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Gondola system proposed as light rail alternative in West Seattle deemed 'not feasible'

A local group proposed a gondola system to be considered as an alternative for light rail expansion in West Seattle, citing lesser costs and a quick timeline.

SEATTLE — Sound Transit said a proposed gondola system from West Seattle to SoDo "would not be feasible" Thursday after it was proposed as an alternative to the light rail expansion.

A local group, West Seattle SkyLink, proposed the gondola system as an alternative for light rail expansion, citing lesser costs and a quicker timeline for completion.

The group said the SkyLink system could be up and running from West Seattle to SoDo by 2026, while the current delays on the light rail project estimate a completion date around 2032. The expansion delays have also increased costs for the project by 73%. According to SkyLink's website, gondola manufacturers and consultants believe their proposed plan could cost $2 billion less.

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In the report, Sound Transit said an aerial gondola system had significant technical limitations including compatibility with the existing light rail system, a lack of expandability and funding.

"First, they would not integrate with the existing and expanding regional high capacity transit system as well as light rail, would not directly serve as many regional destinations and could be difficult to expand beyond West Seattle," said Matt Sheldon, deputy executive director for planning and integration.

Sound Transit said a gondola system simply lacks the capacity to serve projected ridership, surge events, or future regional demand, citing its already approved Regional Transit Long Range Plan. 

“They operate on a local circulation level, lack regional applications," the report said.

Sound Transit also said it is not authorized to use tax revenue to construct a gondola system.

"Because voters approved light rail as part of ST3, new voter approval would likely be required to change the high capacity mode for West Seattle," said Sheldon.

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