Dodger Tram 2

The proposed Gondola is estimated to ferry riders from Union Station, to Dodger stadium in close to five minutes and would potentially be open by 2022.

Nearly everyone who has ever gone to Dodger Stadium has experienced the pain of sitting in gridlock as his or her car creeps to the parking gate. Now there’s a new proposal to bypass all that traffic, and speed from Downtown Los Angeles to the venue in just five minutes.

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On Thursday, April 26, a plan for an aerial gondola system that would ferry baseball fans between Union Station and Dodger Stadium was presented to the Metro Board of Directors. According to a press release issued by Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC, which is behind the effort, the 1.25-mile tram system could transport more than 5,000 riders per hour to and from the stadium.

“We’ve been looking at various cities around the country,” Martha Welborne, project director of ARTT, told Los Angeles Downtown News in an interview. “This one makes the most sense to proceed with because of the historical relationship between the McCourts and Dodger Stadium.”

The reference is to the McCourt family. ARTT’s founder is Drew McCourt, the son of former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. The elder McCourt sold the team for $2.15 billion in 2012 after a public outcry over the way the Dodgers had been run.

Though he no longer owns the team, the sales agreement allowed Frank McCourt to keep an interest in 130 acres of the parking around the stadium. The Dodgers pay rent to a company owned by McCourt for that parking.

According to the press statement, ARTT submitted a proposal to Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation on Wednesday. The project would be privately funded, with some money coming from AART, and additional financing from other not-yet-determined sources.

The project appears to have early backing from Mayor Eric Garcetti, who helped present the plan to the Metro board on Thursday, and the Dodgers. In the press release, the team said the proposed gondolas would “significantly improve traffic around Dodger Stadium.”

The Dodgers have topped Major League Baseball in attendance for the past four seasons, averaging approximately 46,000 fans per game (the stadium has a capacity for about 56,000 people). Welborne noted that the increased congestion during the Dodgers’ World Series run last year made an aerial gondola system an attractive idea for AART.

If it receives the green light, the gondola system would start shuttling riders in 2022, and would operate during every home game and special events. Welborne said ARTT is looking at having 30-40 cabins in the service. Each would hold 30-40 individuals.

The specifics of where a tram station could be placed at Union Station have not been determined. Any station, however, would allow for easy access for people who journey to the transit hub on bus, via a Metro rail line, or on Metrolink.

The cost of a ride has not yet been announced, but according to ARTT the price will likely be lower than the price of parking at Dodger Stadium. It currently costs at least $15 to bring a vehicle to the stadium.

Also unknown at this time is the route. Though it would have to cross the 110 Freeway, the path of the tram lines remains to be determined.

Garcetti, who has strongly advocated for various rail and mass transit projects in the region, partly in advance of the 2028 Summer Olympics, praised the proposed project.

“Dodger fans know better than anyone: making history means swinging for the fences and never stopping until you get home,” he said in the press release. “Our team has been at the center of so many landmark moments for Los Angeles, and this bold idea to ease congestion could transform how Angelenos — and millions of visitors — experience our city on their way to and from the ballpark.”

Currently, the only mass transit option into Dodger Stadium is the Metro-operated Dodger Express bus service. The system launched in 2010 and shuttles riders to and from Union Station (rides are free for those who take mass transit to the station). In 2015, Metro added a route out of the Harbor Gateway Transit Center in Gardena.

Pauletta Tonilas, chief communications officer at Metro, said the project could fit with the agency’s goals of getting people out of their personal vehicles.

“I do think people are very open and desire a new and different way to get to and from the stadium,” Tonilas told Downtown News. “The congestion is so horrific that I think people would be very open to another alternative.”

Although they are synonymous with ski resorts, gondolas systems are not unheard of in urban locations. London, Portland, New York, Mexico City and Bolivia have made good use of aerial tram technology.

In addition to hosting a tram hub at Union Station, which it owns, Metro would conduct the project’s environmental review. That will occur in a later stage, however. The agency’s initial step is to analyze the proposal and report back on its merits and feasibility within 60 days.

“The idea is definitely innovative,” Tonilas said. “It’s another way to provide mobility.”

This is not the first time a gondola system has been proposed for Dodger Stadium. In 1990, a study commissioned by the Los Angles County Transportation Commission touted a potential gondola system that would ferry riders from Chinatown to the ballpark.

The project, of course, never happened, and instead thousands of cars drive to the stadium for every game.

sean@downtownnews.com

Copyright 2018 Los Angeles Downtown News