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.
SHARE THIS STORY
By Amy Denney

Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.


MOST RECENT

Fight over sales market data means Travis County home appraisals will not change this year, area schools may suffer

Travis Central Appraisal District will not appraise residential properties this year following a cease-and-desist order from the Austin Board of Realtors prohibiting use of its sales price data.

Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz announced his resignation on Feb. 19. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Paul Cruz to resign as Austin ISD superintendent to take job with University of Texas

Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz will resign and accepted a position with the University of Texas.

A photo of a woman holding a "coming soon" sign for Acupuncture + Restorative Medicine
Acupuncture practice coming soon in Dripping Springs area

The acupuncture center will hold a grand opening in April.

Sunset Valley will use OpenGov budgeting and transparency software when creating its next budget. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sunset Valley to enter contract with OpenGov budgeting, transparency software

The program will also allow city staff to model budgetary options and will cut time researching information such as city salaries and progress on local projects.

A photo of the Dripping Springs City Council.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds slated to take over for longtime Mayor Todd Purcell as Dripping Springs cancels election for uncontested seats

The city of Dripping Springs will not hold a May 2020 election for multiple uncontested seats.

The city of Austin authorized the purchase of a Rodeway Inn at 2711 S. I-35 on Nov. 14. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
No timeline set on opening of Austin’s first conversion of motel to homeless shelter

Austin City Council approved the purchase of the Rodeway Inn in November. City staff does not expect to close on the property until mid-April.

District 4 City Council Member Greg Casar (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Council Member Greg Casar 'seriously considering' run for Kirk Watson’s state Senate seat

The 30-year-old Austin City Council member is serving the final year of his first full, four-year term.

Abed Yaghi makes a margherita pizza. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)
Yaghi's New York Pizzeria offering fresh yet affordable options since 1999

There are eight Yaghi's locations in the Austin area.

Scissors & Scotch now trimming at Lantana Place

The men’s haircut and barber shop service opened at Lantana Place on Feb. 14.

District 14 Sen. Kirk Watson announced Feb. 18 he would be resigning his state Senate seat to work in higher education. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kirk Watson resigns state Senate seat, takes post at University of Houston

The former Austin mayor will become the founding dean at the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs.

Austin City Council is poised to make a final vote on the land development code rewrite by early April. (CHRISTOPHER NEELY/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER)
Austin’s eight-year effort to rewrite land code advances to final vote with City Council's second-round approval

A majority of Austin City Council voted in favor of the land development code rewrite, setting the stage for a final vote on a project that has exhausted the community for roughly eight years.

Easy Tiger announced Mike Stitt (right) as its news CEO. He will lead the bakery along with founder and head baker David Norman (left). The restaurant will open a location on South Lamar Boulevard in winter 2020. Courtesy Easy Tiger.
Bake shop and beer garden Easy Tiger to open in South Austin

Easy Tiger will open a third location in the former Red's Porch space in South Austin.

Back to top