Gondola Considered in Transit Overhaul
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 01:11
With scant transportation options in the Georgetown neighborhood, the District has explored areas for innovation, including a gondola lift connecting Car Barn and the Rosslyn Metro stop.
This proposal is part of an effort to better connect Georgetown with local transportation through the Business Improvement District. Among the plans are a Georgetown Metro stop, streetcars and changes to the Georgetown University Transportation System shuttles.
“The advantage of gondolas is that they ease the friction of transportation. You hop off the Metro and hop on the gondola cars that are coming continually and carry you to Georgetown,” Georgetown BID Transportation Director Jonathon Kass said. “The gondola is a way to make Georgetown feel like it is an extension of the Rosslyn Metro station much sooner than we’ll be able to get a Metro station.”
A gondola lift, or a cable car, is an aerial lift, where cabins hang from a loop of cable that continuously circulates between the two terminal stations.
Although the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom stops are both viable options for the gondola, Kass said that the Rosslyn station is preferable, both because of proximity and because the gondola lift would run above the Potomac River.
“The idea is to have a fast, efficient transportation link between Georgetown and the Metro station,” Kass said. “It would also be a spectacular experience and probably a tourist attraction in its own right.”
“We imagine some ways that the gondola station could actually be in a building like the Car Barn to get to the university’s elevation or the commercial district’s elevation in one stop,” Kass added.
The gondola plan is currently in its early phases, and uncertainties exist as to whether it will be cost effective.
“We’ve been talking to manufacturers to develop a feasibility study, but the use of gondola lifts for urban public transportation is growing in places like London and Portland,” Kass said.
In addition, BID is currently advocating for a new Georgetown Metro stop. According to Kass, the Metro’s current Momentum 2025 plan calls for an additional Blue line, separated from the Orange line, to better meet the city’s Metro needs. Kass suggested that the Georgetown station could fall on that new line.
“They’ve got to put tunneling equipment underground to do that, which is a huge expense,” Kass said. “Our view is that as long as they’ve got the tunneling equipment underground and have paid all that, just keep the tunnel going under the Potomac and build the Georgetown station as part of the Rosslyn project, which is part of the 2025 plan.”
BID is also planning to add a Georgetown streetcar, starting from the K Street corridor and extending to the university; it would cover the retail area of Georgetown, primarily revolving around M Street.
“A huge part of the streetcar plan is to have the track extend all the way to the university because it is a great base of ridership with a lot of jobs and a lot of transit-based lifestyles and also because the university has talked about having a maintenance and storage facility for the cars,” Kass said.
But while these options are long-term, Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey pointed to the GUTS buses as a short-term area of improvement.
“We have enough capacity with the GUTS buses to meet the demands,” Morey said. “The big question of transportation in the master plan is how we get to and from the campus to effectively transport these 2 million people.”
As part of the university’s 2010 Campus Plan agreement, all GUTS buses must enter and exit campus via Canal Road. The buses do not currently follow this route, and the university is considering adding a bus stop next to North Kehoe field, as it could provide direct access to the Georgetown University Medical Center and Leavey Center.
A second option is to create a route that loops around MultiSport Facility. This option, however, is undesirable because it does not reach the Medical Center or the Leavey Center, it would interfere with pedestrian routes, and it would require the creation of a road between Hariri and the MultiSport Facility.
“It’s really not good from a campus plan perspective where we want more of a pedestrian-friendly environment in the center of campus, and those routes will not allow where we want to go with that,” Morey said.
The third option would create a loop around West Road and Tondorf Road. However, this option is undesirable because it would increase traffic on Tondorf Road, especially around Kober-Cogan Building. It would also require the current stops at Harbin and the McDonough parking lot to be moved.
“If there were a bus coming through every three or four minutes up Tondorf and around MultiSport when people are walking, we don’t think that’s a very desirable option,” Morey said.
Moreover, another way to maximize ridership is to have all GUTS bus stops serve all destinations, as well as integrating the GUTS system with the Metro.
“There may be opportunity to integrate our transportation needs with the existing Circulator and WMATA transportation system, and we’re exploring those opportunities now. That type of engagement would require a lot of planning,” Morey said. “When you jump on a GUTS bus, you don’t pay anything. That obviously would not be the case if you jumped on a Metro bus, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to figure out how that would work.”