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Gondolas: The Wave of Boston's Future?

Gondolas: The Wave of Boston's Future?

Millennium Partners, the driving force behind two of Boston's largest construction projects, the Millennium Tower in Downtown Crossing and the future Winthrop Square Garage tower, a residential living structure in Boston's Financial District, is now taking on transportation.

In an unprecedented move, the developer proposed a gondola system to transport commuters between South Station and the Seaport District. The Seaport District, a neighborhood on Boston's waterfront, is a prime spot for growth with an expanding population and increasing business opportunities for restaurants, retailers, condominiums, office buildings, and more. It is a short distance away from downtown Boston and a short distance to Boston Logan International Airport on the T. As an up-and-coming area of the historic city, it would be especially significant for the Seaport District to house one of Boston's newest forms of public transportation. When finished, the gondola system will resemble those found in other public places. It will feature enclosed capsules that transport commuters and tourists from one destination to another above the earth's surface.

In cities worldwide, gondolas are already being used in lieu of ground-level transportation. In the United States, Portland, Oregon, and New York City (specifically, the neighborhoods of Manhattan and Brooklyn) use gondolas. Worldwide, gondolas are used in Bolivia, Venezuela, Columbia, Turkey, and China. Gondola systems are considered a safe and efficient means to reduce the negative effects of ground-level transportation like noise, traffic, and safety.

In addition to reducing road and highway traffic, gondolas are financial beneficial. Unlike ground-level or underground forms of transportation, gondolas do not need to displace large numbers of people to be built. They require much less ground space than trains and railways, and spare their surrounding areas the noise and pollution caused by city buses. To construct a gondola system, city planners just need space to build the cable car towers (which are placed on ground level). The few chief complaints are that gondolas do not move as quickly as other types of mass transit, and they cannot move as many people at once. For now, gondolas are viewed as good supplemental forms of transit, but they cannot yet replace traditional transportation.

In Boston, the details of Millennium Partners' gondola system are still being worked out. The city is collaborating with the developer to identify specifics like the gondola's route and its traveling height. Millennium Partners owns a 12-acre parcel of land between Northern and Drydock avenues in the Seaport District, which is one of Boston's busiest areas, and it envisions putting the gondola there. Millennium Partners expects to get support moving forward, as Boston officials struggle to modernize and develop the city while reducing the growing problems of traffic and congestion. Presently, over half of Boston's population, and about 80 percent of jobs in the area, are within a walking distance of 10 minutes to a rapid transit or a commuter rail station. The city's five busiest MBTA bus routes carry about 20 percent of all MBTA bus passengers. Since 1990, Boston's population has grown by about three percent. This change, while good for the local economy, has reduced parking availability and increased traffic citywide. In that time, parking rates have increased around $28 per day, which is topped only by New York City. The project's goal to alleviate pressure on Boston's mass transit and help people save on parking expenses is drawing support from several politicians, including Congressman Stephen Lynch, who considers the gondola system a viable alternative to eliminating adding new car traffic to Boston region's already congested roadways.