?!?!

      • Eleven

        I LOL’ed.

      • ET

        Now there is a radical idea……

    • timmyp2353

      I wish the would be Indian guides to pay to get across or maybe we could just caulk the wagon if we’re feeling adventurous? If all else fails you can ford the river.

      • jebediah

        “You lost 2 members of your party, 3 oxen, and 35 pounds of witch hazel. Why did you spend all of your money on witch hazel!?”

        • sproc

          All that effort only to die of Cholera halfway down M St.

        • a

          +1 Conestoga wagon

        • Philippe Lecheval

          Now THIS made me laugh out loud.

    • flieswithhoney

      How about Capital Paddleshare, a paddleboat extension of Bikeshare? Bonus points for shoring up your immune system through exposure to the Potomac.

  • ET

    This is a truly stupid idea. They are fun – I remember them from the Worlds Fair in New Orleans – but as a form of moving people and not a cool tourist sightseeing opportunity, it won’t work.

    • stacksp

      It is exactly this “a cool tourist sightseeing opportunity”. They might try to paint it differently but that is exactly what it is.

    • Anonymous

      You’re right, it’s completely novel and has never worked as an actual public transportation system anywhere. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrocable_(Medell%C3%ADn)

      • Caroline

        Just because it has worked elsewhere in the world doesn’t mean it’s the most appropriate solution here.

      • anon

        lots of things work elsewhere, but DC cannot have nice transit. This is the capital of America.

  • jumpingjack

    I cannot believe that this isn’t a joke.

  • M

    While the gondola system in Medellin (for example) is actually used for transportation and quite amazing, I can’t see it working between Rosslyn and Georgetown. In Medellin the gondolas connect impoverished villages on a steep hillside with their Metro system, which reduced a previously long/difficult walk into a few minute journey. Not sure what the demand is for transit between Rosslyn and Georgetown, or what gap in the connection it is closing though.

    • anon

      PoP should have done more research. This would go up to the hill to Gtown. Replacing the shuttles that currently run. A crazy leap for DC, but it is only proposed for the same reasons as elsewhere in the world—it would go across a hill and river much more cheaply than light rail.

  • Guillermo Brown

    If they want quick connectivity between Rosslyn and Georgetown, would another, smaller, lower bridge with a dedicated tram be better? It would certainly be better for moving more people, it would seem, but maybe the gondola infrastructure is just cheaper? (i.e., posts down into the river, suspended cables, cars vs. a concrete bridge and tracks). I have no friggin’ clue. I don’t think it’s a bad idea though to think about ways to connect the two. Rosslyn is has huge unmet potential, IMO.

    • eggs

      I doubt another bridge could be built lower, since boats come through there.

  • C_petworth

    I just used google map to fine out it takes 15 minutes to go from the Roslyn metro station to M street in Georgetown.
    I think this is such a waste of time money and a pretty view over the key bridge.

  • juztme

    What we need is a monorail!

    • madmonk28

      Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

  • PDX

    I returned to my home city of Portland OR a few years ago after an extended absence. Both my mom and I had a minor melt down on the interstate as we drove under the new tram that connects the waterfront to OHSU. “What is that where did it come from what is happening?!” But it seems to be a legit commute-connector, but it also goes up a very steep hill, which is not a problem between Roslyn and Georgetown.

  • andy2

    We are not Portland…And the bigger problem is Rosslyn Metro Station is maxed out on capacity, the tunnel is maxed out – and blue lines are being reduced as the Silver Line increases. We need a second tunnel, an adjacent station in Rosslyn and a separate Blue line through the district.
    Save the millions of dollars for this and build a new Blue line in DC through Georgetown to Logan and North Capitol Hill to Stadium Armory.

    • eggs

      I’d love to see this happen, I just don’t think it ever will.

    • anon

      They built a whole new extension into Virginia (Silver Line) without increasing tunnel capacity. Everyone knew this would happen.

  • derp derp

    This. I can’t. DC, please get your act today with all the other forms of transportation that are already in place. We don’t need anything else catching fire / breaking down / crashing into parked cars.

  • smh

    How about a giant giant ferris wheel that goes underwater and over the whole river? Boats could go through if it were carefully timed.

    • Wheeeeee

      A rollercoaster over the river could be one hell of a commute!

  • madmonk28

    Can you imagine being stuck in one of these slow moving gondolas going across the river as a pack of teens is beating a commuter?

