Where are the promised flying cars of the 21st century? Will Round Rock take the first step toward that future?
Maybe! Yesterday, the City Council responded favorably to a proposal for an airborne public transit system that would closely resemble a ski lift. The pitch came from Frog Design, an international innovation firm based in Austin, who said the “system is proven, reliable and safe.”
Dubbed “The Wire,” after the cable that the gondolas would hang from, the system would not interfere with ground traffic and would run on a continuous loop, reported Community Impact Newspaper. The self-automated gondolas would arrive approximately every 30 seconds, slowing down just enough so that passengers could hop on board. In between stops, they would travel 15 miles per hour–a speed comparable to a city bus when you consider that the gondolas won’t have to deal with traffic or stop signs.
Economically-speaking, the aerial transportation is superior to city buses or trains, Frog Designer Michael McDaniels explained to the Austin American-Statesman. The Wire would cost $12 to $24 million per mile, while Austin’s proposed rail system would require an estimated $100 million per mile.
Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw visited Frog’s office for a demonstration and said he was “impressed” and “intrigued.” “This is not just a Round Rock issue,” McGraw said, “This is a regional issue as [city planners] are looking at mass-transit alternatives . . . why is this one not being considered?”
Frog first proposed the idea to Austin last year, the Austin American-Statesman reported, but the city was uninterested. “Who wants to be the test case for some completely new technology?” countered Austin’s transportation director Rob Spillar.
But while Austin already has a bus and commuter rail system, Round Rock would be starting from scratch. Round Rock’s transportation director, Gary Hudder, said the city needed to implement public transit at some point. “We don’t have a fixed transportation system, so we have an opportunity to think outside of the box,” Hudder told the Statesman.
McDaniels and Frog envision the gondola system connecting to a bike and car-sharing service, so that passengers could ride the network “door-to-door.”
Frog has worked in energy, healthcare, media, and retail, but has never built a wire gondola system before.