Give the Atlanta Streetcar Wings

I’ve been for streetcars on the BeltLine from the get-go, but only because they will run in dedicated guideways. Remove them from that context and run them through our city streets and they’re just another bus stuck in traffic.

That a number of the planned 50 miles of streetcar lines will be integrated into already crowded city streets prompts this, my third post in an “upgrade the streetcar” theme.

In my last post on the subject, I proposed some upgrades to the hundred-year-old technology currently in use. I also bared my geeky soul and expressed some disappointment that the promised flying cars of Back to the Future weren’t a reality yet.

But, what if…


What if the implied yearnings of that logo on our streetcars could be realized and not silently mock us as we sit stuck in traffic? What if we could really give the streetcar wings so Atlanta’s future transit solution could literally soar above the streets?

Gondolas make this possible.

No longer relegated to ski lifts and amusement parks, gondola systems are being re-imagined as an outstanding solution for urban transit. There are good reasons for this.

The inspiration for considering them came when urban planners realized that there are ski lift systems in operation that move 300,000 people per hour. That equates to 7 million people per day! By comparison, New York city subways can only move 5.3 million people per day.

Then there are technological advances like high-speed detachable gondolas. These 4 – 6 person cars travel at 12 to 15 miles per hour up in the air. And that, ladies and gents, gives us flying cars (as Jared Ficklin points out in this excellent TED Talk on what he calls urban cable).


The cars release and re-grab the cable for easy loading and unloading. Since they come by every few seconds you feel free to pass on riding with the creepy looking guy talking to himself.

So urban cable can solve the two biggest reasons car-loving folk don’t like transit: scheduling and lack of personal space.

Urban cable can also be built in less time and at ½ the cost of surface rail — without disrupting traffic for 2+ years. And when they’re operational they increase, rather than displace, traffic capacity.

So, let’s take a case like the proposed Crosstown Midtown Streetcar Line. You could go from Ponce City Market on the east end to Westside Reservoir Park on the west end — places destined to be some of the hottest spots on the BeltLine — without getting mired in the traffic below.

Crosstown Midtown cropped

Super problematic areas of connectivity in the BeltLine corridor are now solvable. Instead of tunneling under the Hulsey rail yard we simply transfer from streetcar to skycar and fly over it. Big philosophical obstacles like eminent domain can literally disappear into thin air when they become more mutually accommodating air rights acquisitions instead.

A more seamless link of the transit and trail aspects of the BeltLine is another opportunity. Cyclists can roll bikes on and off the cars much easier than other transit systems. What complimentary solutions urban cable and Atlanta’s bike share program could be for door-to-door transportation.

Now that’s what I call an upgrade. Until the real flying cars get here…

Frog-Design-cyclist-boards-gondolaImages inspired by Capital Pixel and courtesy of Frog Design

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About Burke Sisco

Burke Sisco is a Realtor and Associate Broker of eXp Realty with over 20 years of experience in the Atlanta real estate market. He calls the surging infra-culture around the BeltLine both home and business territory and is the founder and managing editor of He has helped a number of satisfied clients buy and sell property in BeltLandia. Those interested in living the BeltLandia Lifestyle can reach Burke at 404.421.9968 or by email at


  1. wow! brilliant.

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