Aerial tramways (a.k.a. urban gondolas) may be an excellent solution for filling the missing “last mile” transit link to major sports venues and airports. Too often, rail transit systems do not directly connect to the airport terminal or to a sports venue. This is especially true at older facilities where additional property may not be available for connecting the rail service to the air terminal/stadium. As a result, one has to leave the station and connect to a bus, taxi or Uber/Lyft; and/or walk to get to the airport terminal or sports venue. This can be quite a pain, especially for seniors, those with kids, people with disabilities, and/or those transporting luggage for a flight at the airport.
Rendering of the proposed Los Angeles Aerial Tramway – Source: wired.com
An aerial tramway could provide a direct link between the rail station and airport terminal or stadium allowing a free flow riders to/from the site without having to go outdoors to transfer or walk lengthy distances. Depending on the system design chosen, aerial tramways/urban gondola systems can serve up to 6,000 riders per hour. Two cities in the United States are already looking at aerial tramways to link their stadiums with rail transit systems. These are:
Map of the proposed aerial tramway (shown in blue) from downtown Los Angeles to Dodger Stadium – Source: laart.la
- Linking a Metrorail station in downtown Los Angeles with Chinatown, Los Angeles State Historic Park, and Dodger Stadium
- Linking a BART station in in downtown Oakland with the planned new Athletics Stadium at Howard Terminal and with Jack London Square
Map of the proposed route of the aerial tramway (shown in green) in Oakland, CA – Source: gondola project.com
Examples of additional airport/stadium locations where aerial tramways could be beneficial “last mile” connections in the USA, include, but are not limited to:
- Linking Boston’s Logan International Airport to the MBTA’s Airport Station= 1.2 miles +/-
- Linking Dallas’ Love Field with DART’s Inwood/Love Field Station = 2.2 miles +/-
- Linking Denver’s Mile High Stadium to The Ride’s Mile High Rail Station = 0.3 miles +/-
- Linking Hollywood-Burbank Airport to Metrolink’s Airport North Station = 0.7 miles +/-
- Linking Houston’s NRG Field to the METRORail’s Stadium Park Station = 0.7 miles +/-
- Linking Milwaukee’s American Family Field with the The Hop’s Intermodal Station = 2.5 miles +/-
- Linking Nashville’s International Airport to Music City Star’s Donelson Station = 3.4 miles +/-
- Linking Ontario International Airport to Metrolink’s Rancho Cucamonga Station = 3.3 miles +/-
- Linking Orlando’s Citrus Bowl Stadium to SunRail’s Church Street Station = 1.3 miles +/-
- Linking Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium to Metrorail’s Memorial Park Station = 2.2 miles +/-
- Linking San Diego International Airport to San Diego Trolley’s Little Italy Station = 1.5 miles +/-
- Linking Washington’s FedEx Field Stadium to METRO’s Morgan Boulevard Station = 0.9 miles +/-
As the photo below depicts, most stadiums in the United States are surrounded by seas of wasteful surface parking lots that sit empty more often than not. Meanwhile airports have vast parking networks that include both surface and multi-level parking options that occupy a significant amount of valuable land area.
Parking lots surrounding State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ – Source: maps.google.com
Since parking for both airports and stadiums are often a revenue generator, there may be some resistance by these entities to reducing onsite parking in favor of a aerial tramway/gondola. Furthermore, there is increasing support for adding solar panels over spaces in these large parking lots to produce green energy. IF adding these panels included increased landscaping to reduce stormwater runoff, that would be a win-win situation. However, this step would not reduce the car-centric focus of most stadiums and airports. As a result, it seems that an aerial tramway could also be employed to reduce some of the land area covered by surface parking and allow for added green space, rain gardens, and/or stormwater detention.