If Steven Dale had his way, Toronto's transit system would include a network of gondola cable lines ferrying people around the city in pods held aloft by steel cables.
Dale is an urban planner and the founder of Creative Urban Projects, a group that does consulting for agencies on gondola systems. He believes it's time to start talking about "expanding our public transport portfolio of tools," and gondola travel is a cheap and effective way of doing so.
"It was the most ridiculous idea we'd ever heard when we started dealing with it," said Dale in an interview with CBC's Metro Morning on Wednesday.
'Wait a minute, it isn't that crazy' — Steven Dale, founder,Creative Urban Projects
"But then once you actually go into the research and look at the case history and start to explore this and visit these cities where they're actually using them, suddenly you realize: wait a minute, it isn't that crazy because it's cost effective, wait times are less than a minute and there isn't any traffic 25 feet in the air."
Dale said Gondola systems have been implemented in a number of cities in South America, including Medellin, Colombia, Rio De Janeiro and Caracas, Venezuela. He singled out the system in Medellin as being particularly successful, with three gondola lines being fully integrated into the transit system, with plans for several more.
Dale is pushing for a system of enclosed ski-lift style gondolas that carry between 10 and 35 people and are supported by steel cables.
One natural location for a gondola line in Toronto, Dale said, would be a link between the island airport to the mainland. Another possible line could be built along the Don Valley corridor, where it is difficult to implement additional traditional transportation infrastructure, he added.
Dale estimates the cost of a gondola line would be between one- and two-thirds of that of that of a light rail line. According to Dale's website, gondolaproject.com, gondola cable can be built for $15 - $45 million U.S. per kilometre compared to $30 - $75 million U.S. per kilometre for light rail.
A gondola system can also transport up to 6,000 people per hour per direction, the site says, whereas no current light rail system in North America can move more than 3,500 people per hour per direction.
The 501 Queen Streetcar, the site says, currently carries about 2,000 people per hour per direction. According to the TTC, an estimated 43,500 people use the streetcar on an average business day.
'Opening the discussion'
"We're not suggesting this is a cure-all or this is something that will solve transportation woes. It's not better than LRT, it's just a complement to LRT," said Dale.
The TTC used to employ many modes of transportation, but has moved away from that in recent years. Dale said he hopes "bringing this to the table and opening this discussion could actually increase that culture."
He said his group has had "some conversations" with people at the city, but admits they haven't progressed too far.
The city is currently struggling to produce a balanced budget and has committed to a plan focused on building new subway lines.
"Given the complex politics of Toronto right now, I'm not too hopeful it would ever occur in the near future but there's always a chance."