A Mass-Transit Proposal To Connect A City Using Aerial Gondolas | Co.Design

Austin’s proposed gondolas. From fastcodesign.com.

This post from Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan of Fast Company details designer Micheal McDonald’s proposal for a system of aerial trams as a new public transit element in Austin, Texas. This is an interesting alternative to expensive and legally problematic traditional systems such as light rail or subways. You would only need to buy up the land for the towers and stations, although air rights over existing structures could be an issue.

The Portland Aerial Tram. From wikipedia.org.

The tram would be far from the first one in North America. Portland’s Aerial Tram is one of the best ways to take in views of the city, and New York’s Roosevelt Island Tramway connects the island to the rest of New York’s extensive transit system. Other trams are popping up in London, with the new Emirates Air Line, and in various cities in France. What sets the Austin proposal apart from these lines is that it is not a single line, but a network of aerial trams. To see something like this, you need to go to South America.

Caracas Metrocable. From wikipedia.org.

Caracas, Venezuela, MedellĂ­n, Columbia, and Rio de Janeiro have tramway networks, mostly connecting the informal communities on steep hillsides to the more central, developed parts of the city. Part of the reason these systems were chosen was because the roads and paths in these communities are too narrow for a bus to get through, and to condemn enough houses to build a street would be expensive and displace thousands, whereas building towers displaces very few. The terminals have in many cases been integrated with new public uses such as libraries and sports fields. While roads in Austin are plenty wide for buses, one advantage that the designer of Austin’s proposal points out is that trams can create shortcuts by moving diagonal to the grid over existing development, straight to its destination.

This proposal is in its early stages, and as a newer technology it has a lot of challenges to face. Securing air rights would be a major issue, and even if it were built, people may be apprehensive to try a new system. On the other hand, the novelty of it may draw users that otherwise would not be inclined to use public transit. I drove out of my way to use Portland’s Aerial Tram because it gives you a completely new perspective on the city. Austin’s tram system, if ever built, could have the same effect.


Reason to Love Toronto: because we build parks under our expressways | torontolife.com

Underpass Park in Toronto. From torontolife.com.

Kelly Pullen brings us this post on parks in Toronto. When Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday made a comment about children in Toronto playing in the street, Waterfront Toronto corrected him; they play under it. They created this playspace under a number of overpasses, which includes a skate park, playground, and basketball court. There are a number of parks like this around the world, including a skate park in Philadelphia near the Navy yard, but so much of the area under freeways is taken up by parking, storage, or even left vacant. It is also a problem of freeway design. When I was in Rio de Janeiro, I noticed that their freeways, which were very high above the ground, almost seemed like they weren’t there, and actually provided shade for public markets, but if they got lower to the ground, they felt oppressive. There are a number of ways to do it, but if we have to live with them, good design can make freeways more livable.

Active public space under a freeway in Rio de Janeiro. From Andy Wang.

David Yoon and Narrow Streets Los Angeles

Pacific Coast Highway, before. From narrowstreetsla.blogspot.com.

Pacific Coast Highway, after. From narrowstreetsla.blogspot.com.

A few days ago I came across this post on Mas Context. It details the work of David Yoon, a photographer, among other things, living in Los Angeles. Yoon is a self-described “urban planning geek” who maintains a blog where he takes pictures of oversized streets in Los Angeles and uses Photoshop to narrow them and show what Los Angeles would look like with a more intimate street scale.

6th Street, before. From narrowstreetsla.blogspot.com.

6th Street, after. From narrowstreetsla.blogspot.com.

After reading the Mas Context post, I immediately went on his blog and looked at every paring he’s ever done. I love it. to me, the afters sort of remind me of Rio de Janeiro; another subtropical city, but with more intimate streets.

Sunset Boulevard, before. From narrowstreetsla.blogspot.com.

Sunset Boulevard, after. From narrowstreetsla.blogspot.com.

And Yoon isn’t trying to protect his methods, either. He actually made a video showing how he does it.

Spring Street, Los Angeles, narrowed. from David Yoon on Vimeo.

Inspired by this, I went about trying to do it for myself. Unfortunately (in a manner of speaking), Philadelphia doesn’t have as many super-wide streets as L.A. But there was one broad street in my neighborhood that I thought I could try. Namely, Broad Street.

North Broad Street at Arch.

Here is my transformation:


Want to see a street in your city narrowed? If you live in L.A., contact David Yoon and he’ll do it for you! If you live anywhere else, do it yourself! And post a comment here with a link while you’re at it!

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