A gondola from Union Station to Dodger Stadium? It could happen by 2022, Mayor Garcetti says

A rendering shows a gondola car carrying passengers from Union Station to Dodger Stadium.Photo by: Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC

By Laura J. Nelsonwww.latimes.com  April 26th, 2018

Thousands of baseball fans have thought longingly of visiting Chavez Ravine without fighting through snarled, rush-hour traffic in a car or on a bus.

Now, a company funded by former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has proposed a possible solution: a gondola lift that would whisk passengers from Union Station to Dodger Stadium by air in five minutes.

It's an unorthodox proposal in a city accustomed to ideas that flare up and die out. But, backers say, the plan is for real.

"Los Angeles is a gorgeous city," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who plans to announce the project Thursday at a Metropolitan Transportation Authority meeting. "It lays out at night like this bed of jewels. This isn't something that's just about Dodgers games…. It will become something for visitors, for local residents, for first dates, for marriage proposals."

The gondola line, which could ferry passengers above the traffic-choked 110 Freeway, is one of several major infrastructure investments proposed in Los Angeles County that would not be built by Metro or funded by taxpayers. (Another? Elon Musk's tunnel project, currently awaiting environmental clearance from the city of Los Angeles.)

Though a fixture at ski resorts, gondolas have appeared in other major cities, including London and Taipei, as a form of aerial transportation and as a tourist attraction. The proposed line to Dodger Stadium would mark a new approach for sprawling, hilly Los Angeles, where transit is typically relegated to congested streets and tunnels.

The company proposing the system was founded by Frank McCourt's son Drew. The gondola project is directed by Martha Welborne, Metro's former chief planning officer.

Frank McCourt's investment firm would fund a portion of the project's estimated $125-million cost and would seek private financing for the remainder. McCourt sold the Dodgers in 2011 but retained half interest in the 130 acres of parking around the stadium, where the line would reach its terminus.

In a prepared statement, the Dodgers called the gondola "an important and innovative project" that would improve the fan experience and remove cars from neighborhood streets.

The firm is seeking Metro's approval on the project and help with an environmental impact report and a community outreach process. The company also hopes to sign a lease agreement to build a gondola stop at Union Station.

The company would reimburse Metro for costs associated with environmental review and public hearings, project officials said.

Operators would charge a fare that would be cheaper than parking at Dodger Stadium — currently about $20 — but the exact amount has not been set, officials said.
A rendering shows passengers getting off gondola cars at Dodger Stadium.Photo by: ARTT LLC
Currently, the only mass-transit option to Dodger Stadium is an express bus operated by Metro, which uses dedicated bus lanes on Sunset Boulevard. Garcetti said the gondola would supplement, rather than replace, bus service.

"It's also another 5,000 people that can come without having to be in a vehicle, even that shuttle bus," Garcetti said. The bus "moves relatively quickly, but it's still on the road, it's still the victim of some traffic. This is a quicker, smoother ride."

On game days, hundreds of cars heading to Chavez Ravine jam surrounding streets, causing traffic tie-ups and parking headaches for Echo Park residents.

In Chavez Ravine, the gondola would probably stop near the downtown gate, on the southeastern side of the stadium.

The firm would need to acquire some right-of-way in the Chinatown area to build the support posts for the gondola wires and to secure the air rights to space above some buildings. Acquiring land is often one of the most expensive — and contentious — parts of a transportation project.

Still, Garcetti said, that isn't a concern. There are other cities — London, Mexico City, Portland, Ore. — to emulate, and in many cases, the gondola wires would be high enough to avoid air rights above buildings.

Project supporters hope public outreach can start by the end of the year, with final decisions on routes and stations in 2019 or 2020. The system could begin service by opening day in 2022, Garcetti said, well ahead of the 2028 Summer Olympics, when Dodger Stadium will host baseball and softball.


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