ALBANY — The public has been invited to share their thoughts on a proposed aerial gondola over the Hudson River between the Rensselaer Amtrak station and downtown Albany.
The Capital District Transportation Committee, which oversees transportation planning for the region and could award the project federal funding, is promoting the survey about the proposed Capital District Gondola.
The team behind the gondola came up with the survey, but CDTC agreed to help get the word out, though without endorsing the concept, CDTC Executive Director Michael Franchini said. He said the information the survey generates could be useful to the transportation planning agency.
"We just think the more data we have, the better," Franchini said.
McLaren Engineering Group, which first proposed the gondola concept in July 2016, is also working on a detailed ridership and economic impact assessment for the project. In addition to providing a scenic option for people arriving at the Rensselaer Amtrak station for business trips, a feasibility study completed in November concluded an aerial tram would have significant tourism potential.
The survey asks questions about people's current travel behavior, including modes of travel used, lengths of stay, perceptions about parking in downtown Albany and thoughts about the possibility of a gondola service.
"It isn't a question of feasibility; we know it's feasible. The question is need, and this is a way of determining if there's a need," Franchini said.
The idea has received support — at least as a concept — from local officials on both sides of the river.
The cost to build the gondola has been estimated at between $17 million and $20 million, with annual operating costs of about $2.4 million. Those costs could be offset by a mix of private funds, passenger ticket revenue, advertising and public funds, according to McLaren Engineering's November report.
McLaren has identified a 1-mile gondola route — between the Amtrak station and a proposed station on South Pearl Street near the Times Union Center. In a later phase, the proposal suggested the gondola could continue to the Empire State Plaza. The gondolas would run on cables anchored to towers on each side of the river.
McLaren is working with Doppelmayr USA, the U.S. branch of Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, an Austrian-Swiss aerial gondola system maker whose projects include the gondola system built for the London Olympics.
A scenario developed by McLaren has up to 45 gondola cabins operating 16 hours per day, with the potential to move up to 3,000 people per hour. The travel time across the river would be roughly four minutes — less time than it takes to drive between the two destinations, according to Google Maps.
Public officials including U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Rensselaer Mayor Daniel Dwyer have expressed support for the idea, though without making any financial commitments.
The partners with McLaren include Doppelmayr, Capital Gondola LLC, Camoin Associates, Lemery Greisler, Urban Gondola Systems LLC, and Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors Inc. So far, all the development work has been self-funded.
The online survey requires entering the access code cdtc.