The Georgetown Gondola Inches Forward

by Lark Turner

The Georgetown Gondola Inches Forward: Figure 1
A rendering of the gondola. Georgetown BID.

Georgetown is one step closer to getting a gondola — or at least one step closer to commissioning a study to figure out whether or not a gondola is possible.

The group advancing a 15-year plan for the neighborhood, Georgetown 2028, announced on Thursday that it has raised half the money for a feasibility study that will determine whether moving forward with a gondola connecting Georgetown and Rosslyn is indeed possible. An exact cost for the study has yet to be determined, but the group has raised $100,000 from private donors.

The next step is getting DDOT to pitch in another $100,000 so the neighborhood can move forward with soliciting bids from companies who would conduct the study. Asked whether getting that money from DDOT is likely, Joe Sternlieb, CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, confidently replied “yes.”

In addition to the usual engineering challenges, the study will need to include input from organizations like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), since helicopters regularly fly along the river. Sternlieb said he’d like to have the study complete by the end of 2014, though he acknowledged that timeline was ambitious.

The Georgetown Gondola Inches Forward: Figure 2
UrbanTurf’s streetcar-inspired rendering of the gondola, by Capital Pixel

Georgetown 2028 has attracted support from local businesses, organizations, councilmembers and the neighborhood’s ANC. At its core is a set of 75 action items the neighborhood would like to see implemented over the next 15 years, most of which relate to transportation improvements. The rest seek to ramp up use of public space, including making the C&O Canal more of a destination, and improve Georgetown’s economy, especially in less-trafficked areas like K Street.

The Georgetown Gondola Inches Forward: Figure 3
A rendering of the streetcar. Via cox, graae and + spack architects

In addition to the gondola, the BID is advocating heavily on behalf of bringing a streetcar and eventually adding subway service to the neighborhood. The streetcar connecting Union Station and Georgetown would run along K Street NW, New Jersey Avenue NW and H Street. Georgetown University wants the streetcar to continue to campus, so the BID, DDOT and the University are looking into whether that’s feasible.

On a smaller scale, a few of the short term goals are near completion. Signage to help pedestrians navigate the neighborhood is up first, since the BID happened on some previously approved signs in a DDOT warehouse. They plan to have the signs put up in the neighborhood by March 15.

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This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_georgetown_gondola_gets_closer_to_reality/8064


  1. Found said at 8:17 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    The BID should take some cues from the UrbanTurf/Capital Pixel rendering. Much better by a long shot.
  1. WM JAMES said at 8:45 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
  1. C Maggio said at 9:11 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    Why? Can't people walk across on the bridge there? Why not put it at the other end of Georgetown.
  1. Chet Rockwell said at 9:33 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    Why walk when you could gondola....this is amazing and I hope it happens.
  1. EnserNG said at 9:45 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    Spot-on, Found! The UT rendering is miles ahead. Placement is quite important, it will be interesting to see where it might actually fit.
  1. E1231 said at 9:52 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    Why connect to Rosslyn? There's nothing there!
  1. VA said at 10:18 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    Agreed with the above comment... Why Rossyln? We need Georgetown to be accessible from the rest of DC, not from Arlington...
  1. Rick said at 10:41 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    How about a gondola location that makes sense? Like Alexandria to National Harbor? Georgetown chose its fate in the 1970s when it refused a Metro station. A streetcar is much more sensible than any gondola... Anyways, good luck catching up to the other burgeoning neighborhoods.
  1. David said at 10:50 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    Rick, The idea that Georgetown refused a Metro station is a myth. Georgetown Metropolitan does a great job of debunking that thinking in this post: http://georgetownmetropolitan.com/2011/01/24/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-georgetown-metro-stop/
  1. Rick said at 11:38 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    @David, Fair enough and makes sense… A “Georgetown North” stop could have been feasible, but it seems that the demographics at inception of the system did not make sense for that to be considered. Thanks for sharing. The gondola still makes little sense. It would do nothing to relieve the Metro choke point at Rosslyn. A second tunnel under the Potomac HAS to be built to handle the Orange/Blue/Silver ridership. Let’s direct some of the District’s (ridiculous amount of) revenue from parking meters, speed cameras and the like to get this moving. For the gondola, I don’t see enough ridership demand to have it be even partially self-sufficient; it would be a money pit and propped up with heavy government subsidies. A 3P arrangement could make sense, but I doubt the private sector would want to bear any significant operating or financing risk from a project like this. I would equate the gondola (albeit on a much lesser scale) to the proposed California high-speed rail between SF and LA: it doesn’t even sound good on paper. Albatrosses waiting to happen.
  1. 202_cyclist said at 11:53 pm on Thursday January 30, 2014:
    Rick: "I would equate the gondola (albeit on a much lesser scale) to the proposed California high-speed rail between SF and LA: it doesn’t even sound good on paper. Albatrosses waiting to happen." Other than being totally false, good analogy.
  1. Bernardo said at 3:55 pm on Friday January 31, 2014:
    Agreed with Rick. This gondola idea sounds like an inefficient way of allocating public funds. Apart from tourists who would use it? Can it be self-sustainable? I doubt that. There are a lot of low hanging fruit in terms of transportation in DC. Start with coordinating the traffic lights, dedicate lanes to public transports and improve the bus system. These are not sexy ideas, but are cheap an would improve transportation. A little more expensive, but useful would be to create more subway density in DC proper. I live in Logan and I never use the subway as I have to walk a lot to the "nearest" stop.
  1. Evan said at 4:21 pm on Friday January 31, 2014:
    This seems like a pipe dream. This is a heavily trafficked corridor for both commercial jets landing at Reagan and military helicopters. If FAA doesn't say no, DOD will.
  1. 7r3y3r said at 4:23 pm on Friday January 31, 2014:
    What a waste of money.
  1. jag said at 5:35 pm on Friday January 31, 2014:
    Agree that a gondola is one of the stupidest ideas I've heard in awhile. There are countless transportation projects in DC that need funding before this.
  1. Kes said at 8:44 pm on Friday January 31, 2014:
    I'm totally for the gondola, because it opens up the attractive possibility of an 2050 action movie set in DC doing a set-piece gondola-car-top fight a la "Where Eagles Dare", and that would be *totally awesome*, if for no other reason.
  1. LoganRes said at 2:37 pm on Saturday February 1, 2014:
    Without really knowing my geography of DC, how about a gondola from the south end of the Mall to Gtown? It's gonna be a tourist attraction more so than a mode of transportation for DC residents anyway so why not put the end points in areas where tourists are. Rosslyn is kind of a ghost town on evenings and weekends.

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