If Baton Rouge is known for two things, it’s traffic and implementing the most progressive solutions to alleviate that traffic.
From continually widening the interstates, to a mass transit system with dozens of regular patrons, to countless studies over the past four decades exploring the possibility of someday building a loop, the capital city has some of the most open-minded, forward-thinking citizens willing to embrace even the most unorthodox transportation solutions. There are even rumors purporting at least a couple of residents actually carpool to work together.
Obviously knowing how receptive Baton Rouge is regarding out-of-the-box traffic proposals, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation is exploring the concept of urban gondolas to move people through the city.
Calling the urban gondolas — or aerial lifts that travel hundreds of feet in the air on suspended cables — the most “far-out” idea his group has considered, BRAF CEO and President John Davies proved his organization is completely attuned to Baton Rouge’s overwhelmingly broad-minded attitude. Davies told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge last week that the foundation has already gone through one round of studies, and he mentioned some members are lobbying for further research with gondola providers.
We applaud Davies and BRAF for not foolishly spending time and resources on proposals that have no chance of being widely supported because they wouldn’t meet Baton Rouge’s standards for progressivism. After all, urban gondolas are all the rage in Portland, OR, a place that wishes it could be as liberal and forward-thinking as the Red Stick.
It might seem slow, but that would just give you more time to take in the breathtaking aerial view of the area’s chemical plants.
Sure, some might try to poo-poo the idea of spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money on gondolas. Naysayers will likely point to the Mississippi Aerial River Transit, or MART, that was built in New Orleans for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition and transported people from the Warehouse District to Algiers. MART failed to draw enough riders after the World’s Fair and shut down operations the next year.
But let’s be honest. Who really wants to ride in a gondola 200 feet above the dirty, muddy Mississippi in New Orleans? The trip took four minutes, and there was nothing really worth looking at.
Now, in the case of urban gondolas in Baton Rouge, who wouldn’t want to dangle from a cable strung across the city and travel an average speed of 8 mph? Sure, it might seem slow, but that would just give you more time to take in the breathtaking aerial view of the area’s chemical plants.
And the view truly would be breathtaking. Riders would get to breathe in all the ozone and pollution Baton Rouge’s less-progressive denizens are emitting down below. You’d get to feel good about yourself by feeling sick.
Plus, contrary to what some may think, urban aerial lifts are totally safe. The chances a speeding drunken driver could lose control and take out a tower supporting a cable are practically nil because everyone in progressive Baton Rouge who’s been drinking uses Uber to get home.
Some have likened the idea of commuting hundreds of feet in the air to The Jetsons. That comparison isn’t fair and woefully undersells the concept. Urban gondolas are more like a chase scene from every other James Bond film. They’re way more exciting than any fantasy Hanna-Barbera produced.
Yes, the soil in Baton Rouge is so fertile for such avant garde ideas, urban gondolas could easily become as popular here as the urban sombrero. And it’s all thanks to our city’s visionary equivalent of Elaine Benes, BRAF.