  • Teddy

    Looks like the Transportation Director is in the pocket of “Big Gondola”.

    In the meantime my daughter’s teacher at Tubman Elementary has to buy her own printer paper because the school can’t afford it.

    • timmyp2353

      Still LOLing as I’m typing. Big Gondola, that’s hysterical.

      • The best

        The comments on here are killing me! Y’all are hysterical, popville!

  • Anon

    No way am I going to trust a public transit Gondola. We can’t even get the Metro safe. But good news: if there is a fire, you are only a frightening dip away from nature’s fire extinguisher.

  • Wheeeeee

    Honestly, I think gondolas could be awesome… if they’re Venetian-style gondolas, complete with svelte little guys in striped shirts.

  • E

    The problem is that the citizenry of DC is full of bureaucrats, and the hallmark of the bureaucratic mind is that any outside-the-box idea must be squelched. The gondola is probably a reasonable and efficient idea — in this sense, it matters that it’s being led by the BID which is fully aware, unlike the bureaucrats and many commenters here, that DC is a major tourist destination. But the apparatchik-class believe that kneejerk opposition to new ideas is a form of cleverness. I suspect the gondola will join the 12+ story building and the backyard treehouse as victims of this cities culture of intellectual deadness.

    • E

      * this city’s culture of intellectual deadness… and if you felt the urge to call the grammar police you’re also part of the problem

      • anon

        Thank you! Can’t believe it took this long for someone to call out all the naysayers. Guess who else has a bridge, a subway, and still continues to run an aerial tram:

        • INDC

          But that’s NYC and they know what they’re doing.

    • revitalizer

      DC has hundreds of 12+ story buildings (more so than all but 3 major U.S. cities).

      • E

        Nice job litigating the comment. Is 12 the wrong threshold? Okay, whatever, how many buildings over 14 do we have? nitpicking trivialities while completely missing the big picture is exactly the sort of stuff im talking about here…

        • revitalizer

          It isn’t trivial. The most accepted definition for high-rises is 12 stories and up. And, DC has a lot of them (over 460 high-rise buildings). I’m happy to nitpick, especially when statements are made that aren’t actually true.

    • INDC

      I think what people are reacting to more (although I have to admit this project is like something you would find in an onion article) is that given DC’s current gross inability to manage its existing forms of transportation properly we can pretty much expect the same with an idea like this.

    • textdoc

      “The gondola is probably a reasonable and efficient idea” — No. It is not. It duplicates an existing bridge. Seems like it would make more sense for the city to improve pedestrian/bicyclist space on the bridge than to sink tons of $$$ into this project. And after the streetcar, I have little faith that DDOT could do something like this properly, even if it WERE a reasonable and efficient idea.
      Oh, and you don’t need skyscrapers for a city to be intellectually alive.

  • bv1837

    I saw this and thought, “Wait, it isn’t April 1, is it? Why is PoP posting April fools jokes?”

  • fx

    Being on the far end of Georgetown, you are better of just walking across the bridge…

  • CoHi Jack

    I’m one of those B’crats that folks like to disparage, and who constantly has his ideas crushed by my colleagues…..Anyway, F’it….. Just build another deck on the bridge dedicated to pedestrian, bicycles and some sort of people mover. Have it terminate in the old Car Barn building in G’town, which originally was a streetcar facility. (Ironic chuckle.)

  • Open Mind

    I love the fact that people think that adding a bridge,making major changes to a bridge listed on the National Register of Historical Places, or adding a Metro tunnel is somehow more feasible than an aerial tram system. The estimated costs of an aerial system is 50-80 million while the cost of a Metro station in Georgetown is 3.5 billion dollars. They are still trying to get a Metro stop but that wouldn’t be ready until 2040. This could be up and running cheaper and faster than any other option.

    Does it make all of the traffic woes facing Georgetown, absolutely not. Obviously if you live right across the bridge you can continue to choose to walk either direction but maybe it would make it things more accessible for residents and tourists who are a little farther out in Arlington or DC. I’m no transportation expert and I will leave it to the study as to how much it would help but I certainly think that reasonable options should be explored and not just automatically laughed out of the room because it’s never been done before. It could actually be gimmicky, touristy and useful to tourist and residents like aerial trams/funiculars in other urban environments.


Subscribe to our mailing list