Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

West Pasadena Residents' Association Annual Meeting

Wednesday May 1

Rose Bowl home team locker room

  • The meeting is open to the public and free of charge.
  • Free parking is available to all in Lot F.
  • Enter the stadium through Gate A.
  • Carts will be available for those who need a lift to the stadium and back to their car.

“CELEBRATING SUCCESS AND INSPIRING CHANGE”

Program of events:
4:45 to 5:45 p.m. Tour the Rose Bowl renovations.  See the remarkable progress the City has made in modernizing America's Stadium.  Tours take about 20 minutes.  Last tour leaves at 5:45 p.m.
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Refreshments & exhibits

6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Program, including video of Huell Howser on Paadena, Steve Madison's City Council update, election of WPRA board and officers (see below), service awards, and featuring...

Eric Walsh, M.D., Dr.P.H, director of Pasadena Department of Public Health

‘Building a healthier Pasadena’

Dr. Walsh is Director of Public Health and Health Officer of the City’s Department of Health. In addition, he is on staff at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and at the University of California, Irvine, as an adjunct professor.  Dr. Walsh has served under the current and previous White House administrations on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Walsh will discuss findings of the 2012 City of Pasadena-Altadena Quality of Life Index, identify the top priorities of the Public Health Department and discuss strategies to improve citizens’ health.

Nominating committee recommended slate of officers & directors

President: Bill Urban
Vice President: Catherine Stringer
Secretary: Bob Holmes
Treasurer: Blaine Cavena

Directors: James Boyle, Bill Crowfoot, Sarah Gavit, Joan Hearst, Chuck Hudson, Laura Kaufman, Audrey O’Kelley, Marilyn Randolph, Priscilla Taylor, Michael Udell, John Van de Kamp, Fred Zepeda and Linda Zinn

High Speed Rail Versus Austerity

 http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/04/high_speed_rail_versus_austeri.html

By Matthew E. Kahn, April 8, 2013

 

 

 

 

Philadelphia is 101 miles from Manhattan, and the current travel time between the two cities is about 75 minutes on the Acela, a bit longer by regional rail.* Suppose that Amtrak could achieve the speed of China's bullet trains and move at 175 miles per hour. The one way commute time would decline to 35 minutes. Common sense suggests that home prices in Philadelphia would soar from their current median of $140,000 as businesses and households would come to view the city as a new Manhattan suburb, and the demand to live and work there would sharply increase. Philadelphia would benefit from the population increase and all the amenities that private enterprise would build to support it.
That is exactly what happened in China as a consequence of the country's enormous investment in bullet trains, as work that I did with Siqi Zheng of Tsinghua University shows. But the question is what level of public investment do the United States and other governments want to make to relieve congestion in mega cities and spur growth in second and third tier cities, especially at a time when many are questioning the role of government and pushing for fiscal austerity.

Here's China's story. Between 2006 and 2010, the Chinese central government spent billions of dollars on new bullet trains that connect second and third tier cities with the mega cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou — but of course bullet trains don't connect every smaller city to a mega city. So my coauthor and I looked at the differences that bullet train connections wrought on "connected" cities by comparing them to similar cities that the bullet train had bypassed. Using data for 262 cities, we documented large home price increases for newly connected cities. Based on the ridership data for two major bullet train lines, we calculated that the average city house price growth per billion passenger-kilometers is 4.2%. Effect 1: a capital gain windfall for land owners in second and third tier cities

High rents in the mega city also nudged the subset of households and firms with the lowest willingness to pay to locate there to consider relocating to the secondary cities. But these decentralized households can easily travel to the major cities for unique shopping and restaurant options. Effect 2: dispersed population

What other changes can these lower tier cities expect? In our past work examining the consequences of new subways built in Beijing, we have documented that the private sector responds to major public transit investments through two different investment strategies. First, real estate developers respond by building new housing towers in close proximity to the new public transit stops. Second, commercial real estate demand is stimulated as upscale restaurants and shopping agglomerates close to these transit stations. The extent of this effect will depend on whether the area is zoned for residential or commercial activities, and also the density limits defined in zoning codes. Effect 3: private investment in amenities to support the growing populations of the lower tier cities

