Edmonton is one small step closer to constructing an aerial gondola public transit line over the North Saskatchewan River.
Last week, Edmonton city council granted Prairie Sky Gondola with the permission to launch an early preliminary feasibility study on building a gondola from the city’s downtown district to historic Old Strathcona — an entertainment district with theatres, bars, restaurants, and shops. Consultants hired by Prairie Sky Gondola will conduct the analysis.
This gondola project is being proposed by the company as a private venture; all aspects of the gondola, including design, construction, maintenance, and operations, will be privately funded at no cost to the government.
The precise three-km-long gondola route is far from confirmed, but early concepts place the alignment’s southern starting point roughly along Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona.
If the company’s $75,000 self-funded early study returns with favourable results, a more detailed full feasibility study will be conducted, including an examination of the potential economic catalyst a gondola could provide to the redevelopment of the Rossdale and River Crossing areas.
Prairie Sky Gondola wants its gondola to be integrated with the city’s public transit system, with Edmonton Transit Service providing transit riders with an option to add gondola usage to monthly transit passes. Other passengers can acquire single-trip tickets from the gondola terminus stations.
While aerial gondolas are best associated with ski resorts, they are increasingly being used as a high-capacity, fast public transit solution and are an attractive option for certain shorter routes given their relatively low construction and operating costs.
They can also be built far quicker than rail systems, and there is a secondary tourist attraction function to these aerial ropeways.
Urban gondola systems elsewhere in the world boast capacities in excess of 4,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd). In contrast, Edmonton’s upcoming Valley Line LRT will have a starting capacity of 5,000 phppd.
Other gondola systems that cross waterways include London’s Emirates Air Line over the River Thames and the Singapore Cable Car across Keppel Harbour, reaching the resort island of Sentosa.
Several urban gondola lines are also proposed for other major Canadian cities.
There is a private initiative in Toronto to build a one-km-long gondola line spanning the Don Valley as a recreational and tourist attraction.
In Metro Vancouver, TransLink is proposing to build a 2.7-km-long, high-capacity gondola between SkyTrain’s Production Way-University Station to the peak of Burnaby Mountain to serve Simon Fraser University’s main campus. The estimated cost of this gondola public transit line in the suburb of Vancouver is approximately $200 million.