Not just for tourists: Agency pitches 8-mile gondola system in Austin as ‘meaningful’ transportation option

Argodesign is proposing a concept called The Wire gondola system in Austin. Gondolas would stretch above roadways and the river and use South First and Guadalupe streets.

Argodesign is proposing a concept called The Wire gondola system in Austin. Gondolas would stretch above roadways and the river and use South First and Guadalupe streets.

The Wire in Austin The proposed route for The Wire gondola system is 8 miles along South First Street from Slaughter Lane north to Guadalupe Street near The University of Texas campus.[/caption]

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is overseeing the MoPac toll lane project, is considering funding a viability study for a proposed 8-mile gondola line that would run above South First and Guadalupe streets.

Argodesign is the agency behind The Wire urban cable concept, which is similar to gondola systems used by ski resorts. The Wire would be a high-speed, detachable gondola system using towers and stations above the city’s roads and would operate between Slaughter Lane and The University of Texas campus, said Jared Ficklin, partner and lead creative technologist at Argodesign.

“It would make a meaningful impact if we could get the ridership we think we could,” Ficklin said. “It’s something that would be available to every person who lives downtown to south of the river. South First is a route they use every day.”

Ficklin presented the idea Wednesday to the Mobility Authority board of directors because board members David Armbrust and Nikelle Meade requested to hear more information about the concept.

“I like the idea of expanding our options beyond roads,” Armbrust said. “I would like to take it to the next level and see where it goes.”

The Mobility Authority is interested in funding a $15,000 viability study, which would ensure no barriers would prevent the project and also serve as a precursor to a more in-depth feasibility study that could cost more than $1 million.

Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said he would like to make sure the city of Austin supports the concept before moving forward because the system would be above city roads. He said he would like to have The Wire concept as a discussion item on the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 28.

The Wire in AustinGondola details


The Wire would not have a schedule because a gondola would arrive every few seconds. Ficklin said the system could carry between 2,400 and 6,000 riders per hour. His initial concept includes 19 stations that would also be located above the roadway, and ramps would connect to sidewalks or double as pedestrian bridges.

Ficklin said the system would be compatible with requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act, and riders would also be able to board with bicycles.

Estimated costs for building the system is anywhere between $290 million and $600 million, Ficklin said, adding the cost would be analyzed in a feasibility study.

“The only cultural change we’re asking is you is get up when you want, drive to a parking garage, get on The Wire and go to an office,” he said.

History in Austin


Ficklin first got the idea in 2011 after being inspired by gondolas in Telluride, Colorado. He began pitching the concept in 2012 through another design firm called Frog Design. The city of Round Rock expressed interest in the project in 2013, but the concept has not progressed.

Ficklin said Argodesign held off on advocating The Wire in 2014 because of the urban rail bond, but after it was defeated, they began pursuing the concept again. He said he is working on getting the concept onto Austin City Council’s Mobility Committee agenda.
By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


MOST RECENT

Hays County opened its COVID-19 vaccine portal Jan. 22. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Vaccine portal opens in Hays County; read Austin business news and more Central Texas info

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he will announce statewide plans to address homelessness that include camping bans. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: Governor plans statewide camping ban, COVID-19 numbers flatten and more

Questions remain about the legality of the camping ban, which a local group is also hoping to get on the May 2021 ballot.

The Austin Community College District's 28,000-square-foot culinary arts wing is now open at ACC Highland. (Courtesy Austin Community College)
Second phase of ACC Highland campus opens in Central Austin

The campus is home to the Austin Community College District's Culinary Arts Department.

Registration for Williamson County COVID-19 vaccines opened Jan. 19. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Register for vaccine in WilCo; 24 restaurants to try in Leander, Cedar Park and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said those who wish to return to campus can do so beginning Jan. 25. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD families can return to campus after 2 weeks of encouraging virtual learning

Austin ISD has seen a 28% decrease in weekly coronavirus cases since the first week of January.

The legality of reinstating tighter restrictions on public camping, solicitation, and sitting and lying down remains vague. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats ‘statewide camping ban’ as homeless debate heats up

The legality of reinstating tighter restrictions on public camping, solicitation, and sitting and lying down remains vague.

Teal House Coffee & Bakery’s menu includes items such as the cinnamon roll croissant. (Courtesy Teal House Coffee & Bakery)
Teal House Coffee & Bakery opening South Congress brick and mortar in Austin Jan. 30

The location will be the food truck's first brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Dr. Judith L. Thompson recently took the time to answer several general questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. (Courtesy Texas Children’s Hospital)
'We still have a long way to go': Central Texas physician answers questions about COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Judith L. Thompson recently took the time to answer several general questions for Community Impact Newspaper related to the coronavirus vaccine, its efficacy and costs, and other related matters.

Goodwill Central Texas opened a location at 2415 S. Congress Ave., Austin, on Jan. 14. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
New South Congress Goodwill now open

The new store is open for retail services and also accepts donations.

Lawmakers have returned to the Capitol. The Texas Legislature began its 2021 session Jan. 12. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
School funding once again a major focus for Austin ISD during legislative session

The district will also be watching for legislation regarding charter schools, accountability, pandemic relief and local control.