The bullet train simultaneously alleviates some of the congestion costs associated with urban growth in the mega cities and triggers the growth of the nearby second and third tier cities. In this sense, the bullet train creates the possibility that the nearby lower tier cities become a "safety valve" for the mega city and this alleviates concern about such cities growing "too big." In the case of China, such investments strengthen center cities as the bullet train connects to downtown subway stations in the big cities. In this sense, this investment is a low carbon strategy that lessens the need for both in-city and cross-city car trips. Effect 4: lower carbons emissions

There's even more to the story for companies. The bullet train has the potential to play a similar role as the Internet [PDF], attracting back-office activity and helping firms fragment so that they keep their deal makers in the expensive commercial real estate in the center cities while sending their routine activities to cheaper land at the periphery. The rapid transport will allow for a more efficient allocation of business activity across space, helping firms to control costs. It's a "win-win" as the scarce mega city's land is efficiently used and the secondary cities experience local growth. Effect 5: more efficient use of space for private enterprise

In the United States, Amtrak seems unlikely to accelerate any time soon, so Philadelphia, Providence, and other cities on the Northeast Corridor will not enjoy the full benefits of their geographic proximity to Boston and New York City. In the west, though, California is going ahead with its High Speed Rail. And while our work quantifies some of the spatial consequences of investing in high speed rail, we cannot claim to have conducted a cost/benefit analysis of such irreversible investments. Our work suggests that cities with bullet train stations will offer new investment opportunities for cities such as Fresno and Bakersfield.

But bullet trains cost billions, and California is expecting the federal government to provide much of this money. Critics will note that it is easy (and quite tempting) to spend "other people's money." In this new age of fiscal austerity, public finance arrangements for major urban infrastructure projects will become an important topic for debate.

* An earlier version of this post misstated the travel time between New York City and Philadelphia.

 

'LA Voices' Video Celebrates Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Administration

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/la-voices-video-extols- ac_n_3047886.html?utm_hp_ref=los-angeles

April 9, 2013

Use this link to get to the video:







La Voices Video

     

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is set to deliver his final State of the City speech Tuesday night, and he wants you to feel a little misty about it.

To that end, the media-savvy politician plans to screen a five minute video celebrating all the reasons Los Angeles is the best city in the world: the beach, weather, food, creative industries, sports teams and diversity.

Of course, the subtle send-off film also praises the Villaraigosa administration's achievements, such as 100 percent traffic light synchronization, 20,000 new port jobs, more than 50 new parks and a 49 percent reduction in violent crime.

The Los Angeles Times notes, however, that the sunny video fails to disclose a few "inconvenient facts," like Villaraigosa's failure to make good on his promise to plant one million trees.

The Mayor has also recently faced criticism from those who want to replace him; last week, candidate Wendy Greuel said Los Angeles was in danger of becoming Detroit and decried City Hall's "failed" leadership on job growth.

But since when has a little reality ever gotten in the way of a good LA party? Sit back and let the video make you smile -- or at least make you feel smug about the weathe

Air Pollution From Traffic Linked With Childhood Cancer 

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/air-pollution-traffic-childhood-cancer_n_3039048.html?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=Green

April 9, 2013

 

Air Pollution Childhood Cancer


There is a link between exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy and risk of childhood cancer, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that women who were exposed to high levels of traffic pollution (emissions from cars and trucks) while they were pregnant also had higher risks of their children going on to develop pediatric cancers, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia and retinoblastoma.

Because the risk was increased with higher traffic pollution exposure regardless of the mother's pregnancy trimester -- and even going into the child's first year of life -- researchers were not able to tease out if there is a particular trimester where air pollution has the worst effect on cancer risk.

"Much less is known about exposure to pollution and childhood cancer than adult cancers," study researcher Julia Heck, assistant researcher in the department of epidemiology at UCLA, said in a statement. "Our innovation in this study was looking at other more rare types of childhood cancer, such as retinoblastoma, and their possible connection to traffic-related air pollution."

The study included 3,950 children born between 1998 and 2007 who were part of the California Cancer Registry. All children could be linked with a birth certificate for California, and all were diagnosed with cancer for the first time before reaching age 5.

Researchers estimated how much traffic pollution the children's mothers were exposed to during their pregnancy and while the child was an infant (the first year of life), judging on traffic volume, emission rates and other factors.

