Move over, ski resorts. Austin is toying with the idea of a gondola cable car system as a new, first-of-its-kind type of mass transit. Yes, you heard that right.
Here are four things to know about the idea:
1. We’re at the beginning of a first-blush study. The viability study will cost $15,750, funded in equal parts by the city of Austin, Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which voted this week to participate. Still, the prospects for such a system are hazy. If it’s deemed viable, the agencies would have to decide whether to embark on a more extensive feasibility study that could cost as much as $1.5 million.
2. Building the system could cost between $290 million and $550 million. The proposal by design firm Argodesign consists of an initial 8-mile, 19-stop line on South First Street running from Slaughter Lane and then, after crossing the river, on Guadalupe Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. How it would be funded is unknown.
3. Don’t expect it to revolutionize your commute. Under the proposal, the 10-person cars would run 19 hours a day on short intervals. Gliding along at about 12 miles per hour, it would take about 40 minutes to get from Slaughter to downtown.
4. This might not be the weirdest transportation idea ever proposed in Austin. Last year, an entrepreneur suggested a 7.2-mile web of elevated tramways with battery-powered, self-driving pod cars. Austin never disappoints.