Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Election 2020

Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Supervisor Ron Roberts On The Continued Push For Gondolas In San Diego

November 21, 2017 1:10 p.m.

Supervisor Ron Roberts On The Continued Push For Aerial Gondolas


Ron Roberts, San Diego County Supervisor

Related Story: Supervisor Ron Roberts On The Continued Push For Gondolas In San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

If you use public transportation in San Diego, you might take the bus or a trolley. In some cases, there could be a better way to go, to right through the sky on an enclosed gondola. There also called skyways by some supporters and they are used around the world as public transit. In fact, San Diego already uses gondolas at the zoo and see world. The greatest local booster has been Ron Roberts, County supervisor in the current organization in San Diego.You take the future of San Diego and cities across the country and see the incredible advantages. I feel very passionate about this. It is uniquely suited for San Diego, with the topography. It is not a long-distance type of solution. We go the last mile type of thing to hook in with the trolley and do that in key places not only downtown, but in beaches and getting to some of our job centers that are extremely congested.What is your argument in favor of skyways? Gondolas? Compared to but -- buses, shuttle buses, and trolleys. What are the advantages?They are numerous. To me start with some that are extremely important. Number 1, the cost of the system, compared to the trolley, is a fraction of the trolley. Probably 50% per mile. Secondly, you don't have to acquire right away. You don't have to have anyone competing with the streets. Your in the sky. You have a free environment to deal with. Thirdly, the capacity is pretty impressive. It is like having one bus per minute in terms of capacity. Imagine a bus stop where every minute, you have a new bus pulling in, you loaded up, you pull out. That is a potential that we have in the line in terms of the cars themselves. They are arriving every 13 or 14 seconds apart. You can process large groups of people. 3000+ people per hour. That is an advantage. The system itself, think about it. While it is not frictionless, it is a minimal amount of friction to have these going. They are going in both directions, so they are counter weighted. The first line that we looked at from downtown to Balboa Park is a two-mile stretch. Would probably be powered by a 500 hp electric motor, that is it.Give us a scenario of a system that you think would really work in San Diego. I know you have studied a number of different options. What, to you, is a very good option?You have to look in terms of what we normally in transportation call the last mile. It is when you get off, let's say the trolley, you want to get someplace else that is important, but there is no real connection. The connect from the trolley to go to Balboa Park. Another one would be for building a new trolley line going north on Highway five, we have a station at Balboa Boulevard. You get to the beach from the station. Think about the beaches in the summertime when there is no parking and the traffic is horrendous for the people who live there and the people who are trying to get there. You could get there and you could get to Mission Beach. You can get to Pacific Beach. You could use this in a way that we don't have any other solutions. Our long-range plan was showing a trolley going to Pacific Beach. It will be centuries before that happens. It doesn't make a lot of sense. This would.Since this would be such a big -- new thing, how do you figure out ridership? How do you determine that this is an option that a lot of people would use? Is that something you can know?The engineers have been looking at it much like they would look at a new bus line for a new trolley line, or anything else. There are models. There are analytic tools that they have. We used a firm to study the first downtown link.Today, talk to a guy from WSP. He estimated that the cost of one of these things would be about $50 million per mile. Does that sound right to you?Is probably a little high. It's really a function of how many stations. I would say that would be high. The estimates that we would use, we were at about 65 to 70 million about your half ago going from downtown to Balboa Park.For the entire thing?For going to 2 miles.You make the argument that these are cost-effective. Where's the money going to come from? That is ultimately the big question.That is always a big question. It depends on a number of things. It depends on having the political support locally. When we introduce a new idea, there are a lot of people that have trouble accepting. They say what are you talking about? That is a tourist ride for SeaWorld or for the zoo. You have to get out. Selling sound like a bad world -- word, but you have to educate people about the advantages. The federal government has grants for projects. Smaller projects that are innovative. California right now has incredible effort going on. What are we doing on greenhouse gas? They have a pile of money, they are looking for innovative projects. I think there are potentially different sources out there that could be put together. We have a full funding agreement for the light rail at the coastline. That was a $1 billion grant. That took a lot of work. I think in time, you have to finish all the environmental documents and things. I think it would be highly eligible for some of these grant awards.That was San Diego County supervisor Ron Roberts speaking with Tom fund.