They found that the more the traffic pollution exposure increased, the higher the child's risk was of having acute lymphoblastic leukemia, retinoblastoma (with more cases affecting both eyes instead of just one), and germ cell tumors.


"It would be interesting to determine if there are specific pollutants like benzene or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are driving these associations," Heck said in a statement.

Because the cancers in the study are rare, the researchers said more work is needed to confirm the findings. Also, it's important to note that the study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and thus the results should be considered preliminary.

But still, this is hardly the first time air pollution has been linked with cancer risk. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine showed that living in a highly air-polluted area raises your death risk from lung cancer by 20 percent, compared with living in a less-polluted area. And in 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency released data showing that people who live in certain neighborhoods may have a higher risk of cancer because of higher concentrations of toxic chemicals in the air.

This year, Doo Dah Parade queen is a 'pirate'

 http://www.pasadenasun.com/entertainment/tn-626-0408-this-year-doo-dah-parade-queen-is-a-pirate,0,1138093.story

 By Joe Piasecki, April 8, 2013

Doo Dah Parade Queen

Susann Edmonds of Altadena, left, steps onto the stage at the Pasadena American Legion Post 280 Sunday, April 7, 2013, after being voted 2013 Doo Dah Parade Queen.
 

The zany and somewhat irreverent Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena has a new queen -- a singing, dancing, outrageously dressed pirate with a guitar-wielding slave and her own brew.

Altadena artist and specialty foods entrepreneur Susann Edmonds was crowned queen of the upcoming parade during a raucous selection party on Sunday that drew some 250 revelers to American Legion Post 280 in Pasadena.

PHOTOS: Pasadena Doo Dah Queen tryouts

With her pirate slave in tow, she sang, danced and found favor with an amorphous panel of judges by distributing a special “Doo Dah” blend of fermented pirate elixir.

The drink will be bottled and traded for donations to benefit the Light Bringer Project, the nonprofit arts education group that produces the parade and the annual Pasadena Chalk Festival.

“I’ve been going to the Doo Dah Parade since 1984 and I thought I had something important to bring to the Doo Dah community: I’m good at fun,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds topped a list of 16 queen hopefuls who let their freak flags fly with a variety of theatrical and at times raunchy music and comedy numbers. All were invited to take part in the April 27 — which will be the a counterculture spoof of the Tournament of Roses Parade —along East Colorado Boulevard.

Makeup artist and art model Taryn Piana, 27, of Los Angeles wore condoms as pasties and a prophylactic-decorated corset as she performed a punk-rock burlesque routine that climaxed with the spraying of Silly String.

“I’m a habitual line stepper,” Piana said. “I’m having so much fun being with a lot of likeminded people, which is rare for someone like me. I usually feel like the weird one.”

Another crowd favorite was Mia Bonadonna, a writer for the blog LAist who professed her love of pizza by suggestively slathering it onto her vintage prom dress.

“This girl likes her pizza naked — just cheese,” said Bonadonna, 31, of Long Beach.

A few hungry guests ate some of the leftovers.

“Now that’s sloppy seconds,” said an Altadena woman who called herself Cat Man-Doo.

Other aspiring queens included a musical whistler, a woman who played music on a saw, a singing chef who cooked meals for the judges, a costumed belly dancer, an undead beauty pageant contestant and an American Legion barfly who performed a comedy routine.

The beer-soaked ritual also saw the return of Snotty Scotty and the Hankies, a four-decade mainstay of the Pasadena’s barroom music scene and Doo Dah’s unofficial house band.

“Somehow they manage to get the lunatics back in the asylum once a year. It’s the most absurd thing in the universe, but somehow I can’t avoid doing it,” front man Scott “Snotty Scotty” Finnell said of the gig. Plus, “it’s the only place [the band] makes any money."

HopStop launches real-time transit app

 http://www.metro-magazine.com/news/story/2013/04/hopstop-launches-real-time-transit-app.aspx?ref=Express-Tuesday-20130409&utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Enewsletter

April 8, 2013

 

 

 HopStop, the number one ranked transit app in iTunes and Google Play, today launched HopStop Live! — a free, real-time social transit app that allows public transportation riders to contribute, receive and share real-time transit information about stations, lines and transit systems.

