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Gondolas are a popular idea among Hamilton transportation options

The idea of a gondola going up and down the escarpment in Hamilton is proving popular as a transportation option.
The Sea to Sky gondola launched in Squamish, B.C. last year. Hamilton officials want to know what people think of a gondola on the escarpment. (CBC)

The notion of a gondola in Hamilton is proving to be a popular one with almost half of the people giving feedback on the city's transportation plan liking the idea.

The city has held three public sessions for its transportation master plan (TMP), the most recent being last Wednesday, says Steve Molloy, project manager for the TMP. And while it's still a small sampling – about 70 people – 46 per cent were excited by the idea of a gondola that takes people up and down the mountain. That's more than were interested in a cycle track on Bay Street or turning the Chedoke trail into a multi-use trail. 

It's still a mainly abstract idea being floated as part of a broader study of what transportation should look like in Hamilton over the next 30 years.

But Molloy said so far, people like the idea.

"What the technology looks like or the location, those are all next steps," he said. "The takeaway is that we've identified the need."

The idea of a gondola has been bandied about in casual conversation for years. From 1895 to 1936, the city operated the Wentworth incline railway, which took passengers up and down the mountain on a track. Many of those footings still exist just under the surface.

Then this spring, city transportation officials added the concept to its TMP public consultation sessions to see what people think. Molloy said he's surprised by its popularity.

The city had public meetings in Ancaster, Tim Horton's Field in the lower city, the Sackville Seniors Centre and Upper Stoney Creek. At every meeting, people were receptive to gondolas. In Ancaster, for example, the idea had 50 per cent approval, higher than any other concept. At Valley Park Recreation Centre in Stoney Creek, 60 per cent liked the idea of a gondola. At Sackville, it was 42 per cent, and at Tim Horton's Field, 41 per cent.

The city is launching online consultation on Tuesday in the form of a survey, he said. So they'll see if the gondola's popularity holds.

It's too early to talk about locations or cost, he said. That would require a feasibility study, discussions with the Niagara Escarpment Commission and council approval.

But the main message, he said, is that people want a safe way to get up and down the mountain. Cyclists in particular want that. Earlier this month cyclistJay Keddy, a kindergarten teacher at Prince of Wales School, was fatally struck by a car while riding up the Clarement Access.

A gondola would likely take the same amount of time as a bus, Molloy said, but it would double as a tourist attraction.

Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, is still interested in the gondola idea. He's just waiting for public input. He and Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8 are both interested.

"Certainly I've had lots of healthy conversations with the Ward 8 councillor about this," he said. "I can safely say we're both eager to learn more and take it to the next step."

But Chad Collins, Ward 5 councillor, isn't so sure. Hamilton has more pressing transportation and infrastructure needs, he said, including much-needed improvements to HSR.

"It would be hard to justify publicly the expenditure and the thought that we would invest in something like that." 

The city's online TMP survey is at hamilton.ca/tmp.

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