Why isn’t this being developed by the City or Metro?
Seattle’s Waterfront is separated from the rest of the City by more than just the viaduct. The topography between the Waterfront, Pike Place Market and Convention Center neighborhoods is a steep cliff making bus, taxi, light rail or subway service impossible. Currently, there is no bus route serving this connection and access is limited. The privately funded, operated and maintained Union St Gondola will cost the city and taxpayers nothing but will provide tremendous benefits such as:
- Help to keep the waterfront accessible during the decade of heavy construction disruption.
- Provide a new East/West connection which will connect Seattle’s Downtown, Hotel/Retail and Convention Center core to its Waterfront and Pike Place Market neighborhoods.
- Utilize an electric and green technology cutting down on carbon emissions from vehicle traffic and activating underutilized parking garages too far away and with too steep of hill to walk from the Waterfront.
- Bring more people into downtown and increase pedestrian/cycle and business activity throughout the city.
What’s the timing and substance of the City’s review?
We are currently in an intensive permitting and review process with the City. We have hired the best local professionals who are helping us complete this process. Our goal is to open the Gondola in conjunction with the demolition of the viaduct.
How do we know the public will have adequate input on this project?
The permit process includes several opportunities for public involvement. We have been meeting with Seattle residents, business owners and downtown destinations for the past 2 years to include their feedback. We value the public’s input and have already made significant improvements to our concept based on this feedback.
How can a private company use the City’s right of way?
The gondola will run above the center line of Union St and operate entirely on City right of way. We are working with the City to acquire long term access for this right of way similar to a sky bridge.
We will never own the City property only have an agreement to operate on it.
How will the project get financing?
Private and company capital, combined with bank financing, will fund this project. Our bank is very supportive and enthusiastic about the gondola project.
If the project doesn’t get enough riders, are you going to ask for taxpayers to support you?
No, we will never require or ask for one cent of taxpayer dollars.
How many passengers will it take to make sure this is financially self-sustaining?
It is too soon to know at this point because we don’t know all the costs involved. We want the project to break even, but are prepared to subsidize the gondola out of our existing operations if necessary.
How much will tickets cost?
The ticket price is yet to be determined but we recognize to achieve the goal of high ridership the ticket price needs to be as low as possible. When our cost picture is more clear, we’ll be able to estimate necessary ticket prices. We are thinking of structuring the ticket to be good for rides on the gondola all day. This will allow maximum flexibility for the riders allowing them to travel on their own schedule and encourage them to spend more time downtown.
Who’s going to profit from ticket sales?
The gondola will be operated like any small business but because of the extremely high start up costs it is unlikely to be profitable for many years from now, if at all. The motivation for the gondola is not to profit from ticket sales but to increase visitors and pedestrians to the waterfront and subsequently downtown as well.
What will the city/do the taxpayers receive financially for allowing a private entity to profit from use of public assets?
We are working with the City on an agreement to use their right of way. We both recognize the importance of keeping costs low to enable an affordable ticket to encourage high ridership.
If the city delays the project, (for example, if the tunnel is delayed) will the taxpayers be liable for cost overruns?
No, the Gondola project will never require or ask for any taxpayer money.
There are condominiums on Union Street. Are there any privacy issues to be concerned about?
We have been working with residents to understand their concerns and solve them together. There is great excitement from the downtown residents for a new East/West connection. We are confident there are solutions to any privacy issues.