The new service will launch exclusively on the iPhone platform with other platforms, including iPad and Google Play, to follow in subsequent releases. The real-time transit service includes every market, across every transit agency, for every line/route that HopStop currently supports.

HopStop Live! is the only all-in-one transit app, providing door-to-door walking and transit directions, schedules and officially licensed transit maps and, for the first time, real-time crowd-sourced information from fellow transit riders.

The service benefits from an immediate install-base of 2 million monthly active users. The service also fills a large void left by the lack of real-time information currently available from most transit agencies — especially in periods of disruption caused by unforeseen incidents, according to a company statement.

Real-time, crowd-sourced information will be available both within HopStop’s familiar step-by-step direction search experience and also through a new standalone service with the iPhone app called “Live!.”Through the standalone service “Live!,” users can follow their specific lines and stations of regular use.

"HopStop Live! analyzes real-time user reports on lines, stations and routes across its entire global footprint to give transit riders a real-time snapshot of whether their ride is delayed, by how long, and an indication of the likely reason," says Joe Meyer, CEO, HopStop.

RELATED ARTICLE: Check out, "Innovative Approach to Creating App."

Also:  http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/8/4195266/hopstop-live-app-crowdsourced-transit

Black voters losing clout but still crucial in L.A. mayor's race

 http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-black-voters-losing-clout-but-still-crucial-in-la-mayors-race-20130409,0,3954884.story

 By Michael Finnegan and Ben Welsh, April 9, 2013

Mayoral map

 A geographic look at L.A.'s mayoral primary election last month.

The growth of the city's Latino and Asian populations since Tom Bradley left office in 1993 after 20 years as the city's first black mayor has left African Americans facing an inevitable decline in political power. In the May 21 election, an African American may lose a South Los Angeles council seat for the first time in 50 years.

In the mayoral contest, South Los Angeles remains a major battleground, and — if the candidates' attention to the community is a fair gauge — black voters could hold the key to selecting the city's next chief executive.

Their political power may be on the wane, said political scientist Jaime Regalado of Cal State L.A., but "they're counted on heavily to make a difference with their feet, at the polls, in this mayoral election."

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

"In some ways, it seems like a contradiction," he said.

African Americans were pivotal in choosing the city's last two mayors. In 2001, they were a pillar of support for James K. Hahn, the son of South Los Angeles political icon Kenneth Hahn, a Los Angeles County supervisor for 40 years.

But by 2005, black voters were instrumental in bouncing Hahn from office, switching loyalties to Villaraigosa after Hahn pushed for the ouster of a black police chief, Bernard C. Parks.

L.A. ELECTIONS 2013: Sign up for our email newsletter

Blacks made up 17% of the mayoral vote in 2001 and 15% in 2005. Much of that vote could be up for grabs in the May 21 mayoral runoff between Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti because African Americans make up a large share of the electorate in South Los Angeles, an area that went heavily for Jan Perry in the March primary.

Read Michael Finnegan's full story on the role of African Americans in the mayor's race here.

Police Stings for Drivers Who Don't Yield in Crosswalks: Does It Really Work?

 http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/04/police-stings-drivers-who-dont-yield-crosswalks-does-it-really-work/5221/

By Sarah Goodyear, April 8, 2013

 

 Police Stings for Drivers Who Don't Yield in Crosswalks: Does It Really Work?

There were at least 56 very unhappy people in Fort Lee, New Jersey, last Friday, after a police sting operation resulted in a flurry of traffic tickets for drivers who failed to yield for pedestrians in crosswalks. The blitz, which is part of a more comprehensive effort to educate both pedestrians and drivers about their responsibility to follow the law, drew angry comments from motorists who were stopped and issued $230 tickets, according to NorthJersey.com.

This surge in enforcement is just the latest attempt in Fort Lee – a municipality that bears the unfortunate burden of providing several shortcuts to and from the George Washington Bridge – to address pedestrian safety. Sixty-eight people got hit by drivers in Fort Lee last year, and four died. Twelve were struck through the first three months of this year. Last year at this time, the cops were cracking down on jaywalkers. Will switching tactics make a difference?

