Building a $30m gondola to connect the Amtrak station and Empire State Plaza is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard

Solving problems with creative solutions is remarkable, especially when the problem to be fixed is squarely in the public interest.  

The Capital Region has been remiss in fixing its horrible taxi service. Under our current system, drivers, dispatchers and cab companies have no reason to do a good job, as there is no form of accountability. With ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft, drivers and passengers rate one another, and if you fall below a threshold, you are removed from the system. Watching ride-sharing services take off elsewhere has made Albany residents feel as if they’re forced to deal with the current taxis as punishment for something they have no control over. To visitors and prospective residents, this makes the area look bad and behind the times.

These dreadful taxi services are given exclusivity to serve the Albany–Rensselaer Amtrak station, and are the reason we are invested in and entertaining the idea of alternative transportation from the train station to the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

Gondolas are a fun and non-traditional way to continuously transport people while avoiding most of the construction costs associated with building roads or laying track, save for the stations along the way. However, gondolas are not the solution we need to get people from the Amtrak station to where they’re going.

According to AOA, the McLaren Engineering Group (the group who would get a payday from this project) are the ones who conducted the feasibility study. They brought in Doppelmayr, who make gondolas, and another company called Urban Gondola Systems LLC, to help decide if the area would benefit from the addition of aerial gondolas.

Peter Melewski, who works with McLaren Engineering Group was quoted on News10 as saying, “It gets you from point A to point B directly and quickly,” which sounds good, but shows why this is a bad idea. This is a proposed $30m solution that goes from one place only, to another place only. A shuttle or bus can do the same thing, and can even go other places, too. And the system they use to get around—roads—is already in place. Even better, ride-sharing would provide a way for everyone to get from point A to wherever they’re actually going without a whimsical intermediate step.

The gondolas from Rensselaer to Albany are a bad idea masquerading as a solution in the public interest that will not serve the public or fix the awful taxi system, and will be a payday to the three partisan groups that worked on the study. If you want modern, reliable transportation in our area, to and from the Albany–Rensselaer Amtrak station and everywhere else, sign Uber’s petition to bring ride-sharing to Upstate New York and let your local elected officials know your position on ride-sharing.

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