fb-pixel Skip to main content

Mexico, South America, and Europe love gondolas. Why do Americans reject them?

This is an excerpt from Are we there yet?, a Globe Opinion newsletter about the future of transportation in the region. Sign up to get it in your inbox a day early.
Globe Staff
* indicates required

This is an excerpt from a column that appears in Monday’s paper as part of a package devoted to blue sky thinking about the future of Boston.

By Marcela García

Aerial trams are a green mode of transportation with the potential to bring additional public benefits to Boston.

Paris will have an aerial tramway by 2025. Medellín’s, operating since 2004, moves tens of thousands of passengers daily. And Mexico City’s are fostering public art in one of its more majestic forms: muralism.

Miriam Martinez and her children ride Mexicable back home in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico, Wednesday March 7, 2018. The Mexicable, a gondola based transport system, was opened in 2016 in order to ease transportation for its citizens throughout the city.Anthony Vazquez for the Boston Globe

The sky-high, sustainable public transportation mode has been embraced elsewhere but somehow shunned in America (outside the ski slopes, that is).


Indeed, when developers from Millennium Partners floated a project to build a $100 million gondola system on the South Boston waterfront in 2018, Bostonians shut down the novel proposal with a classic conservative instinct that reminds us why we last saw transportation innovation in the 1890s.

In retrospect, given that the T is currently in shambles, it’s hard to ignore the enormous potential that those 70 cable cars, with the capacity to transport up to 4,000 people per hour, held to alleviate worsening Boston traffic today.

In 2018, gondolas were dismissed as an “insane” idea, with reports that Massachusetts Port Authority officials rolled their eyes at the proposal behind closed doors. To be sure, it’s not just Boston that has rejected gondolas. Similar proposals in cities like Austin, Chicago, and Seattle have not moved past the concept stage.

A rendering of the view over Summer Street for the proposed South Boston Cableway project, page 74.Handel Architects via City of Boston

In general, transit enthusiasts and experts have dismissed cable-car systems in the United States as a distraction from bigger problems facing urban transportation systems — the ultimate shiny (flying) object in transit. Let’s face it: The streets are clogged and the MBTA tracks are in disrepair. Maybe it’s time to take to the sky.

Read the rest of García’s column here.


Alan Wirzbicki is Globe deputy editor for editorials. He can be reached at alan.wirzbicki@globe.com.