It sure will make a lot of people mad. Righteous outrage is the norm when police conduct pedestrian decoy stings, which they do around the country on a regular basis. Some drivers insist they don’t see the officers, which tells you something right there. Others say it’s just a revenue-generating scheme, or that pedestrians are the problem, not motorists. From NewJersey.com’s report:
“Pedestrians are idiots, especially in New Jersey,” said Julie Mendelowitz, of Hoboken, who vowed to contest her $230 ticket. “If someone jumps out into the walkway, what makes you think that that driver can stop in enough time to not strike that pedestrian and not get hit by the cars behind them? Are the pedestrians not endangering the drivers just as much? Where’s their ticket?”

Well, actually, pedestrians are not endangering the drivers just as much, and everyone involved knows it. That intimidating fact is exactly what drivers are counting on when they barrel through marked crossings. And when pedestrians are crossing in crosswalks – which is where the Fort Lee police are doing their thing – you, as a driver, are supposed to be watching out for them and traveling at a speed that will enable you to stop in time to avoid hitting someone.

The problem is that roads in much of the United States are engineered for speed. Straight, wide, free of any obstacles, the modern American thoroughfare sends drivers the clear message that this is their domain, over which they should reign undisputed. Bright yellow signs with silhouetted figures and white lines on the asphalt can’t begin to convince people behind the wheel of anything different, not to mention some rule from driver education that they forgot as soon as they got their licenses.

In this TV news segment showing an “investigation” into a recent crosswalk enforcement action in Orlando, Florida, you can see what the cops are up against here. As they walk out into four lanes of traffic on what looks like a suburban arterial road, some drivers just keep coming – in one case, almost striking the undercover officer who is crossing. "They have actually got a weapon in front of them that they are driving," Orange County Sheriff Sgt. Tony Molina said in the segment.

The drivers may be aware of the destructive potential of their vehicles, but many seem to think that just means everyone should get the heck out of their way. “I thought the guy was crazy for walking across like that," says one guy from behind the wheel, shaking his head.

Others, like one woman quoted in Fort Lee, go straight into full denial, insisting that the humans in front of them weren’t actually there. "I did not see him at all, which means he was not on the street," said Katie Graziano, of Weehawken.

Do pedestrian decoy operations have any effect on attitudes like that? At least one study suggests that they might, if combined with a concerted educational approach. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis looked at a two-week-long Miami Beach "driver-yielding enforcement program," which included decoy pedestrians, feedback flyers, and written and verbal warnings. The article’s authors found that the program made a measurable difference in driver behavior:
Results indicated that the percentage of drivers yielding to pedestrians increased following the introduction of the enforcement program in each corridor and that these increases were sustained for a period of a year with minimal additional enforcement. The effects also generalized somewhat to untreated crosswalks in both corridors, as well as to crosswalks with traffic signals.
In other words, crosswalks can become safer places if municipalities are willing to do some hard work. That’s important because, as Emily Badger wrote last week, other research shows that many pedestrians are struck when they’re in crosswalks acting in accordance with the law – doing what is supposed to be the right thing.

Janna Chernetz, the New Jersey advocate at the nonprofit Tri State Transportation Campaign, says that her group sees pedestrian decoy operations as part of a bigger picture. “These programs are one tool in a toolkit,” she says. The others include education, as well as better infrastructure that sends a clear signal to motorists and pedestrians. One example is HAWK crosswalks (that stands for high-intensity activated crosswalks), which use an unusual cluster of lights to get a motorist’s attention when a pedestrian is entering the roadway. (You can watch a video demonstrating the HAWK here.)

But maybe we need to reconfigure space more radically to be able to truly see each other again. In a shared-space intersection like the one I wrote about last week in Poynton, U.K., one of the first effects is that people’s awareness of other road users changes dramatically. And the classic defense of “I just didn’t see him” becomes a lot harder to swallow.
Video: Gil Cedillo Voicing His Support for the Completion of the SR-710 Extension

Gil Cedillo is running against Jose Gardea for a Los Angeles City Council seat.

Posted on Facebook April 9, 2013

www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=10200340987220173

Comments to the video:

 Gil Cedillo is guilty of spreading BS as usual. Pasadena, So. Pasadena are not in favor of the 710 extension. Get is right pendejo!
  No On 710 in El Sereno does not support this fool. This vendido is in the pocket of corporate interest that do nothing for nuestra gente.
 
 Never mentions that we're a broke ass city,full of lots of broke ass commuters,whom will never pay a toll to go 4.5 miles. Never mentions a toll. If his lips are moving,he's lying.
 
 Thanks for posting. He infers that the City of South Pasadena supports the completion of the 710, WHICH IS AN OUTRIGHT LIE! The City has never supported the completion of the 710!!!!!! Next I expect him to say black is white.
 
 Gee, Gil, I guess you haven't read the Alternatives Analysis report or learned yet that only 23% of the vehicles exiting the 710 at its northern terminus that you talk about are actually trying to get through to the area and that the remaining 77 percent will still need to use the local arterials for their local destinations, and those trying to avoid the toll will do the same. You are right about traffic from other freeways using a new connection -- it's called induced demand and it clogs up virtually every new roadway within five years of opening. You need to do some research.
 
  Money causes blindness & a great deafness indeed.

 

The Golden Age of Gondolas Might Be Just Around the Corner

 http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/04/golden-age-gondolas-might-be-just-around-corner/5220/

By Henry Grabar, April 9, 2013

 

 

The Golden Age of Gondolas Might Be Just Around the Corner
 
 
Laugh all you want (or cower in fear), but cable-drawn aerial transportation just might be the next big thing.

To hear the evangelists tell it, the skyborne pods that have ferried skiers through the Alps for most of the last century are an integral part of the future of urban transport. Cheaper than terrestrial fixed guideway transit and quicker to build, the gondola is finally taking its rightful place in the urban landscape.

"Depending on how you measure it," says Steven Dale of the Gondola Project, "it is the fastest growing transportation method in the world."

Comparatively, that is. Until the last decade, the idea of relying largely on gondolas for mass transit was considered comical, if it was considered at all. Into the 1990s, Dale says, "there was no literature. There was nothing."

Today, as gondola construction accelerates, Dale's Gondola Project is probably the single most valuable database on the subject. And yet when the talk turns to gondolas, there are still two kinds of people in the world: those who think the gondola is the answer to a city's short-range transportation needs, and those who can't understand why everyone is talking about those tippy Venetian boats.

It's a strong dichotomy, and one that seems to imply that the gondolistas are either members of a insular transit cult or miles ahead of the rest of us.

Perhaps it's a little of both.

Medellin, 2004

Medellin, 2004

The gondola renaissance began, more or less, with Medellín. In 2004, the Colombian city built a gondola to connect one of its sprawling hillside neighborhoods to the trunk line of the Metro, which runs along the fold of the valley. The success of that project inspired the construction of two more lines, which in turn helped make the city an international destination for mayors and urban thinkers, and the winner of the Urban Land Institute’s Innovation City of the Year last month.

Medellín had imitators. In 2007, Portland, Oregon, built a tramway to connect a university campus to downtown. New York City renovated its Roosevelt Island Tram in 2010. In 2009, Manizales, Colombia, installed a gondola system in imitation of Medellin. The next year, Caracas built one; the year after, Rio de Janeiro did too.

Last year, London built an aerial cable crossing the Thames, and in the fall, La Paz announced it will build the world's largest gondola transit network, with eleven stations and over seven miles of cable. The French cities of Brest and Toulouse will complete cable transport in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

So why is this only happening now? Cable-drawn transport has existed for thousands of years, and was widely used during the 19th century in mines and at mills. Like industrial technologies before it, the machinery slowly crept into city life nearly 150 years ago.

Well-known to Americans are the cable cars of San Francisco, the first of which was developed in 1873. Despite their resemblance to the common streetcar, these vehicles have more in structural common with gondolas and trams. Alpine cities like Grenoble installed aerial cable transport as early as 1934. Cable transport was an early proposed alternative to the project that became the Paris Métro.

But as the 20th century progressed, the technology retreated to the mountains. Most of San Francisco’s cable cars were replaced with streetcars and later buses. The two companies that manufacture cable systems, Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr, seemed little interested in hawking their wares to cities, and few planners came a-calling. Advances like two-speed cables were developed for skiers, and their potential as urban people-movers was largely overlooked.

The technology never entirely disappeared from cities, of course. The Roosevelt Island Tramway was completed in 1976 (albeit as a stopgap while subway service to the island was under construction). As transportation to hilltop monuments around the world, aerial transit continued to be popular: the tram to Rio's Sugarloaf opened in 1912; to Bogota's Monserrate in 1955; to Jounieh's Our Lady of Lebanon in 1965. The mountainous cities of Algeria are threaded with gondolas that serve both tourists and commuters.

But until the last couple decades, there was very little information on gondolas and trams as a transit device.

"In the late '80s and early '90s," Dale says, "the planning profession's understanding of the technology was 180 degrees inaccurate – they thought the technology was expensive, dangerous, slow. They thought it wouldn't move enough people. Difficult to procure, difficult to implement – everything you know if you're familiar with the technology is demonstrably false."

And beyond that, according to Assman Ekkehard, a marketing director for Doppelmayr, there was an image problem. "Most people — politicians, the public itself, architects, the people who are doing the plans for cities, traffic specialists — they also had, and still sometimes have this association: ropeways are good for tourists, they're good for bringing people up the mountain, but they're not a good means of transport."

That's beginning to change, Ekkehard believes. "People see cities with ropeways and they see it works," he says. "It’s a very reasonable means of transit – you don’t need a lot of infrastructure. They need very little space. They're very environmentally friendly."

But perhaps more importantly in an era of diminished public funds, they can be built quickly and cheaply.

"It's very low-cost compared to an alternative," says Edward Neumann, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and author of the paper “The past, present and future of urban cable propelled people movers.” In Toulouse, for example, the proposed gondola route will be two to three times less expensive than installing a streetcar.

Michael McDaniel, who is trying to convince Austin, Texas, to develop a transit network of gondolas, framed the costs like this in an interview with Marketplace:
"Running subway lines under a city can cost about $400 million per mile. Light rails systems run about $36 million per mile. But the aerial ropeways required to run gondolas cost just $3 million to $12 million to install per mile."
It's not that boosters think aerial transit can or should render fixed guideways on the ground obsolete. Theirs is the more modest claim that in certain cases, cable-drawn is the best solution.

That doesn't just mean crossing rivers (as in New York) climbing mountains (as in Portland) or bridging gorges (as in Constantine). Perhaps more important than the plans for Brest and Toulouse is the scheme for Créteil, a suburban township southeast of Paris and the terminus of the Paris Métro’s Line 8.

Rather than argue for a costly extension of the Métro, the city plans to build a four-stop gondola connecting the terminus to the neighboring city of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. Gondolas can carry up to 6,000 persons per hour per direction, a rate competitive with the practical capacity of light rail and for a fraction of the price. If the system at Créteil (2016-18) is a success, the gondola may prove the exemplary solution to the "first mile problem" of integrating commuters on the periphery of a mass transit system.

There have been growing pains. Critics have called the Rio gondola an instrument of gentrification and "de-densification," intended to push out rather than serve residents of the favela it runs through. The Portland project cost nearly four times the projections, and the current round-trip fare ($4 for tourists) is more than twice the initial estimates.

Worse still has been the saga of the Emirates Air Line, the towering gondola inaugurated for the London Olympics last summer. Like cable-drawn transit in Portland, New York, Medellin, and Rio, it was framed as an addition to the city's transit network. It appears on the Tube Map, is accessible via Oystercard, and is run by Transport for London. But though the cable car registered over 1.5 million trips between June and November, exceeding expectations, it proved virtually incapable of attracting commuters: in the two months after the Games ended in September, only one in ten thousand journeys was a discounted commuter fare. Officials remain optimistic that number will grow as the area served continues to develop.

Dale thinks the London system was an unfortunate anomaly. Contrary to government marketing, he says, the route is plainly not intended to serve commuters.

Beyond that, though, gondola systems face an uphill battle in the public opinion. They look, frankly, silly and constitute something of a political gamble. Aesthetically, it's unclear if they will sit well with preservationists or neighbors. And they tend to unnerve commuters (and planners) much the way underground journeys did during the early days of subway construction. (Studies indicate that claustrophobia and acrophobia each affect approximately 5 percent of the population)

"You apply a stricter standard to new ideas than you do to old ideas," Dale notes.


And then, at least in the United States, there's the language barrier: we tend to associate gondolas with Venice, cable cars with San Francisco, trams with streetcars. Would you want to be suspended 100 feet in the air from a "ropeway"? If cable-drawn aerial transportation is going to catch on in U.S. cities, it will need to win over minds and mouths alike. And perhaps stomachs, too.